“Art takes you off from things going on in your life”
Art without borders brings together a selection of artworks created by members of the Action for Refugees in Lewisham food bank at their inspiring art@home group over the past 3 years.
The artists are refugee and migrant women and their children. The exhibition represents the group: coming together from diverse places, their reflections and experiences seeking sanctuary in London, and the shared ethos of freedom of expression through making art from the imagination.
Life is hard for families fleeing persecution and war. The UK is not always a welcoming place, and many art@home members and their children have experienced homelessness, destitution, marginalisation and discrimination. The group is an antidote to this: a regular shared space of welcome, community, emotional kindness and growth. When people feel welcomed, valued and emotionally safe, there are no borders to the possibilities for their art. Through creativity we have seen adults and children connect with their own strength and resilience. The Art@ahome group embodies AFRIL’s values in the way we support people who have experienced forced migration.
In the words of one of our artists: “Art takes you off from things going on in your life. We are able to make anything and feel part of a big group, valued. Any time there is support, even those who don’t know how to draw.”
Conceived of as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic as a way of connecting families during periods of lockdown, art@home meets online every 2 weeks and has evolved into a core of 10 regular adults and children. Since restrictions eased we have incorporated trips to view exhibitions and in summer 2022 members had their responses to art recorded and featured in the eframed: The Woman in the Window exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.
As Elaine Homer, the Art Project Leader and curator of this exhibition explains:
“It is quite remarkable that each of the art works in our Exhibition were created spontaneously, in less than 30 minutes. Art Beyond Borders embodies our group’s collective experience during the COVID Pandemic and members’ intimate journeys of personal exploration through art. Often inspired by migrant artists and those from the African Diaspora, group member’s art works express their deeply held humanitarian values and concern for our global family and planet Earth.”
Group members were encouraged to enjoy and explore art works by professional artists exploring them in relation to their own experiences. Art works stimulated art making in tangential ways. Members were encouraged to experiment and express themselves, their values, culture and what is important to them through art making. The group was not taught and there were no expectations about outcomes. Our group is not an art class. Themes would be introduced, often with a wellbeing focus or that were responsive to current events, encouraged participation in wider cultural life or celebrated the interests and backgrounds of group members. Art works and exhibitions are selected in response to the cultural diversity of our group.
Coming together as a group to view and make art has been a respite for some group members. For others the group has offered quality time to connect meaningfully within their own family and with other group members through art. We welcomed baby Fatima into the group and have watched her grow into a toddler who walked confidently into Gerald Moore Gallery and picked up a felt pen and began drawing next to her mother.”
We would like to thank the Gerald Moore Gallery, Eltham College, for this wonderful opportunity and your continued support. Helen Mason, Food Bank Director Sophie Wickham, Director, AFRIL
Art Without Borders Exhibition runs 20-25 Feb 2023 – Gerald Moore Gallery, Eltham College, Mottingham Lane, SE9 4RU.
For information about exhibition opening times, contact the Gerald Moore Gallery on 0208 8570448 For more information about the AFRIL art@home project contact 07549031729.
Action for Refugees in Lewisham (AFRIL) is a small local charity providing much needed support and services to refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants. Projects include Advice and Advocacy, Foodbank and wellbeing activities, a supplementary school and an immigration partnership. AFRIL takes an empowerment approach so that people who have experienced forced migration can rebuild their lives and thrive in the heart of our community.