Soul Vessels was a site-specific installation at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Art Centre on North Uist in summer 2017. It was inspired by the beautiful wooden boats built by five generations of the Stewart family on the nearby island of Grimsay and the mythical significance, in many cultures including the Celtic, of the boat as a carrier of the souls of the dead. It commemorated personal losses, as well as honouring souls lost at sea in their search for a new home, linking the current migration crisis with people having had to leave Hebridean shores in the past.
The simplified boats were made of slip-cast clay and smoke-fired in sawdust and seaweed. They were based on the proportions of a number of individual Grimsay vessels that are still to be seen in Uist. Sales from the exhibition raised funds for the Migrant Offshore Aid Station who were rescuing migrants from inadequate vessels in the Mediterranean sea at the time.
Photography by Peter Ferguson & Kirsty O’Connor