The Still Born project was initiated by artist Adinda van ’t Klooster to help raise awareness of stillbirth. In 2010 Adinda gave birth to her stillborn daughter Elvira Elina, an experience that led to a series of artworks in the following ten years. With the help of Arts Council Funding in 2017 she commissioned eight poets to respond to her by then growing body of work on the topic of grief following a stillbirth. The results were compiled in the StillBorn book. For this exhibition at the Idea Store Whitechapel nine of the twelve art and poem combinations are printed onto large window banners. Contributing poets are: Wendy Pratt, Christine Bousfield, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Jennie Farley, Sarah James, Claire Potter, Roger Bloor and Rebecca Goss.
In 2020 Adinda and project collaborator Alexander Heazell, consultant obstetrician at the St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, raised further funding to tour the work and create the online artwork Each Egg a World online which allows participants to name one of the dots in the artwork after their stillborn baby and write a short statement on their personal experience of stillbirth. So far, 175 people have participated and you can read people’s statements or participate by clicking on a red dot or using the search function here: www.stillbornproject.org.uk/eacheggaworld/. This online artwork is also on display during the exhibition. Other artworks shown include a selection of five fragile porcelain uteruses with growth charts, scans and poems printed onto them and a multi-media artwork made of peacock feathers, wood and a miniature bronze baby skull.
Each stillbirth is a tragedy that lasts a lifetime for the parents, with the wider family also affected in different ways. Globally there are an estimated 2.6 million stillbirths a year and 4.2 million mothers a year suffer from depression following stillbirth. In 2011 The Lancet undertook a major international study and discovered that contrary to the popular belief that many stillbirths are unavoidable or due to congenital abnormalities, in fact the majority of stillbirths are preventable with better maternity care. They also reported that widespread stigma and taboo further exacerbate the trauma for families after stillbirth as many women feel their community doesn’t acknowledge their grief. For more information on the Still Born project visit: www.stillbornproject.org.uk
Although this exhibition opened on the 4th of November 2020, the current national UK lock down means the Idea Store is now closed. Once we emerge out of lock down (hopefully towards the the beginning of December), it will be possible again to visit the Still Born exhibition in the Adult Fiction section of the Idea Store Whitechapel, address: 321 Whitechapel Road, London E1 1BU. The exhibition duration has been extended to the 5th of February 2021 to make up for the current closure. Updates at https://www.ideastore.co.uk/idea-store-whitechapel.