18 June—18 September 2022

A British Museum Spotlight Loan Crossings: community and refuge

This exhibition has now finished but you can still visit the online version of the display.


Made from the remnants of a refugee boat wrecked near the Italian island of Lampedusa, the cross carries messages about kindness, community and the indifference faced by many refugees.

In October 2013, an overcrowded boat carrying migrants from Somalia and Eritrea caught fire, capsized and sank near Lampedusa, close to the coast of Tunisia. 311 lives, fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in Europe, were lost. Moved by the plight of survivors, the island’s carpenter, Francesco Tuccio, made crosses from the wreckage. These signified salvation from the sea, hope for the future, and the sad fate of many migrants.

Alongside the cross will be a display of 12 tiny boats from Syrian-born artist, Issam Kourbaj’s series Dark Water, Burning World. Made from repurposed bicycle mudguards tightly packed with burnt matches, the artwork represents the fragile vessels used by refugees to make their perilous voyages as a response to the ongoing tragedy in Syria.

To accompany this intimate display, M Shed has commissioned a series of audio interviews from five refugees and migrants living in Bristol today.

By presenting these narratives alongside the British Museum Spotlight loan, we briefly explore the motivations, joys, sorrows and intricacies that migration can involve. There is no one story of migration. It is a vast, complex, interconnected set of situations.