• Tue. May 21st, 2024

Main Library top floor: Elle Mckee’s ‘Banners of the banned’

ByLily Settari

Jan 30, 2019

Last week, a new series on the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections (CRC) was introduced, and two things were stressed. First, that the university’s collections are fantastically versatile and ever-growing, and not a bunch of dusty antiques in a stuffy archive. And second, that they are generally available to members of the student community for research purposes. 

Wider awareness of particularly the latter point is hoped to spice up the research design of many an (undergraduate) dissertation. This week’s edition of The Student begins to introduce items from the collections, and today’s artwork is a beautiful example for how students cannot only use the university’s collections for their research but that their work may be welcomed into the collections itself. 

Elle McKee graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art in 2017, with an undergraduate degree in Illustration. For her degree show, she created the ‘Banners of the Banned.’ McKee’s banners are actually scarves. She designed seven models which were all inspired by the flags of those predominantly Muslim countries that were affected by Executive Order 13769, more commonly known as President Trump’s Muslim ban, or travel ban. 

This order was signed on 27 January 2017 and banned citizens of Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq to enter the US for a 90-day period. This suspended the US refugee system for 120 days, and refugees from war-torn Syria were even indefinitely banned to enter the country. 

Images of people from the concerned countries being detained at US airports went viral and remain in public memory. President Trump justified his travel ban by depicting it as a necessary protective measure against an inflow of foreign terrorists into the US, even though none of the seven countries was home to individuals who had carried out terrorist attacks in the US in the past decade, or to those who were responsible for 9/11. 

As the artist eloquently put it in the text accompanying the piece, “the order was breath-taking in its scope, aggressive in tone, nonsensical in its reasoning and chaotic in its implication.” In order to contribute to the global protests against President Trump’s executive order, and to demonstrate solidarity to the citizens of the seven branded countries, McKee decided to sell off-prints of her degree showpieces.  She has donated all profits to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a non-profit and non-partisan organisation which ventures into one legal battle after the next, protecting the rights of people affected by the ban from the discrimination based on their (assumed) religious or cultural identity by the US government. 

This impressive piece of work won the university’s Acquisition Award, and was thus added to its permanent art collection, where it is now waiting to be studied to make sure its message can continue to spread. 


Image Credit: Ellen McKee via ellenmckee.com

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