Heartstone is a UK-based non-profit organisation established in 1983 as Natya-Padam with the remit of making storytelling and dance accessible across cultural divides. It became Heartstone in 1990 to incorporate and use in this work ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’, a magical story which addressed issues of racism and xenophobia in a unique and effective way. From this step into the world of documentary and social issues, the work of Heartstone expanded to cover real-life stories drawn from across the globe using photojournalism as the foundation for its communication of experience, a medium which has proved ideal in terms of its ability to cross language and many cultural barriers as well as appealing to all age groups. In addition to social concerns, Heartstone has also become widely recognised for its impact in raising environmental issues especially where interventions require cooperation across national boundaries. Heartstone has also worked extensively in exploring historical stories related to its contemporary themes.
Heartstone is about changing perceptions, about recognising similarities instead of differences, about seeing people instead of prejudices. To quote the Director and co-founder of Heartstone, Sitakumari:
'Heartstone stories provide a route through which it is possible to build greater contact, communication and understanding across different nationalities and cultures, and show that there may be ‘many sides to a story’ depending upon cultural, historical and other perspectives.'
Heartstone has three arms to its operation:
- Descendants of All Worlds’ – the exhibition
- Allied Mouse – publishing all Heartstone books and materials
- Heartstone Education Projects
Descendants of All Worlds
The exhibition ‘Descendants of All Worlds’ includes several Heartstone photodocumentaries which have been gathered over the last 20 years and are still being added to. These are produced by the organisation working in partnership with a range of agencies or individuals who come together to ‘tell a story’. The underlying philosophy to all ‘Descendants of All Worlds’ stories are that they are told truthfully and honestly, with no manipulation or staging, to reflect the narrative that is unfolding and not a preconceived idea. As such, they are a powerful representation of the overwhelming similarities of human experience, regardless of nationality, culture, race or background and inevitably challenge many commonly held stereotypes.
‘Descendants of All Worlds’ stories are presented through exhibitions, events and publications and in all these cases, there is a firm policy of no manipulation or changing of photographs or cropping since this would also change the story told by the photographer when they were present at the location and time where the images were produced. These policies of not altering photographs serve to emphasise the core philosophy of Heartstone of respect for other experiences and viewpoints. It is also a policy that enables Heartstone to win access into often difficult locations and the trust of groups who previously may never have allowed photography in their midst.
One story in
particular, ‘Chandra’s London’, forms the
focus of a project which will be taking place in 2006/7 with all age
across London to provide a stimulus to raise discussion and debate on
xenophobia and intolerance. In each case, the project will also yield
material from the inhabitants of several
exhibitions to date
have included the Royal Festival Hall in
Heartstone’s first story was ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’, a fairytale for children of all ages. A reader gave the best description we have ever heard of this story when he said ‘…it has done for racism what 101 Dalmatians did for the fur trade!’ It deals with the issues of racism and intolerance through a nailbiting tale of magic, mystery, suspense and adventure and will keep you hanging on wondering what happens next…
Allied Mouse publishes ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’ and related products. Over 80,000 copies of the book have been sold to date. All profits from sales of the book go towards the work of Heartstone. More about the "Heartstone Odyssey" .......
Copies of the book can be bought online at the website www.alliedmouse.co.uk.
Heartstone Education Projects
Heartstone Education Projects follow exhibition events and are aimed at children and young people of all ages from 8 upwards. They use Heartstone stories in CD ROM format as Story Modules which enable schools and youth groups to download images and story text and use them for detailed discussion, debate and project work. All Heartstone Projects raise awareness of racism and intolerance, support victims and challenge perpetrators. With their emphasis on reading, listening and speaking, they also help to make better communicators, provide a tangible route to understand what ‘active citizenship’ is all about and the need to ‘have a voice’. Projects can include training sessions for teachers, youth workers, police officers and others working with children and young people and storytelling workshops for participating groups.
Heartstone has been funded by a wide range of sponsors and official sources including the Scottish Executive, the Big Lottery Fund, the Home Office, the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG), the Department for Education & Skills, the Gulbenkian Foundation, the Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust, Northern Rock Foundation, Safer London Foundation and corporate sponsors such as Ford, Jaguar, Arts & Business, Rolls Royce and Transport for London. Heartstone has no political or religious affiliation.