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Refugee Creativity and Communities of Solidarity

Updated Friday, 12th June 2020

Being a virtual prisoner in the house, frightened to go out? That’s what many refugees have gone through, often for years on end. First, in the war zones, they fled, for fear of state violence and armed gangs. Second, during the journey in search of safety, many are locked down for days or weeks or months. Third, in the UK, where some are locked in by anxiety, inability to communicate, or experiences of racism. Frightened of enemies which are not ‘invisible’. Refugee week this year comes as we emerge gingerly from lockdown. It is also an opportunity for the mainstream population to better understand the lives of asylum seekers and refugees. The collaborative works presented here represent many  'small acts' of artistic resistance and creative resilience to marginalisation, as well as myriad practical and creative expressions of solidarity. They do not objectify, do not rely on tropes of victimhood but speak of hope, agency and resilience through solidarity.

Pikpa refugee camp Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Copyright - Knut Bry Communities of Solidarity: The story of Pikpa Refugee Camp 

Communities of Solidarity: The story of Pikpa Refugee Camp is a stunning photo book (free to download) co-created by a collective of photographers, graphic designers, writers, academics and activists who came together as volunteers and researchers at Pikpa Refugee Camp on the island of Lesvos in Greece in 2016. Lesvos, historically an island of refugees, has been at the frontline of welcoming Iraqi, Afghan, Syrian and other refugees to Europe since 2012. Pikpa offers a home to some of the most vulnerable refugees and families and is run entirely by volunteers and with donations. It is worlds away from the notorious Moria refugee camp which currently houses over 22 thousand asylum seekers and refugees in the most inhumane conditions.

The book offers an intimate portrayal of everyday life at Pikpa. Its beautiful images combine with a provocative argument about the power and practice of solidarity. The photographs of world-class, professional photographer Knut Bry are presented alongside those by young refugees living in the camp.

This envisioning of solidarity with refugees is radically unlike mainstream media images of refugees because they are by and with refugees.  These pictures do not objectify, do not rely on tropes of victimhood but speak of hope, agency and resilience through solidarity.

Communities of Solidarity helps raise much-needed funds for the Pikpa camp where refugees are in need of urgent medical care and a safe place. To find out more about Pikpa, to volunteer or make a donation click here. 

You can download a digital version of the book at this link, a full spread PDF version here, or a single-page PDF version, click here. All the images have no copyright restrictions, only an acknowledgement to the photographer Knut Bry and ’NODE Berlin Oslo’ (i.e. nodeberlin.com and nodeoslo.com), the multi-media design studio that created the beautiful design for the book pro-bono. 

You can also watch Knut Bry’s film about the Safe Passage Workshop at Pikpa that makes bags out of the life jackets left on the beaches of Lesvos by refugees here:

My Heart Loves in My Language: Hafan Books

My heart loves in my language - front cover Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Copyright - Hafan Books

Hafan Books was founded in 2003 by a solidarity group of refugee writers and other locals in Swansea. HAFAN is a Welsh word meaning haven, sanctuary, asylum. All proceeds go to the charity Swansea Asylum Seekers Support which brings together newcomers and locals for mutual support. The books celebrate creative writing as a means of sharing experiences, raising public awareness, and enabling asylum seekers and refugees to develop their skills and be appreciated as imaginative individuals. Downloads are mostly free at www.lulu.com.  

  • Several books featuring poems and stories by refugees from dozens of countries, alongside work by local writers in solidarity. Most recently, as part of an AHRC-funded project: My Heart Loves in My Language.
  • Life stories: by a Chilean political refugee who survived prison and torture and found sanctuary in Wales - Revolutionary Dreams, and by a South African woman who successfully fought the Home Office for the right to stay in the UK - Zola’s Story .
  • A world-first anthology showcasing new Welsh and Cameroonian poets edited by Hafan Books co-founder, refugee Eric Ngalle Charles; also his searing play, Asylum.
  • Poetry and short story collections by writers of Wales originally from Algeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries, appearing with Hafan Books alongside Welsh-born and other international writers – a community of creative solidarity.

Refugee Creativity: Further resources

Graffiti of eyes on a wall in Lesvos, Greece Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Photo by Dr Marie Gillespie from The Open University Click on the banner to view other Refugee Week materials
 

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