One of the main outputs of the programme was to create a portrait photograph and write a summary of a chosen character who migrated from Bulgaria to London. The work was exhibited at UCL Festival of Culture exhibition entitled ‘A Sense of Belonging: Mosaics from a New Portrait of London’.
It was so rewarding to hear positive feedback from professionals within the art sphere and it was humbling to see our work beside Richard Morgans- who taught us the techniques to capture the story of a person through visual art. The photo was taken by Xing. Below reads the description of V. Revd. Simeon Iliev also displayed at the exhibition written by Yashil and Lina:
”Revd. Simeon Iliev is an important figurehead for the Bulgarian community in London. He was sent to London in 1993 by the Orthodox Church in order to enrich the spiritual lives of Bulgarians abroad. In fact, the precise date of his arrival (19th October) is symbolic as it corresponds to the saint day of his church’s patron saint, St Ivan Rilski.
He believes the church plays a crucial role in encouraging people to nurture their faith and provides the ethos of feeling closer to home: they can spend time with the Bulgarian community and engage in cultural festivals such as the Baba Marta Day (the coming of Spring). Moreover, experiencing the difficulties of immigration first-hand encouraged him to create a positive environment into which newcomers can easily integrate.
On arrival, the support of fellow Bulgarians in London helped him settle down in light of how much he missed his parents and sister back in Sofia. He takes pride in his cultural identity and the role he plays in the community in London that he has nurtured over the years. In the two decades he has served the Church, he has observed a slow decline in spirituality among Londoners and Bulgarians alike, that has made his responsibility more challenging. In his opinion, there was a greater sense of kinship when he first arrived.
In this portrait, the candles placed by his parishioners frame V. Revd. Simeon Iliev. These candles represent prayers for the living (there are also candles for the dead elsewhere in the church). Placing a candle for family and friends in an Orthodox church is a way to ask God to protect them and help ease their struggles. This portrait focuses on these candles and the religion to which he has dedicated his life.”