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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Refugee Week Journeys

Coming to the end of Refugee Week and so time to reflect.

I have been working for Nottingham Contemporary in partnership with Nottingham Central Library to work with families of refugees and Nottingham residents. The results of the work I installed in the Central Library's exhibition space on Monday, and it will be up for a month.


My sessions with the family groups had the theme of Journeys, and the aim was to try to connect with Nottingham as well as people's places of origin. What I really enjoyed about this project was the unexpected connections that started to unfold...

The current show until the end of June at the Contemporary is two artists from other lands: Huang Yong Ping (a Chinese artist now living in France) and Wael Shawky (an artist originating from Egypt). Both artists deal with ideas about differing cultural viewpoints, East and West, and both reveal questions about things that their countries of origin would rather they didn't!

The discussions looking at the artists' work with the group of families were complex, acknowledging many different memories that they connected with, images that were familiar to them (elephants, mosques), their own knowledge of world history and parallels to their own situations in other countries.

Two beautiful mosques

I felt the exhibition helped the groups to open up and talk about their thoughts, not necessarily feeling they had to tell their stories (which is the approach I have so often seen by creative projects working with refugees), but more talking about wider issues, history, politics and social aspects that the work suggested and that they had differing experiences of.

The resulting installation that I have created at the library attempts to visually show all the connections that we made through our sessions. Using the artworks created by the participants themselves, I have stretched journey lines between them, to show real journeys, imagined connections and shared experiences.

I particularly like how the elephants appear to be flying!

I feel that the project promoted sharing, creativity and discussion, and each day ended on a positive note, looking to the future and seeing Nottingham as a place full of promise. Thus it appears at the centre of the installation!

Thanks to everybody who took part.

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