Artwork inspired by girl killed by pollution forms part of culture festival

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A public art exhibition inspired by a nine-year-old girl who died from chronic asthma brought on by London’s polluted air will form part of a culture festival in the capital next year.

Breathe: 2022 will feature oversized stop-frame artworks placed at key sites close to the busy South Circular Road, near Lewisham.

Presented by charity Invisible Dust, the work will be created by artist Dryden Goodwin and relate explicitly to the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah.

The youngster lived just 25 metres from the South Circular and died in February 2013 after suffering dozens of acute seizures for three years.

Breathe: 2022 will feature oversized artworks of people fighting for breath (Lewisham Council/PA)
Breathe: 2022 will feature oversized artworks of people fighting for breath (Lewisham Council/PA)

She became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed on her death certificate following a second inquest in December last year.

Her mother Rosamund Kissi-Debrah has campaigned tirelessly for swift action on harmful levels of pollution and to highlight their effects on children.

Ms Kissi-Debrah recently attended the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow as part of a global coalition of mothers fighting to clean up the air in their home countries.

Five participants from local activist groups, including Choked Up, Mums for Lungs and the Ella Roberta Family Foundation, will sit for Goodwin to be drawn and recorded as they “fight to breathe”.

Ella Kissi-Debrah inquest
Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s mother Rosamund has campaigned for swift action on harmful levels of pollution (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

As people pass the work, the frames will appear to animate and is hoped it provokes empathy, with drivers taking an involuntary “gasp for breath”.

The public exhibition is due to be in place from late April until November next year.

It is part of the Lewisham London Borough of Culture Programme, which will showcase creativity and diversity, with a focus on tackling the climate emergency.

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