Art is providing a powerful emotional outlet for a group of child refugees.
Youngsters who have settled in southeast England after fleeing unaccompanied from countries such as Syria, Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan have been tackling the trauma of displacement at British Red Cross-backed creative projects.
Some of those 14 to 19-years-old will now showcase their works at the free “All I Left Behind, All I Will Discover” exhibition at London’s OXO Tower from June 21 to 25.
“The refugee crisis has led to a huge outpouring of solidarity with unaccompanied child refugees but they seldom get the opportunity to speak for themselves,” said Alex Fraser, the organization’s director of refugee support.
The children have channeled their emotions into meaningful drawings and sketches, transforming life jackets and vases into canvases for their creativity. The projects are aimed at helping them integrate into their new communities and will be featured in the show.
“We hope it will provide a rare glimpse of what it is to be a child refugee and the pain, trauma and extraordinary resilience which characterizes so many of their stories,” Fraser added. A selection of their pieces are below:
A Journey by Boat
A young female refugee detailed her terrifying experience of crossing the Mediterranean Sea in a small and overcrowded boat via this drawing.
A young refugee from Eritrea, who nows lives in southeast England, created this doormat to symbolize how asylum seekers and refugees are “often the subject of negative press“ in the United Kingdom.
This piece is based on a horrific incident which occurred as a young refugee traveled through the Libyan desert on the back of an overcrowded pick-up truck. According to the British Red Cross, a young boy fell from the vehicle. Those onboard asked the driver to turn back and pick him up, but he just responded by saying “Inshallah” (If God wills). The truck never stopped.
A young Sudanese refugee created this final screen print of a tree and a house to symbolize family and home.
“Life Jacket” consists of around 30 patches, each representing themes that are important to some of the refugees who endured horrifying sea crossings as they fled conflict and persecution, sewn onto a life vest. Poignant phrases such as “No More Tears,” “A Future” and “Hello My Name Is Home Office Reference Number AB123456789” appear.
Past, Present, Future
Refugees’ distressing pasts, their fears of the present and their hopes for the future are summed up in this piece.
A group of young refugees who are now living in London created this piece to highlight their hope of one day living in a world which is filled with peace, love and no racism.
Four young refugees from Eritrea created this vase, which features their memories of home.
This print, which was inspired by the East African kanga textile, features the word “peace” written in various different languages.
One Country. One World. One Planet. One Future.
This “Snakes and Ladders”-inspired acrylic painting represents the different journeys made by a group of young refugees who are now living in London.