World-renowned artist and alumnus Dr Edmund de Waal honours our commitment to refugees

Edmund de Waal

On Monday evening (16 May 2016) alumnus and honorary graduate of our University Dr Edmund de Waal will be giving a talk on place and displacement in poetry and the visual arts, drawing on his own family history and his practice as an artist and a writer.

Edmund is an acclaimed artist and author and he is also presenting us with a very special gift in response to our work to welcome staff and students from around the world, including those seeking refuge and asylum.

Edmund’s gift is a piece of art called fetched home – the title taken from a poem by Romanian Jewish poet Paul Celan on the subject of homelessness and displacement. This has a strong personal resonance for Edmund and his family – Edmund’s father was a refugee and still works with refugee communities.

Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett said: “Edmund is an acclaimed artist and author, but more importantly he has the greatest empathy for the people and journeys which make up our history. I had the great pleasure of discussing with him our work with asylum-seeking students and scholars, and he said that he wanted to respond to that by making a work of art which expressed that instinct.

"We are truly honoured that he is presenting us with such a personal gift, and one which will be a permanent visual and artistic reminder of our values as a community made up of scholars from around the world. People too often forget the deep debt UK universities owe to refugee scholars, including those who fled Nazism in World War II.

“One of the most powerful images we have seen this year has been the sight of thousands of refugees making the long journey by boat or foot from countries where they fear for their lives to what they hope will be a new life for them and their families. Our response has been to ask what is the best way to help.

"We want our University to be a safe place for students and academics to rebuild their lives and go on to make a difference to the world through their studies and research. We want to do more to welcome refugee scholars and students who will in turn be able to give back to our communities.”

piece of art

Dr Edmund de Waal

Edmund studied Japanese here at the University and later travelled to Japan to study ceramic history and craft.

He is best known for his large-scale ceramic installations and his bestselling book The Hare with Amber Eyes. His latest book The White Road is a journey through the world of porcelain.

Edmund's work comes out of a dialogue between minimalism, architecture and music, and is informed by his passion for literature. Much of his recent work has been concerned with ideas of collecting and collections; how objects are kept together, lost, stolen or dispersed.

The Financial Times have called Edmund, ‘the most accomplished British potter alive today.’