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‘Refugee Wales’, people like us

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Aberaid fundraiser: Hosted in Ceredigion Museum

Aberaid fundraiser: Hosted in Ceredigion Museum

THE REFUGEE WALES exhibition opened at Ceredigion Museum last Friday evening (Jul 8). The opening event included stories and songs from a number of local artists, including Sue Jones-Davies, story-teller Peter Stevenson, and, of course, Côr Gobaith. Issa Farfour, one of the refugees involved in the project, played the darabuka, a goblet shaped drum found mainly in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Food was provided by Medina, the Aberystwyth restaurant and take-away with a growing reputation for delicious and imaginative cuisine.

Refugee Wales was developed by Cardiff’s refugee and asylum seeker centre, Oasis. It launched at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff on June 2 and will be at Ceredigion Museum until August 28. It then moves on to Wrexham Library where it will be on display from September 7 until October 22.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Refugee Wales is the final stage of a two year project. It shares personal stories to raise awareness of the lives of people who are living in Wales as refugees or asylum seekers.

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS 

Since the project began in December 2014, 25 participants have interviewed other refugees and asylum seekers, as well being involved in transcribing, producing text, photos and video. The project has involved both men and women living in Wales with refugee or asylum seeking status. Participants come from countries ranging from Eritrea to Syria and Sudan. The main aim of the exhibition is to get refugees’ stories heard while giving the participants new and useful skills. Oasis hope that he project will also further the cause of integration and solidarity.

Reynette Roberts, Director of Oasis Cardiff, said: “Many people in Wales have never met someone who is a refugee or asylum seeker. This touring exhibition is exciting because the stories are being shared in accessible public venues. If everyone can listen to these stories, it will help break down the barriers between refugee communities and the rest of Wales.”

The pop-up exhibition, designed with Cardiff-based firm Semaphore Display, includes audio clips, digital stories and hands-on activities, all of which give visitors an insight into what life is like for people seeking sanctuary.

Owain Rhys from National Museum Wales said: “This project has produced an invaluable archive about one of the most important stories of our time. It is so important to give a voice to people who would otherwise not be heard.”

HAPPY AND SAD STORIES 

The exhibition features a mixture of happy and sad stories.

Project coordinator Mari Lowe says: “Some of them have things from their pasts which haunt them. Some people have spent the last few months or even the last few years on a really horrific journey. But there’s so much going on that’s positive, too.”

Mari hopes that people who have negative views about refugees, asylum seekers and immigration will attend the exhibition, seeking more information. She hopes it will it change some people’s minds and make them respond differently towards refugees. “That’s the hope: if people come to the exhibition and then meet an asylum seeker, maybe they’ll think of the story he or she has.”

The exhibition presents some of the vital facts and figures about asylum seekers and refugees in Wales. For instance, it was not until 2001 that Wales became a ‘dispersal area’ for asylum seekers. At the end of October 2015, there were around 2,832 people living in dispersal accommodation in Wales. Refugee Wales combines this kind of, often poorly understood or misrepresented, information with the stories of real people.

Explaining why she can’t go home, one woman asylum seeker narrates: “I joined a certain group in Malawi. I was supporting lesbians and gays. In Malawi it was prohibited… When the Malawian government heard that I’m doing that, we were in threat.” This woman now lives in Wales with the fear that her asylum application will be refused. There are a number of equally moving but always diverse stories in the exhibition.

A panel from one contributor poses the question: “Can you imagine starting again from scratch?” The visitor is then asked which three things from home they would pack in a rucksack if that was all that it was possible to take. The impact of the exhibition depends on visitors engaging seriously with such questions. If they do so, Refugee Wales

is truly unsettling. One highlight of the exhibition is two prints by the artist Gideon Summerfield. These manage to portray at once the scale of the problem of displacement, the sheer number of people, and also the intimate plight of individual human-beings among the masses.

THE COLISEUM, A TRULY PUBLIC BUILDING 

Speaking after Friday night’s opening of Refugee Wales in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion Museum’s Assistant Curator, Alice Briggs, told the Herald: “Issa Farfour, who is now studying journalism at Cardiff University, was fantastic on the darabuka. It was really mesmerising to hear it in the Coliseum. One of the other volunteers from Oasis, Hussam Allaham, a former doctor, also told a bit of his story and how he ended up in Cardiff, which was also very powerful. I was particularly moved by him asking the audience to imagine that this building won’t be here tomorrow, and that most of the people in this room will not be here tomorrow, and that’s what it was like for him in Syria before he left.”

Working as a refugee support worker, Hussam Allaham is studying for his IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam so he can practice medicine again.

Over the last year, Ceredigion Museum has opened up its Coliseum building to two large fundraising evenings for refugees and has also served as a collection point for Rum Aid and Aberaid donations to go to refugees. The Coliseum is one of the oldest community buildings in Aberystwyth and has a great history of providing space for people’s campaigns.

During the First World War, for instance, a fundraiser was held to support refugees from Belgium. Over the last century, the Coliseum has also hosted a number of prominent speakers including Lloyd George and Emmeline Pankhurst. Museum staff are proud that the building is still being used for people to participate in dialogue about our communities, politics and society.

Alice Briggs concluded: “As a museum we feel our role is not be passive in our interpretation of history, but to question, and to use the knowledge of the past, of which we are guardians, to help institute change.”

