The House of Illustration in Granary Square is hosting London’s first exhibition exploring the so-called European refugee crisis, from the perspective of those who have truly lived it, from journalists who have spent extensive amounts of time in migrant camps to refugees themselves. The exhibition aims to tell the story from the inside, providing key actors with the opportunity to present their work, to tell their own stories.
40 multi-media pieces by 12 artists have been on display at the London venue since November. These visual storytellers come from an array of backgrounds and each holds a unique relationship to the refugee crisis in question.
Included in the selection of artists is Majid Adin, a unique artist with an even more unique story. The 31-year-old illustrator fled his home country of Iran after facing persecution for his political commentary and satirical cartoons. At the end of a long and perilous journey across Europe, Adin managed to reach the UK by hiding in a refrigerator that happened to be crossing the channel. Since then, Adin made an animation based off this story which sure enough, won an online competition organised by YouTube and Sir Elton John. It is now the official music video for Rocket Man.
Another impressive artist to be featured in the exhibition is Asia Alfasi, a British-Libyan graphic novelist, who uses Japanese anime to address issues in the Arab world. Growing up in Tripoli, Libya, Alfasi spent her formative years devouring British classics in the likes of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, not in their typical heavy book format, but through Japanese style graphic novels, oh and dubbed in Arabic.
Being well accustomed to such an eclectic form of representation, Alfasi took to the genre herself. Struck by the misrepresentation of Arab communities that prevailed in the media after 9/11, Alfasi decided to use this medium to humanize marginalized groups and broaden representation of Arab and Muslim cultures. Currently working on a series of graphic novels inspired by Islamic Folk Tales, the artist aims to use the medium to bridge gaps between communities and increase inter-cultural dialogue.
Palestinian-Syrian-Australian illustrator and animation filmmaker Mahmoud Salameh is another artist whose poignant work will be on display at Journeys Drawn: Illustration from the Refugee Crisis. Salameh uses his art to tackle issues of grave political resonance, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to border control and forced displacement. Such issues are not merely political for Salameh but deeply personal. The artist’s bold cartoons on display at the exhibition are inspired by the 17 months he spent in an Australian detention centre.
A rare opportunity to interact with deeply personal stories relating to the refugee crisis told by the people whose lives have been profoundly altered by it, don’t miss this important exhibition that rehumanizes one of the most significant movements of mass migration in modern history.
Journeys Drawn: Illustration from the Refugee Crisis is exhibiting at House of Illustration until March 24. This exhibition is curated by Katie Nairne.