Love and death in the sands of Arabia and a rubbish skip: two artists tell their story in Hoxton

Catherine Borowski and Lee Baker @ “Skip” in #Hoxton Sq London 230317 © david.altheer[ at ]
Death and decay: Catherine Borowski and Lee Baker at their Skip installation today

BEHIND A commonplace skip dumped in Hoxton Square lies an extraordinary story of love, sorrow and redemption and the coming together of two people in a poignant art project.

Catherine Borowski was born to left-wing, North London academics. After her father left home, the wife immediately converted to Islam. She changed her name to Aliyah and set out on the Hajj to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

It was to be her last journey. On her Islamic pilgrimage in 2016 she died in the holy city. The Saudis have never made any attempt to explain what happened.

Murder is not suspected, but because the secretive religiously styled autocracy bars non-Muslims from visiting Mecca, Borowski cannot visit her mother’s grave. All the authorities have given her is a scrap of paper with handwritten co-ordinates to it.

With her partner, Lee Baker, she has inserted references to maternal love and rebirth and set the skip to cast a shadow over hundreds of spindles, marking both the shadow of Aliyah’s death, and unmarked graves.

 Catherine Borowski and Lee Baker @ “Skip” in #Hoxton Sq London 230317 © david.altheer[ at ]
“Mum”: the Borowski-Baker tribute to Catherine’s lost mother shows on the memorial
In keeping with the Islamic tradition of graves being less than a hand’s height, no spindle is more than 19cm high. The memorial sits close to a Christian church

The artists say the interior of the skip, which they bought for about £1,000, “remains dark and dirty. Silver fabric on the floor moves independently… as if there’s someone underneath it (there is)”.

Viewers of the installation, at N1 6NT, and entitled “Na, I Don’t Want None of That Again” (get these artists!) will be lent headphones playing a soundscape that includes an abstract pulse from two songs loved by the dead mother.

The story has further poignancy. Lee’s mother happens to be Muslim: she is a Shia of Iranian origin. When she heard of the death of the Sunni woman from London, she volunteered to be a grandmother to Loris, Aliyah’s grandson.

Hamish Scott 230317

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