‘If the cloud allows’

    On 16th October 2018 we walked in a circle at the same time in Basrah, Iraq and Cambridge, UK, treading on the same earth and gazing at the same moon.

    Artist Sally Stenton worked alongside with Dr. Nawrast Sabah Abd Alwahab (University of Basrah, Department of Geology) to bring this walk to life, with input from Dr Matthew Bothwell (University of Cambridge, Institute of Astronomy).

    The first walk formed part of The Archive and Contested Landscape and Cambridge Festival of Ideas.



    Geological connections

    By Dr. Nawrast Sabah Abd Alwahab


    Walking around a circle in two different places on the Earth, looking at the same Moon in the Sky, and sharing this experience of people from totally different cultures could be nothing beyond a kind of coming to be too human in the ages of The Clouds.

    Movement around any tiny piece of sand grain or broken shell creates the fascinating feature of carbonate rocks called Ooids. Such processes of moving around of mineral layers, mostly in agitated shallow water environments with a warm climate, are known from ancient and recent sediments. However, more complex views and interpretations have developed amongst geologists for different types of ooids in different environmental conditions. But, the process is the same, some body moving around something.

    Cyclicity as a repetition of action in a rhythmic way can be found in geological science as a type of thinking and as a natural process. Observation, generalization, theorizing, followed by construction of hypotheses and looking for new observations is a continuous and circular process of any geological analysis. Such a process of thinking is termed the ‘hermeneutic circle’. Cyclicity as a natural process presides over the conception, the description and interpretation of many geological phenomena for both short term cycles, as with Climate Change; and long term cycles, such as Plate Tectonics.

    Walking around a circle in two different places, looking at the same Moon in the Sky, and sharing this experience between us could be like every kind of coming into being too human, that might be documented in The Clouds.

    The seductive ease of flicking from place to place on the internet confuses our notions of presence and absence.  In the experience of walking slowly in a circle, treading on the earth and tracing the shape of moon, there is an invitation to be here, in this moment, in this place and at the same time to carry the understanding that people in another place are doing the same.


    There is a humility in this act of bodies walking in a circle, stepping where the previous person has trodden. We tap into the rotational and cyclic processes underlying the evolution of the universe. There is a rhythmic pattern that geologists understand in the cyclical formation of strata and that astronomers encourage us not to take for granted in the changing of the seasons and the rising of the sun each day.  Knowing that the moon and earth have the same origin, might make it impossible to consider that the people of our planet do not.


    For a moment as we feel the earth under our feet and gaze up at the sky, something is revealed through the obscurity. We know that the moon is there even if the view is hidden by the cloud.

    Sally Stenton

    We have begun to receive translations of the postcards (more to come)




    Welcome my friend. I share my experience with you and I am so excited and I love this way of communication between peoples. It’s a telepathy and it’s great for me as a theatrical director.




    The moon circle was gathering us, and this beautiful chance. But the humanity and this experience are what connect us. I hope to meet you one day…and I hope the peace for your country and for mine because I am looking for peace.

    Bringing the first walk to fruition

    The proposal was submitted as an idea that it might not be possible to make happen, in which case the artwork might exist in the documentation of the attempts and prospective plans.  However Kelcy Davenport, curator of The Archive and the Contested Landscape exhibition put me in touch with geologist Dr Nawrast Sabah Abd Alwahab who was excited about the proposal, partly because, unbeknown to me, she has a particular interest in cyclicity in geological evolution, a key element of which is the effect of the tides, in turn influenced by the phases of the moon. With a geologist onside it made sense to seek the involvement of an astronomer. Dr Matthew Bothwell has an outreach role with the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge and he was able to help confirm the best timing and date for the walk and contribute valuable insights from an astronomy perspective.

    Practical and logistical challenges help to shape the work

    The position of the moon in the sky, which given the time difference between the 2 places, determined the date, time and location of the walks. Safety concerns about walking at night also came into play. The Cambridge walk  needed to take place when the moon has just risen and therefore required a clear view to the horizon e.g. an open space on the south side of the city.

    In the process of communication between places, Nawrast and I had to be flexible, patient and creative. This experience of slowing down, letting go and embracing uncertainty proved to be integral to the project.