Refugees and asylum-seekers work with artists for new art exhibition at Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth
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Working on the theme of ‘Healing’, textile artist Vanessa Rolf has worked with refugee service users and families at the Portsmouth City of Sanctuary Refugee Hub for three months, creating two quilts, one fabric and the second quilt with colourful paper.
‘I have been inspired and humbled by those involved in this project, both service users and volunteers, who have given their time, their generosity and warmth, piecing together scraps to create something bigger. I have felt lucky to have sat together growing something colourful and joyful,’ said Vanessa.
Also on show is Now We Are Here, a new series by Portsmouth-based photographer Olufemi Olaiya. It was created to highlight the contributions and accomplishments of refugees in the UK, and how their journey, struggles and aspirations for a better life have helped define their status and place in society in their newly found home.
The portraits produced by Olaiya during a month-long residency at Aspex, aim to challenge the mainstream narrative of who a refugee is and simultaneously explore the complexities surrounding their reasons for fleeing their country of birth.
Olufemi said: ‘Being a migrant myself, I put my heart and soul into this project by having personal connections with each of my sitters to capture their stories in such a way that it reflects their strength, vulnerability, and aspirations. Making them look important and larger than life was a priority for me.
‘I have drawn inspiration from Renaissance artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, Anthony Van Dyck, Hans Holbein the younger and 1960s African contemporary photographers like Seydou Keita and Samuel Fosso to create the perfect feel for this project.’
Joanne Bushnell, director of Aspex, added: ‘This exhibition builds on Aspex’s many years of work with our local refugee and asylum seeker communities in Portsmouth, initially in partnership with Artswork and Journeys Festival International.
‘We would like to thank Portsmouth City of Sanctuary and all the people who have collaborated with us, and the Portsmouth Partnership who supported this important project.’
They are in the Gunwharf Quays-based gallery’s Learning Space until July 24.