I just thought I’d share a little bit about this brilliant charity: Art Refuge UK, which I heard about in a lecture recently by Bobby Lloyd.
Obviously, the first things a refugee needs are food, shelter etc, but what you probably wouldn’t expect is that often art materials are given out in refugee camps too nowadays -why?
Well take the work of Art Refugee UK for example, which provides arts activities for newly arrived Tibetan refugee children. These children are often sent across the mountains and into excile by their parents, in order to find a better life. The journey is difficult, and they arrive disorientated and often traumatized, without an adult to look after them and nuture them as a person, and not just a statistic.
For these children, whose lives have been disrupted, playing and making art is an essential therapeutic activity which can help to reduce stress and establish normalcy. (www.artrefuge.org.uk)
Creating art is a way that these little people can explore and communicate something of their experiences. Having an artwork witnessed and validated by an adult who understands what they have gone through is also really important. When a child or young person transfers their imagination into something something tangible, this marks them out as having potential and agency, rather than being another faceless victim. It is also a chance for much needed play in the wake of hard times.
Janek Dubowski explains it better than me:
Even the most primitive mark made with the implement [crayons] is an act of creation. This discovery amounts to the child realizing that he or she is responsible for the mark that has been created and by so doing the child is enables to see him or herself as an agent of change.
‘Art versus language’ in ‘Working with children in art therapy’ (edited by Caroline Case and Tessa Dalley, 2002)
I found that a similar thing happened in a homeless shelter which I volunteer at too. Making art is a way of demonstrating something unique and valuable about the potential and creativity of each person, because the way everyone draws/creates is entirely different and interesting. Arts activities can bring out a side of people that isn’t defined by physical circumstances.
The rainbow symbolises hope for a refugee’s home country. The the dinosaurs were a source of much chuckling from someone who had been very quiet before: