“Through painting we can give a bit of colour to refugee people, a bit of light when we are in the dark.” So speaks Bikiana who attends the Making Space Safe classes at Modern Art Oxford that led to current exhibition ‘Nature, Journeys‘.
“DRAWING IS A SIMPLE WAY TO EXPRESS OURSELVES AND TO SHARE THE PAIN WE HAVE ALONGSIDE OUR JOY OF BEING HERE”
It’s been five years in the making, after artist Mary Chamberlain established the classes at the Oxford gallery, running a series of art workshops for individuals living in Oxford referred by Refugee Resource and Sanctuary Hosting.
‘Nature, Journeys‘ showcases the work of the collective through a series of drawings and paintings based on personal experiences, often represented through images found in nature.
“I hope the exhibition brings more understanding to the refugee status in Oxford”
“The intention of my art was to express the love that I have for my sister who I lost” contributor Dilber Cacan explains. (see below).
And now the group are ready to exhibit their work publicly and the exhibition now features recent drawings and paintings by Touhida Akter, Che Yan, Bikiana, Souad Amine Khodja, Lubna Mahmoud, Ihsan, Mariam Latifi and Dilber Cacan.
“I felt proud and excited when I saw my art in the exhibition since I spent a lot of time on it,” Lubna Mahmoud, who hails from Iraq, explains. “I meant to make my art happy and cheerful since I don’t like sad artwork since it makes people upset.
“But I also hope the exhibition brings more understanding to the refugees’ status in Oxford.”
“Art is cheerful. It doesn’t matter what mood you are in, art helps relax and comfort you”
“There are no words to express my joy at being able to exhibit like this. It is a joy, a satisfaction that touches the soul,” Souad Amine Khodja explains. “Everyone has a way of expressing their emotions and ideas. For me I use colours.
“Drawing is a simple way to express ourselves and to share the pain we have brought back alongside our joy of being here. Pure emotions just waiting to be expressed,” she adds.
Which is why, despite the often challenging and traumatic stories of the artists involved, the exhibition is full of colour and hope. “Well I love colour and it gives me hope to paint the beach – one of my favourite things back home.
“I also like to paint things that mean something, things that make you think about your past, someone else or bring back memories,” Bikiana adds.
“Drawing helped me reconnect with myself, with a part of me that I left aside for a very long time”
“Art is cheerful. It doesn’t matter what mood you are in, art helps relax and comfort you,” contributor Touhida Akter explains.
Mary, who runs the classes, added: “This is the first exhibition by the Making Space Art Collective. The artists have shown great dedication, skill, a willingness to try new things and embrace new experiences and have excelled. It has been a privilege to journey with them week by week, witnessing their individual artistic voices develop and experiencing this collective exhibition as it has unfolded.”
But perhaps Souad puts it best when she concludes: “Drawing helped me reconnect with myself, with a part of me that I left aside for a very long time and that I almost forgot. I feel more peaceful by expressing what I feel with different colours, shapes and materials. thank you for this opportunity.”
Making Space Safe: Nature, Journeys is free, supported by the Oxford City Council Culture Fund, Arts Council England, Oxford City Council and Lavazza and runs until Sunday Nov 21. https://www.modernartoxford.org.uk/whats-on/making-space-safe