Artist Clare Twomey marks Holocaust Memorial Day by gifting artwork to the public

20 January 2016

Porcelain spoons with black inscriptions

Clare Twomey, a British artist of international standing and a research fellow at the University of Westminster, will be marking the Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 by completing her project Humanity is in our Hands. 

The yearly Holocaust Memorial Day is marked around the country on 27 January, when hundreds of thousands of people come together to remember the millions killed in the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. 

Project background

In advance of Holocaust Memorial Day 2015, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust arranged for Clare to meet Nisad ‘Šiško’ Jakupović, a survivor of the notorious Omarska concentration camp during the Bosnian War. Clare learned about Nisad’s experience of the concentration camp – this meeting was the first opportunity Nisad has taken to talk publicly about this period. He told Clare about his belief that human solidarity can triumph even in horrific circumstances, which had a great impact on Clare. 

Clare’s project Humanity is in our Hands is a response to meeting Nisad.

Over a year in the making

On Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January 2015, Clare invited the public to give their thoughts on the subject of humanity. With the help of a team of volunteers, she gave away 2,000 invitations to people they encountered on Westminster Bridge. This invitation said:

Today you are invited to be part of a new work, your words will be placed on thousands of beautiful porcelain objects that will be made in the coming year. These objects will be handed back to the public as gifts on Westminster Bridge, on this date one year from now, 27 January 2016. The recipients will become the custodians of your thoughts.

The public responded to the invitation with hundreds of texts, words and stories detailing the qualities that society could cherish to accomplish a humane society.

Humanity is in our Hands completion

Clare has now made the artwork – 2,000 delicate porcelain spoons, inscribed with words collected from the public. The spoons relate to Nisad’s life story – he and his fellow prisoners in the concentration camp would carve spoons out of wood, using a piece of broken glass. Clare’s porcelain spoons are based on these wooden spoons and signify a connection with nurturing, feeding and caring for each other.

These thoughts from last year’s participants will be given back to a new set of members of the public, again on Westminster Bridge, on Holocaust Memorial Day 2016. The artwork becomes a gift that needs care and warrants consideration.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: "27 January 2016 will be the culmination of Clare’s ambitious, thoughtful and profound project, which honours the life story of Nisad Jakupović, and challenges us all to consider our responsibilities to create and preserve a humane society. The gifting of these 2,000 beautiful objects is a wonderful and fitting activity for Holocaust Memorial Day."

Read the stories of other artists meeting with genocide survivors and the art projects they have inspired. 

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