REFUGEES from some of the most conflicted parts of the world created a beautiful butterfly sculpture as therapy for PTSD.

Educational charity Roots and Shoots hosted the project at its leafy base in the heart of London with help from Butterfly Conservation.

The asylum-seeker artists unveiled their work on World Refugee Day (20 June), but are keeping their identities hidden to protect their safety.

Big City Butterflies sculpture
Some of the artists with their work at Roots & Shoots. Picture: Andrew Crowley

Butterfly Conservation Head of Engagement Kate Merry said: "This incredible work of art tells a story about how all living things move, migrate, change and grow, and we feel really honoured to have been involved in this collaboration. 

"We are facing a nature and climate crisis but the potential repercussions for people across the globe could have similar impacts to those of war and conflict. This sculpture reminds us of the power of caring for other humans and all living things."

Roots and Shoots, founded in 1984, hosts environmental education sessions for children and adults at its one-acre site in Kennington, South London. 

In recent years it has worked with Butterfly Conservation's Big City Butterflies project on environmental education activities including habitat management training for staff.

Big City Butterflies sculpture
Each of the butterflies was individually designed. Picture: Andrew Crowley

Big City Butterflies, launched in May 2021 with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, shows people across London's inner boroughs the value of butterflies and moths and how to attract and help them even in the heart of the city.

Roots and Shoots also hosts the Grounding Project - a horticultural therapy programme run with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust for refugees and asylum seekers in the area who have experienced trauma.

The Kaleidoscope of Butterflies art project brought all these strands of work together to create a permanent sculpture for the London charity's Wild Garden that celebrates natural compassion. 

With many butterflies and moths migrating hundreds of miles to and from breeding grounds each year, the theme also nods to the difficult journeys the refugee artists themselves have made. 

Big City Butterflies sculpture
The butterflies now appear to 'flock' together in the garden. Picture: Andrew Crowley

Grounding Project psychotherapist Myriam Sarens said: “The theme of World Refugee Day this year is centred around a sense of home, about finding a place where we feel safe and are welcomed. For our project, we have been fortunate to find a home at Roots and Shoots, a place where we have built a community and can grow together.”

The project began in March when the refugees visited the Horniman Museum’s tropical butterfly house for inspiration. Butterfly Conservation ran classes for the group on lepidopteran diversity and ecology, and Roots and Shoots' gardener Sarah Wilson - who is also a trained artist and jeweller - ran a series of sculpture-making workshops from initial design to copper shaping, enamelling and blacksmithing.

Their final creation emulates a cloud of colourful enamelled copper butterflies and celebrates the beauty of migration, caring for one another and the planet.

Big City Butterflies sculpture
Some of the artists admiring their work in situ. Picture: Andrew Crowley

Roots and Shoots Director Linda Phillips MBE AoH commented: "This innovative project with Butterfly Conservation and the Grounding Project illustrates the international significance of butterflies to people from all over the world, showing that the impact of nature has meaning, and is healing, for all."

Find out more about Butterfly Conservation's Big City Butterflies project at butterfly-conservation.org/our-work/conservation-projects/england/big-city-butterflies