Dr Colin Mackenzie (Edinburgh Napier University):
Presiding Officer and members of the Scottish Parliament, today you may be surprised to discover that I am not here to talk business or education but about how I have been personally inspired by an incredible paper-book sculpture called “The Butterflies”, which is currently outside this chamber. This talk is about what the sculpture means to me and to those who have seen it and what it can represent for Scotland.
It was made by an anonymous artist, who has left amazing paper sculptures in Edinburgh libraries and museums. Each of these intricately and carefully crafted pieces comes with a label promoting libraries and public spaces. The artist has become the subject of a book and a tourist trail and is an internet phenomenon. Imagine an old tatty book, opened on end with butterflies flying out. That is the Butterflies sculpture. Originally made to raise funds for a cancer charity, it has been touring Scotland on a not-for-profit basis.
This sculpture’s tour began a year ago in the war poets library in Edinburgh Napier University’s Craiglockhart campus, where I began my personal academic journey as an adult. It has also been in the United Kingdom library of the year in Kirkwall, in Dumfries and Galloway, in Aberdeen, in East Lothian, in the Killin village library, in Abbotsford and, most recently, in a place where I grew up—South Nitshill, Glasgow.
South Nitshill used to be a place of violence and hopelessness and what I would call, in the words of Billy Connolly, a “desert wi’ windaes”. It has now changed. I could not imagine that I would be returning, as an adult, with a piece of art in the hope of inspiring children, adults and teenagers. For me, the Butterflies sculpture represents freedom—a flight from poverty and freedom from violence.
The Butterflies sculpture, like most art, projects multiple perceptions. Many people are inspired because they see an individual who has spent spend hundreds, if not thousands, of hours without desire of public recognition to promote a worthwhile cause. This piece can be said to represent the many unsung heroes in our society.
These actions represent what is good about people. This art has been warmly and enthusiastically received wherever it has appeared. However, it is not the object that is special. It is made from paper and a recycled book and is not meant to last. It is what it represents that is important. It is a story, a cause, a mystery, a journey. Designed to inspire, my message to the Scottish Parliament today is: let us inspire social causes, let us inspire business, and together let us create a country with a focus on inspiration.