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Llanelli Town Mayor hosted the Easter Family Fun Day

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Llanelli Town Mayor David Darkin and Mayoress Kim Darkin with Cllr Suzy Curry and Cllr John Prosser also Nia Nia Griffith MP

ON Saturday 20th April Llanelli Town Mayor hosted the Easter Family Fun Day in the Selwyn Samuel Centre Arena.

The day was a huge success and raised lots of money for the mayors chosen charities – the main charity bring CYCA which provides support to children and young people in Carmarthenshire.

Attendees were treated to taster sport sessions with Rugby Tots, a selection of songs from Shrek Jr from the Hive Theatre Company, magic and fun from Crazy Clayton and a very special visit from Belle who sung songs and played games with the children.

Emergency services information stalls

The event was supported by many local community groups and even had a fire engine pop in for a visit.

Asda llanelli donated some of the Easter eggs and a huge thank you to other raffle prize donors including Joe’s ice cream, hungry horse and berridge-Jones photography.

Cllr David Darkin would like to thank everyone who supported and gave their time to make the event the success it was.

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Wales’ Largest Ever Coastal Walking Festival Launches May

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THIS May a new walking festival celebrating seven years of the 870-mile coast path will take place. The festival’s aim is to encourage locals across Wales to get outdoors, meet new people and appreciate the beautiful Welsh landscapes.

Walks will cover seven coastal regions will be organised by the Wales Coast Path and Ramblers Cymru.

The festival not only aims to showcase Wales’ beautiful coastline and countless natural assets, the Wales Coast Path Walking Festival will also boost local tourism along the path whilst encouraging residents to come together to celebrate the country’s iconic coastline.

Taking place 4th -19th May 2019, the festival will feature over 40 new guided walks created by Ramblers Cymru. The festival programme has been specifically designed to suit all ages and abilities, with the majority of the walks free to join.

From fully accessible and short family walks tonature walks and more challenging hikes, the festival aims to encourage people to enjoy outdoor exercise while exploring Wales’ iconic coastline. All walks will be led by experienced guides offering insights into the unique wildlife, fascinating history and culture that can be found along the way.

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “This festival is set to be an excellent addition to Wales’ Year of Discovery and a way for visitors and locals to discover more about our unique Wales Coast Path. I’m delighted that the guided walks will encourage people to find out more about the landscape, history and wildlife associated with the coastal path and will also be an excellent way to be active while discovering more of Wales.”

Local authorities for each of the seven coastal regions, which include South Wales, The Gower, Ceredigion, the Llŷn Peninsula, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthen, and North Wales, will help support the event, along with partners National Resources Wales, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and a number of charities including Keep Wales Tidy.

The festival, which coincides with Visit Wales’ Year of Discovery 2019, will follow a theme of discovery which will be prominent throughout. The Wales Coast Path is the world’s first uninterrupted route along a national coast and gives hikers access to undiscovered sections of the coast with stunning views, rugged landscapes and rare wildlife.

To learn more about the Wales Coast Path walking festival or book walks visit: www.walescoastpath.gov.uk

Register to attend the festival: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/wales-coast-path-walking-festival-2019-18812644097

Admission free (additional charges for linear walks where transport is required).

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Swansea Bay City Deal leaders are supporting Neath Port Talbot Council’s proposals for changes

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SWANSEA Bay City Deal leaders are supporting Neath Port Talbot Council’s proposal to amend some of their projects due to be part-funded by the £1.3 billion investment programme.

Any amended or enhanced projects, they say, will be progressed through City Deal governance and approval processes before submission to the Welsh Government and UK Government for consideration.

This follows on from the City Deal’s Joint Committee accepting all recommendations arising from two reviews into the City Deal, which included enabling flexibility in the investment programme to bring new projects in if they’re beneficial to the region.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Bay City Deal Joint Committee Chairman, says a Neath Port Talbot Council call for the City Deal to change approach is also being put in place.

Cllr Stewart said: “As a Joint Committee, we have accepted all recommendations from the City Deal reviews, and work is ongoing to implement them as soon as possible.

“These include the appointment of an independent programme director to manage the City Deal, as well as flexibility to amend or enhance projects forming part of the investment programme if they’re good for the region.

“The City Deal is still at an early stage of its development, but we’re doing all we can to make governance and project approval processes more efficient to speed up the investment programme’s delivery.

“It would be too great a risk for communities and businesses in Neath Port Talbot to miss out on City Deal investment, so we stand ready to help Neath Port Talbot Council move their projects forward.

“All City Deal partners remain committed to delivery. It’s widely recognised that the City Deal presents a once in a generation opportunity to create considerable economic growth and well-paid jobs across the region as a whole.”

The independent review into the City Deal commissioned by both governments recommended immediate approval for two City Deal projects – the ‘Yr Egin’ creative sector development in Carmarthen, and the Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District.

Cllr Stewart said: “We expect funds to be released for these projects imminently.

“We also welcome Neath Port Talbot Council’s continued commitment to the regional Homes as Power Stations project, which will help people save money on their energy bills by introducing cutting-edge energy-efficient technology to both new houses and existing buildings throughout South West Wales.”

The Swansea Bay City Deal investment programme is due to be funded by the UK Government, the Welsh Government, the public sector and the private sector. It’s being led by the four regional councils – Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea – in partnership with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea University, Hywel Dda University Health Board and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board.

The City Deal is projected to create over 9,000 high-quality jobs and give the regional economy a £1.8 billion boost in coming years.

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