The Ship of Tolerance

By Juliette Remond-Tiedrez,

In the middle of London, in between the Tate Modern museum and Saint Paul’s cathedral stands, or rather floats, the Ship of Tolerance, 14th edition.

Picture taken by Alexander Royall

The Ship of Tolerance is a patchwork of paintings made by schoolchildren with different ethnic and social backgrounds. In the case of the Londoner ship, the drawings were made by 8 to 12 year old children from the capital’s primary schools, hospitals and refugee camps in Birmingham, Leeds, Peterborough, and Calais.

As I quickly mentioned, this is the 14th edition. Ilya and Emilia Kabokov have been building Ships of Tolerance since 2005. They started in Siwa, Egypt, and then recreated the ship all around the world including in Cuba, Italy, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America. Another ship has also just been presented on the 16th of September in Chicago, USA.  

The construction of such a ship is divided into three steps. Firstly, the children participate in a workshop organised by local artists and draw or paint images of tolerance. Secondly, carpenters build the boat. This is a public process that is open for the children who participated in the drawings to join and watch but also the general public. Lastly, the completed ship is put on water and exposed. Events are organised around the ship such as concerts, discussions or even shows by the participating children.

According to artist Emilia Kabokov, the human race needs to communicate to survive. Therefore, the children should be taught to communicate with others even if they aren’t from the same culture or social background. She explains that in participating in this project, the children learn about respect of other cultures and tolerance.

It was kind of a coincidence that I saw this artwork. On my way to London for holidays I saw a picture of the ship on the ‘Week in pictures’ section of the BBC application. The caption said “The art piece […] is dedicated to educating and connecting children from different continents, cultures, and identities through the language of art” and therefore decided to write a piece about how art can be used to bring people together and create a space for tolerance.

This ship grabbed my attention for many reasons. First, the vibrant colours create a beautiful floating piece, which put alongside Thames and London was very picturesque, especially for a tourist like me. However, what I particularly liked is that “tolerance” is broad enough to include different issues in the drawings like the obvious themes of: