Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Refugee Exhibition: "Claiming a New Place on Earth"




If you are in London this week, please come and see our exhibition “Claiming a New Place on Earth” at Protein Studios in Shoreditch, London.  Through photographs and interviews, photographer Caroline Irby and I have recorded the journey of 10 refugees or asylum seekers aged 18-24, who arrived in the UK as minors and are now coming of age in this country. 

How is it to grow up in an Afghan village with no water and no electricity, then to find yourself alone in London at 18, not speaking a word of English?

How does it feel when life is passing you by, when you cannot get your driving license, go to university or get a job because you are waiting for your papers?


Thousands of teenagers arrive in the UK every year seeking asylum. Many have missed out on education and have been scarred by war and by having to leave their home countries.  In the UK, they have to navigate complex systems to get the support they need. Yet, they are also young people with talent, pride, aspirations and dreams.


The young refugees are from Syria, Ivory Coast, Iran, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ukraine and Uganda. They talk about the life they have left behind and their new experiences in this country - the hurdles and challenges they are facing, especially around the asylum and education systems - as well as their dreams and aspirations for the future.  They were photographed in the context of their dream job. 


The portraits and interviews are part of the exhibition “Claiming a New Place on Earth” at Protein Studios in London, Oct. 10-15 (the title is from Lesbos 2015  by poet Ruth Padel). The exhibition was commissioned and curated by Breaking Barriers (BB), a wonderful charity helping refugees to find meaningful employment.

Caroline and I have worked together on a number of humanitarian stories overseas – particularly in Africa and Asia - and in the UK.   We have a keen interest in refugee issues because we have seen some of the causes that trigger people to flee their homes. We wanted to meet some of the young refugees who have settled here to learn what propelled them to move so far, and to hear about their experiences of trying to make a new life here.  And, at a time when Brexit negotiations are pressing on and immigration is such a loaded topic, we wanted to let some young refugees tell their own stories in their own words.

This is our second collaboration with Breaking Barriers. Last year, Breaking Barriers’ exhibition portrayed refugees at the place where they first felt free or safe in the UK.

You can see some of the portraits and interviews in this Guardian article



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