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Works of art to highlight the role of air pollution in the death of a London girl | Air pollution

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Public works of art that pay homage to Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, whose exposure to air pollution contributed to her death at the age of nine, will be on display near her home in southern London next year.

Dryden Goodwin’s Breathe: 2022 will appear on sites near the South Circular Road, which passes within 25 yards of the house where Ella lived. The artwork – a centerpiece of events marking Lewisham’s year as London’s cultural quarter – revisits Goodwin’s 2012 creation, Breathe, which depicted his inspiring and expiring five-year-old son.

Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah died at the age of 9. Photograph: Family document / AP

Goodwin will attract a handful of local environmental activists, including Ella’s mother, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah. Sequences of still images will appear as moving when people walk or drive near them, making the subjects appear to be struggling to breathe.

Dryden Goodwin Sketch for Breathe 2012
Dryden Goodwin: “I’m interested in how air supports the body, but can also corrupt the body.” Photograph: Dryden Goodwin

“I’m interested in how air supports the body, but can also corrupt the body,” said Dryden, who is working with Network Rail and Transport for London to identify suitable sites for facilities. The artist, who lives and works in Lewisham, said Ella’s death had “heightened awareness of the environmental crisis” in the area.

Ella died of an asthma attack in 2013. Last year, in a landmark judgment, a coroner ruled that “exposure to excessive air pollution” contributed to her death, adding that “any Ella’s life was lived near very polluting roads ”.

Since the death of her daughter, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah has campaigned to raise awareness about air pollution.

To breathe, which was placed on an 8-meter-high screen at St Thomas’s Hospital opposite Parliament, incorporated more than 1,300 drawings by Goodwin’s five-year-old son. Now a teenager who grew up in Lewisham, he will also feature in Breathe 2022.

The artwork is part of a larger program that will mark Lewisham’s year as a cultural district of London. They include a mass dance performance by 200 local artists highlighting the positive impact of migration in the region and a celebration of Lewisham’s musical heritage, including pop, grime, afrobeat, jazz, global, classical and punk, and highlighting starring Dave Okumu and Linton Kwesi Johnson.


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