Migrant boat, life jackets on display in London church

British artist Arabella Dorman poses with her art installation entitled "Flight"- a capsized boat, complete with life jackets, used by refugees to get to the Greek island of Lesbos- suspended in the nave of St. James's Church in London, on Dec 21, 20
British artist Arabella Dorman poses with her art installation entitled "Flight"- a capsized boat, complete with life jackets, used by refugees to get to the Greek island of Lesbos- suspended in the nave of St. James's Church in London, on Dec 21, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
"Flight", an art installation by British artist Arabella Dorman, shows a capsized boat, complete with life jackets, used by refugees to get to the Greek island of Lesbos, suspended in the nave of St. James's Church in London, on Dec 21, 2015.
"Flight", an art installation by British artist Arabella Dorman, shows a capsized boat, complete with life jackets, used by refugees to get to the Greek island of Lesbos, suspended in the nave of St. James's Church in London, on Dec 21, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - A capsized rubber dinghy used by a group of migrants to reach the Greek island of Lesbos earlier this year has been suspended mid-air in a London church in a poignant Christmas homage unveiled on Monday (Dec 21).

The installation entitled "Flight" by British artist Arabella Dorman has been set up in the nave of historic St James's Church in Piccadilly, close to the city's main shopping and entertainment district.

Three orange life jackets - two adults and a child's - suspended falling from the boat "unite the work with the story of the Holy Family at Christmas and their flight to Egypt," Dorman told AFP.

"It's about a small family in flight, fleeing war and persecution," said the artist. "I saw the Christmas story played out on the beaches.

"This is a cry of anguish and an act of solidarity with refugees."

A pile of life jackets has also been left in a traditional nativity scene in front of the altar. The boat and vests were all used by asylum seekers.

Dorman shipped them over to London following a visit to Lesbos in September, her website said.

The grey dinghy was designed to carry 15 people but ended up transporting 62 migrants - many of them Syrian refugees - from Turkish shores.

However, it began taking on water and was eventually ditched as the Greek coastguard rescued those on board.

"The setting of the boat, dramatically lit from below, inverted and angled towards the altar, invites the viewer to embark upon their own spiritual journey," read the description of the work.

The absence of figures from the scene "reflects the transience of human life and pays homage to those thousands lost at sea during the crossing." Lucy Winkett, the rector at St James's, pointed out on BBC Radio 4's Today programme earlier that the word "nave" comes from the Latin word for boat.

"Christmas congregations will pray in the presence of this boat and will sing the traditional carols knowing that the Christmas story has as much violence in it as it has love," she said.

Dorman, who has previously painted in Afghanistan and Iraq, raised money through crowd funding for the project and hopes to raise money for charity with a concert and a reception in the church.

The installation will remain until Feb 8.