02.Jun.2005

'Other Ways Of Seeing' - Portraits Of Refugees In London | 14-18 June, Menier Chocolate Factory Gallery, Southwark

Other Ways of Seeing is an exhibition of portrait shots reflecting the cultural, economic and social contribution that refugees make to the capital and showcasing alternative histories. The exhibition is in the run up to Refugee Week 20-26 June, this year themed ‘persecution’. Refugee Week is a UK wide festival that celebrates the great contribution made by refugees to UK life and promotes understanding of why people become refugees. Every year hundreds of arts, cultural and educational events are organised across the country (1).

The portraits, by Tatiana Correia (2), are accompanied by text, detailing in their own words, the subjects' reasons for fleeing their countries of origin, their lives and careers in their home countries and contrasts this with their lives in the UK now. They talk about how they feel about living in the UK and their hopes and fears for their futures. The text is taken from a series of interviews, conducted by a refugee journalist, at the time the portraits were taken.

Wazir Faizi, one of the exhibition’s subjects, studies computer engineering. In his home country of Afghanistan he was an army general and a diplomat (3).

“I was a leader of the Afghan people who were displaced in India during the 80s, after the Russians invaded our country. When the Russians left Afghanistan in 1992, I was invited by the new president to come home and was then appointed head of the diplomatic mission in India. In 1993 I was sent as an ambassador to the Czech republic. I came to London in 1999 when the Taliban came to power.

“I was very isolated at first as I did not speak the language and did not know my way around. It was difficult to cope at first, as I was a leader of my people, a general and an ambassador, and now I have had to start over again from scratch. I have a mentor though, who is British, and he has not only removed my worry and my isolation, he has made me become a Londoner.”

Jean Leon, from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) arrived in the UK in 2002:

“In the DRC I owned a factory and taught business at the university. I became afraid for my life when the government was overthrown. My factory still exists but it is closed. One day I would like to be able to return to the Congo and reopen it, once the political situation improves and it becomes safer.

“I have been teaching mathematics at a college for nearly two years. It is frustrating that despite ten years teaching experience in the Congo and nearly two years here, I’ve found it impossible to get a better job. I’d like to be able to provide my children with the opportunities that other children at their school have. Eventually I plan to do a PhD in Economics at UCL. I think that immigrants, including refugees, could really help fill skills shortages and assist the economy if they were given the right support.”

The exhibition, which is funded by unLTD (4), will then tour local schools and libraries in south and east London, with the hope of promoting better understanding in host communities of who refugees are and why they are in the UK.

ENDS

Unfortunately, Tatiana is not available for interview but many of the refugee subjects of the exhibition are available for interview. For further details and images contact: Sarah Arnold on 07780 604 097 or Liz Cafferty on 07881 648 991

Notes for editors:

(1) OTHER WAYS OF SEEING - Portraits Of Refugees In London, takes place 14th-18th June at the Meniers Chocolate Factory, 51-53 Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU. For more information on Refugee Week go to www.refugeeweek.org.uk

(2) Photographer’s biography: Tatiana Correia

Tatiana arrived in the UK from Angola towards the end of 2001 and during 2002 became involved in a participatory photography project called Transparency run by the charity PhotoVoice. Working with a group of 13 other refugees, Tatiana used photography to document her experiences of arriving and learning to live in the UK as a young refugee.

The photography workshops culminated in an exhibition at The Spitz Gallery during Refugee Week 2002 and went on to tour over 15 venues in the UK and was shown in the European Parliament.

In October 2004 Tatiana won a bursary to study a BA in photography at The London College of Communication, one of London’s leading photography colleges. Her place is supported by London Arts and Autograph (The Association of Black and Ethnic Minority Photographers). Tatiana continues to receive support and mentoring from both PhotoVoice and Autograph.

(3) Wazir and Jean Leon participated in the refugee mentoring scheme Time Together. For more information go to www.timebank.org.uk/mentor

(4) unLTD is a charity which supports social entrepreneurs. For more information go to www.unltd.org.uk

(5) Other subjects involved in the exhibition are grantees of CARA – the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics. For more information on CARA contact Liz Cafferty on 0207 021 0883