Seeing the Unseen this Holiday Season
Every holiday season we’re awash with joy. It’s the reason for the season, after all, to come together and celebrate everything that we have – be it family or material things. But there’s a lot that goes unseen. This year many will go without, and whether or not we see them they will experience the holidays in their own way. This holiday season B&A teamed up with the creative agency Aesop and Unseen to create Unseen Christmas, a physical representation of the stories that go untold and a way to honor them in Christmas tradition.
Radio, Andrew Rae, David Doran, and Tom Jay each provided illustrations inspired by modern day slavery and they’re available to purchase or download and be turned into paper chains – a traditional way to decorate during the holidays. All proceeds from the purchases directly benefit Unseen, a non-profit that works to end slavery in all of its forms.
For his contribution, Andrew Rae’s work is connected to the story of Asif who escaped a torturous cycle of low or non-paying jobs after years. Andrew looked to literature for visual inspiration, diving into a story that’s no necessarily true but pervades our collective culture. “Charles Dickens was an inspiration for me for this project as he created characters that helped to educate people to the plight of people at the bottom of the pile,” explains Andrew Rae. “It seems to me that society is much more divided again as it was in Victorian times with all the wealth in the hands of a small elite and so it’s time to try tell these types of stories again.”
Tom Jay was provided with a story about an African immigrant who came to the UK chasing hope for a better life but found herself thrown into unpaid service for her aunt. “Manisha came to the UK to live with her aunt who said she would get her into school and look after her. This didn't happen and she spent her days cleaning, cooking and doing housework and was beaten,” explains Tom Jay. “It was important to me take part in this project as slavery in this country is real and happening right now, often behind closed doors. I hope this project can raise awareness of modern slavery, and help support victims that come to Unseen for help.” The circular pattern that Tom Jay’s illustration turns into when a link on the paper chain reflects how infinite this daily pain can become.
David Doran was given the story of Grace, an African woman who was kidnapped into sex trafficking. Instead of focusing on the horror, David made his work about Grace herself, celebrating her humanity and what it took to escape that horror. “I like to use illustration as a way of communicating visually, and often focus on including hidden concepts in my work. The idea of incorporating a lock and key in the Christmas themed pattern seemed a strong but sensitive way to communicate the topic whilst avoiding being too crass or graphic,” says David Doran. “It was an honour to be able to work with Unseen and to help raise awareness of a situation so shockingly close to home.”
Finally, Radio tells the story of a worker from Unseen who is burdened to see what most of us never will. Facing such darkness is a service to the idea of freedom and the sacrifice of gazing into that darkness hoping for chance to pull someone into the light is blessing to us all. There’s pain in there, but it is worth all of our celebration.
This holiday season do not forget those who have less, and say a prayer for them, and for all of us.