This is a series of work responding to the refugee crises and specifically child refugees.
As a British Egyptian artist who has grown up in the Middle East, I have experienced first-hand the precarious politics and economics of the region as well as witnessed the migrant and refugee crises over the decades.
By no means am I comparing my experiences with those that had fled their homes for fear of prosecution and death, risking the lives of their young ones to cross perilous lands and seas for the chance of a better future. But there have been times when the political situation with my own family was quite precarious and I know as a mother of two young girls I would have done anything to make sure my family was safe.
The works that I make are shaped and resonate with my journeys, my history, motherhood and family, but also these stories come through in my work in a wider way in translating other collective and personal histories and journeys of fight and flight, survival, resilience and precariousness.
According to the UNHCR 80 million people are forcibly displaced in the world today. In the west, we have become immune to news and images of war, natural disasters and catastrophes. With this series ‘Lost and Not Found’ I wanted to make work that would make you stop and think, educated and question our policies and views towards refugees and displaced people.
Since November 2019, I have been volunteering with a Refugee charity collecting donations of cloths, tents, shoes etc.. to send to refugees in camps across Europe. While sorting out the donations I started to come across single odd baby and kids’ shoes, which I kept and since then I have been working with these found shoes incorporating them within settings depicting loss and despair, using plastic netting/supermarket packaging and found drawers.
Amal (Hope), 2020, Found child shoes, plastic netting, seaweed, found drawer and house paint , 72 x 42 x 12 cm
So many obstacles child refugees face out of no fault of their own, but in-spite of that, may have aspirations, dreams and hopes for a better future.
Amal, is an Arabic girls name meaning Hope. Embroidered in green (the colour of hope) on the found baby shoe, which is stepping on and crushing any obstacles in their way. The only way to survive the horrible conditions in refugee camps is to have hope. If you look closely at the drawer, you can see a vague outline of a flower that I originally drew inside the drawer which I painted over, there is only a shadow left, unable to be erased symbolising the loss of innocent childhood.
Washed Ashore, 2020, Found child shoes, plastic netting, seaweed, found drawer and house paint, 72 x 42 x 12 cm
In October 2020, a refugee family with three children including a 15-month-old baby, drowned after the sinking of a refugee boat in the English Channel. I responded to this upsetting and horrific news with ‘Washed Ashore’.
News channels reported that the family is believed to be from the city of Sardasht in western Iran, close to the border with Iraq, and was told that the father he had sold all of his belongings and paid more than £20,000 to smugglers in a bid to secure a better future for his family.
Victims, of war, human trafficking and politics, tangled, drowned and destroyed lives. The cute baby flip-flops, out of place, left by the shore a reminder of the lives that have been wasted and childhood lost.
Life in Tatters, 2020, Found drawer, old child shoes, plastic nets, house paint,
72 x 42 x 12 cm
‘Life in Tatters’ is another response to the loss of life and livelihood of child refuges. I made this piece after the horrendous news of the burning of Moira refugee camp, in September 2020. Back in 2018, the BBC dubbed it as the worst refugee camp on Earth.