Bristol Prize

‘The Meek Inherit’ inspires school students

September 1, 2011   Joe Melia

As part of this year’s ShortStoryVille festival some students from Henbury School in Bristol presented an exhibition of artwork inspired by Nastasya Parker’s (left) powerful short story ‘The Meek Inherit’ set in Haiti. Nastasya’s story was published in our third anthology in 2010. Here she shares her experience of the project:

‘I’m quite fond of pictures with a story. This may be a grave confession from a writer; perhaps we’re supposed to rely exclusively on our imaginations. But my forays through imaginary universes are accelerated by little extras like illustrations. When Henbury School’s Art Department chose to illustrate my story ‘The Meek Inherit,’ from the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 3, I was thrilled that I’d get to see the story.  The students’ finished prints were displayed at the Arnolfini Gallery as part of the ShortStoryVille festival.

The artists were a group of young people from Year 9 and 10, in a Gifted and Talented programme. Their work, I felt, threw the plight of the brave, hungry little heroine and her fellow Haitians into sharper focus than mere black and white print does. To me, there is something inexpressibly poignant about looking into someone’s eyes, even in a portrait.

Not that the artists stopped at portraits. Amongst the thirteen of them, their prints and collages covered so much: sketches of the main character and of the possibly less sympathetic character of her father; magnificent backgrounds of sky and sea; news photos of the earthquake’s destruction, and collages of textiles. The students used bits of rope, cardboard, burlap, and even scanned photos of dirt. Most ingenious of all, some pressed the bumpy side of bubble wrap into brown paint and then onto the paper to create a pattern of mudpies. I loved the resourcefulness of their art. Mariette, the story’s protagonist, would no doubt have approved.

All this reminded me that images in a story are very important. I don’t mean just scenery, but personal details like a sweet or a floating tyre. Even in a story about distant locales, with a somewhat shocking topic, these students have proved that images and details can help make the whole tale resonate. Viewing their work was like walking through the world of the characters I wrote about. I’m so grateful for that opportunity, and hopeful that it will encourage others who viewed the exhibit to truly see the characters and perhaps act on behalf of the real people still struggling in Haiti.’

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