By Jacqueline Grima
As a response to the recent First World War Centenary commemorations, The Portico library in Mosely Street, Manchester has recently collaborated with artist and illustrator, Dai Owen, on a project entitled Sanctuary Seekers. The project forms part of the library’s larger Conflict and Community project, supported by the Zochonis Charitable Trust, and aims to highlight the impact of conflict on the lives of refugees in Britain.
Dai began the project by speaking with refugees in and around Manchester with the help of a group called United for Change. Dai asked the refugees about their experiences of having fled conflict in their home countries and refuge in the UK. After listening to the refugees’ stories, Dai then turned them into illustrated posters which show the many challenges that asylum seekers face, firstly in their own countries and then in Britain.
For example, one poster shows how a family of refugees were targeted and threatened after forming friendships with gay people in their home country, with the police apparently too scared to protect them from violence. Another illustration shows how the same family were interviewed for seven hours upon their arrival in the UK and how their plea for asylum was eventually refused in court.
Dai’s second poster tells how one refugee from Cameroon was beaten by the authorities in a bid to make him sell his land and, after seeking refuge in the UK twelve years ago, is now facing having to apply for asylum again. It also shows how another refugee was forced to flee his country after attempting to put a halt to corruption in a political vote.
Events and Outreach Co-ordinator at The Portico, Aoife Larkin, told Humanity Hallows, “As part of our reflections on this world changing event, The Portico wanted to take an international perspective that considered the movement of people as a result of conflict. Dai’s depictions offer a wonderfully informative and engaging resource which we hope can be used as widely as possible.”
She added, “Considering the high-profile mass-migration of people in recent times we hope that these posters will help to convey some of the real consequences of having to flee from violence and pick up your life in a new country.”
Dai’s posters can be downloaded for free from The Portico website and can be used as teaching and learning resources.