ÀRASAIG (SAFE PLACE)

HIGHLANDS AND NORTHERN ISLES OF SCOTLAND
2017-2018

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In the Highlands and Northern Isles of Scotland, the presence of people feels very small and fragile compared to the roughness of the strong winds, the deep soils and the millenary layers of rocks.

The mythology of wild nature and of monsters coming out of the land connected to these places is a romantic projection for the tourist, but is far from the concerns of the residents. Nonetheless, those who live here still have a deep respect for the moods of nature that can easily transform - by itself or because of human influence – from fairy to monster.

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My walks through these lands started with the desire to meet and document people that live in remote areas, on the edge of Europe. I wanted to hear the stories of the inhabitants that have adapted to the environments of the continent with the lowest human density, to find out how they face this freedom of space but also its loneliness, how they relate and what attach them to the lands and the islands where they grew up or where they decide to move.

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Morag Hughes at Loch Eil (Highlands)
“I love the feel of the water and it’s just a safety freedom swimming, it’s really nice to see the landscape in a different way.
I swam the English Channel and many Scottish lochs in all seasons.
I love living here because it’s so easy to get in to the countryside and be away to all noise, pollution and people”.

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I've asked the residents I met what is the one thing that make them so attached to the place where they live.
The answer I got more frequently was quite straightforward: “It's a safe place”.

Despite understanding that the safety that the inhabitants talk about is probably more in regard to potential dangers caused by other people,
I've decided to respect their answer but to also be open to the interpretation of it, trying to find out if different readings were possible.

 

Roy Avinou, Thurso-Highlands

“I’m trying to enjoy these last days of my life and rethink at all the adventures I had. I used to walk for miles and miles along the coast. Now I’ m terminally ill and can’t move anymore, but here I love the people and the place, they are all very friendly and they help me”.

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Neil Beaton (Isle of Rum)

“Neil is home educated right now. At the moment he’s doing absolutely fine. It has an iquisitive brain, he loves learning, he loves geography.. and languages as well...something he wouldn’t get at school.
He will be going to high school outside the island and before that maybe come back to school system here when things get favorable again”.
(Dave Beaton, father)

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Dave Beaton (Isle of Rum)

“I knew my life was here, that’s what I was waiting for, come here with my wife and my child.
Island life suits me and I take things in my stride as I want to live here. I like the pace of life and don’t miss the lifestyle of the city. I’m not going anywhere now.
I’ve already spoken to the Minister to get a burial place sorted out. It sounds a bit morbid but there’s no way I’m going off the island now.”

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"Here are some reasons why we are to preach":

1. It is God’s pleasure (1 Corinthians 1:21)

2. Because Christ commanded it (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15)

3. Because of the apostolic exhortation (2 Timothy 4:2)

4. Because logic demands it (Paul, Roman 10:14)

“How shall they hear without a preacher?”

(Journal of the Free Church of Scotland)

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Calum
(Scalloway, Shetland Islands)

“If I m not pratcising martial arts then I drink. That’s why I constantly train, I ve been sober and away from addictions for three years now. So yes martial arts it’s my saving grace”.

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Mother and sons going to the supermarket on a windy and rainy day.
(Lerwick, Shettland Islands)

“I have five children. I don’t travel much outside the island but here I can find everything I need and it’s a safe place for the children”

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John O’Groats (Highlands)

This northern lands were once wiped out of theirs trees and people, forcing entire genera- tions to migrate. A monstrous act (known as the Clearances) that wanted to replace people with apparently innocuous animals: sheeps.

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Scott A. Greenlees , Funeral director (Fort William, Highlands)

I choosen this job when at the age of 14, I lost my great-grandmother, I started working at 17. Now I m 28 and recently I ve purchased this Funerals which began activity in 1823.
I like my job, of course it’s easier when you face elderly people. Seeing a dead child or the so many people without perspective that commit suicide it’s always sad.

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Mausoleum, Isle of Rum

Doric style Mausoleum of the eccentric Sir Ge- orge Bullough (died in 1939) who once owned the entire island. The now abandoned sump- tuous Castle where he lived was built in 1897 and required 300 craftsmen to be built. The craftsman had to be sent to the island especial- ly for this job.
Today the Island part of the Scottish Natural Heritage is managed by the Isle of Rum Com- munity Trust. (composed by the 25 inhabitants of the Isle).

 
Heather, 15 years old student. “I like the community. I like how close everyone is, and how you kind of know everybody”.

Heather, 15 years old student.
“I like the community. I like how close everyone is, and how you kind of know everybody”.

 
 

What is a safe place? Is it simply a spot where there are just few ill-intentioned humans? Or could it also be a place without natural calamities? Or is it a place with lots of churches (of similar but separated religions) where to find shelter? Or are they the spaces where one can feel fully connected with the natural wonders? Or maybe is it the place where you can find one of the few available secure jobs and an house to embrace, protect and regenerate you?

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An island may appear like a natural barrier of protection and intimidate newcomers,
but it can also be a country that welcomes you and allows you to be free and explore every bit of it.

Note: Àrasaig means“safe place” in Gaelic and it's also a name of a village in the Scottish Highlands (Arisaig in English).