Walking into the Calais Jungle on an autumn morning was like being instantly transported to India. Bustling street, somewhat haphazard Cafés and plenty of smiling faces there to greet us. Equipped with a small brown suitcase containing 80 ‘canvases’ measuring 33x52cm , coloured pigments and cones of henna, Eva and I followed our noses towards a large (by jungle standards) empty wooden dwelling with windows all the way along its length .
After enquiring of the Afghan gentleman who had built it, we were soon laying on the ground a polythene sheet under the materials and painting a ‘Stray Dog Jungle Gallery’ sign.
Having placed in a window, the oak tree growing in a suitcase , Eva and I were set to receive anyone who was up for painting. From one minute to the next, a group of young Afghan and Sudanese men started to file in, interested in what the new venue had to offer.
Before long , there were many takers for the process which involved the white fabric soaked in water, in order to absorb the coloured pigments for painting and the henna for drawing.
Over a period of 7 days, we made contact with dozens of refugees, and to differing degrees, their stories. We only experienced good will , gentleness, consideration and most amazing of all, good cheer! The unforeseen bonus, was the willingness of people, to participate in making works. Amongst them, were those who were extremely concentrated in their method of construction and therefore produced pictures of great charm and talent. The paintings were personal heartfelt connections to their situation and on the whole, presented a tremendous pathos for the places that they had been forced to flee, and extraordinarily enough, the admiration for the U.K, the place of their dreams.
On returning to England, the culture shock included a strong sense of regret at not still beingamongst these people and surprisingly enough, in The Jungle.
The 70 works will be contained in Gail’s Suit Case of Dis Content which will form part of the international touring SCDC exhibition. The photo documentation of the week at The Stray Dog Jungle Gallery will form Eva’s SCDC.