Academic refugees turn stories of displacement into art

Workshop participants seek to put focus on universities’ roles as places of sanctuary

二月 10, 2024
Source: University of Sanctuary initiative

Higher education institutions must consider their role in creating welcoming spaces for refugees and asylum seekers, according to campaigners.

A new project held at King’s College London united students and academics from nine UK universities with backgrounds of forced displacement to explore concepts around home in higher education when seeking sanctuary.

The two-day participatory arts workshop, led by the University of East Anglia sanctuary initiative and the King’s College sanctuary programme, was joined by artists Majid Adin and Dana Olărescu.

Sophie North, project organiser and academic lead for the University of Sanctuary initiative at UEA, said: “With more than 110 million people currently forcibly displaced around the world, it feels imperative that higher education institutions collaborate to consider their role in creating safety, solidarity, and empowerment for those seeking sanctuary.

“This project created a platform for those with lived experiences of accessing higher education following forced displacement to create powerful artwork illustrating their lived experiences.”

The workshop participants created a series of posters exploring their experiences of being forcibly displaced and the role that higher education can play when on a journey in search of sanctuary.

Organisers hope that by showing the complex issue of forced displacement from the perspective of those most affected, the project can collectively contribute to building more compassionate and supportive communities.

Reza, a participant from UEA, said participating in the workshop offered a profound insight into the collective efforts and dedication of scholars and activists working tirelessly to support refugee education.

“The experience was a vivid reminder of the power of collaboration and empathy in creating meaningful change. Witnessing first-hand the hard work and perseverance of individuals striving to overcome barriers and extend help to those in need was truly inspirational.”

The posters illustrate concepts of loss alongside hope and the challenges of access to, alongside the life-changing impacts of, higher education.

They will be exhibited across UK universities, art institutions, community organisations and schools from March and will be accompanied by a short film.

The project was supported by the Necessity Network, Duolingo English Test and Oxford ELLT.

Angel, from the University of Warwick, said all participants had one thing in common – their love for education and its empowerment.

“This project gave us a platform to express ourselves through art, but also to bring awareness to the struggles we have been through to access education.”

The project was developed in collaboration with Cardiff, Newcastle and Oxford Brookes universities, and the universities of Bath, Bristol, Essex and Warwick, plus Counterpoints Arts, the University of Sanctuary network, Student Action for Refugees, and the Open Learning Initiative.



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