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The Gallery

On this page we showcase collections of videos, recordings, word art, photographs, and drawings submitted to this project by contributors from many parts of world. They use any medium and means accessible to them, mostly smartphones, to communicate their experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Contributions are all from asylum seekers and refugees from many parts of the world.

Videos
photography

Corona Collage

1/2: Collage by Hassan Altabbaa, a Kurdish Syrian man who writes: “I created the collage to document the beginning of the pandemic and the world’s reaction to it. I hoped to convey my strong sense of the media floundering everywhere to inform the public and explain the pandemic. I have used mainly British newspapers as I’m living in the UK. But I also use the Uncle Sam image – a popular symbol of US government in American culture and expression of patriotic emotion to allude to how Donald Trump has blamed other countries while taking no responsibility for allowing the virus to spread across the USA.”

Click through to view all of our contributions, each with an interesting story to tell. 

Corona Collage

2/2: I wanted to show how this virus spreads from society to families and if you can’t protect your family, no one will protect it for you. So as a principle of change, we must all start with changing ourselves and our behaviour, then family, then society. And the big question mark is next to the image of the very first British woman to die from the virus. Her fate, our fate and the fate of the world are bound together”

Protests at Penally camp in Pembrokeshire

1/3: Repeated protests have been held at Penally camp in Pembrokeshire since September. Asylum seeker residents compare it to a prison. The former Ministry of Defence camp was repurposed to house up to asylum seekers. One of our researchers who wishes to remain anonymous has visited the camp several times to translate for a resident who is experiencing severe mental health problems.

Protests at Penally camp in Pembrokeshire

2/3: He says the men describe the conditions are described as “unbearable” and overcrowding means that social distancing is impossible. Penally has been a magnet for far right mobilisation from across the UK to protest at asylum-seekers living locally. 

Protests at Penally camp in Pembrokeshire

3/3: Our researcher says that local people have been more concerned about the protests themselves which required some 70 police officers a day at the peak.

Swansea’s Vibrant Solidarity Networks

1/4: Swansea Asylum Seekers Support acts as a hub – sharing information, resources, expertise and volunteers.

Swansea’s Vibrant Solidarity Networks

2/4: Swansea Asylum Seekers Support acts as a hub – sharing information, resources, expertise and volunteers.

Swansea’s Vibrant Solidarity Networks

3/4: Swansea Asylum Seekers Support acts as a hub – sharing information, resources, expertise and volunteers.

Swansea’s Vibrant Solidarity Networks

4/4: Swansea Asylum Seekers Support acts as a hub – sharing information, resources, expertise and volunteers.

The Drama of the Migrants’ Journey Minute by Minute

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, also known as Frontex, is accused of enabling Greece to illegally push migrants back to Turkey. Frontex appears to be playing a more central role on purportedly upholding the rule of law on Greece’s external borders while also concealing ‘push-backs’. This image shows a log of activity from 26 November 2020 which was circulated on social media among solidarity groups in Greece.

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Swansea as a City of Sanctuary

1/3: City of Sanctuary is a national movement committed to building a welcoming culture of hospitality, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. To celebrate, local artists and asylum-seekers and refugees are co-creating a series of public art works on the theme around welcome, home and safety.

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Swansea as a City of Sanctuary

2/3: These serve as a legacy of the anniversary and to show how proud Swansea is to be a City of Sanctuary. Swansea artist, Mary Hayman, as part of her community artwork with Glynn Vivian gallery, is supplying local people with a hexagon of fabric which they decorate at home to celebrate City of Sanctuary. These will be incorporated into a canopy for the gallery garden and possibly also flags or bunting.

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Swansea as a City of Sanctuary

Hanan Beko, a local tailor, is working on the cutting, hemming and sewing together. Here are some initial hexagons, we will keep you updated on the progress of the public artwork.

Lazy cat

Sara said: “We hoped the cat lent to us by a friend before lockdown might catch the mice. The cat was very cute, but lazy and expensive to keep especially after corona. As a joke I placed a computer mouse on its back and sent my friend a screenshot saying: she finally caught a mouse”

Not being at school

On 15 March we were informed that the schools would close ‘cos of Corona virus. We were shocked. (…) Only children whose parents were in politics, doctors or firefighters, were allowed to go to school. The first day it was fun, but after one week I wanted to go back to school but I wasn’t allowed. I miss school, teachers, friends, a lot. I hope everyone is safe. I hope the corona virus quickly goes away. With love from Atima.”

Translated from Dutch by Helen

Migrant solidarity in The Hague

1/2: Joy said: “I feel fortunate to play a role in helping my fellow undocumented migrants by distributing food packs from Red Cross and others. The pandemic crisis has terrible impact for undocumented people without work. They end up begging.” 

Migrant solidarity in The Hague

2/2: Undocumented people can be activists and help others, even during a period as precarious as lockdown.

Uncertainty

Victor Flores and his wife, from El Salvador, are in the UK since last year waiting for a Home Office response to their asylum claim. This photo titled “Uncertainty” shows the innocent happiness of their one-year-old son under lockdown, but it expresses the family’s mixed feelings as well

Many Things

Ruth is a Venezuelan migrant who fled from her country to seek asylum in the UK with her immediate family, leaving many behind. She worked as a teacher for 24 years and applied her creativity in teaching preschool kids. During the pandemic lockdown she started painting again. This work depicts the many feelings she has experienced and what she has been going through.

Talking about hair falling out

1/7: Week 10 of lockdown in the Hague: Sara says: “I’m in a constant situation of stress, depression, grief and sadness for most of my life.

Talking about hair falling out

2/7:  A life in which I was denied even the most basic rights, labelled as illegal, refugee, stateless… Especially these last couple of years drained me so much, I felt hardly alive anymore.

Talking about hair falling out

3/7: That left its mark on my health. I feel that my hair is falling out so much. During lockdown I had too much free time, I was dwelling on very sad memories, and the terrible situation I’m in filled my heart with total sadness… I felt my hair was falling out like the withered leaves of a tree.

Talking about hair falling out

4/7: I talked about it with a good friend. She wanted to bring me a hair growth serum, but she was stuck as well. 

Talking about hair falling out

5/7: Maybe a serum will help, but as long as the situation remains the same, the state of mind, which harms my health, will stay the same as well…”

Talking about hair falling out

6/7: Helen comments: She is texting her friend and shows such kindness, talking of her friend’s hair as like velvet when she herself is afraid of losing her own hair.

Talking about hair falling out

7/7 

A Place of stillness and the divinity within you

This image shows a street which is normally very busy, full of traffic, but it is quiet due to the Covid lockdown. The setting sun behind the trees and the church tower in the distance creates a mysterious effect. The contributor said: “When you enter a place of stillness, you awaken the divinity within you”

Family metaphors

1/4: Carlos said: “These photos show an asylum seeker family (one parent, 2 children) in metaphors. Discovering daisies on the first springtime walk in the UK. 

Family metaphors

2/4: Unity but far distance. Hands united, each with a handful of blackberries: wishing all the family to be reunited. 

Family metaphors

3/4: The parent struggles to keep going, separated, isolated, mixed feelings, but still going on together.”

Family metaphors

4/4

Birthday party during lockdown

1/2: The past 6 months have been quite challenging for my kids. Lockdown meant they were unable to go out and socialise – missing out on schools and other social aspects of everyday life. 

Birthday party during lockdown

2/2: In the midst of all this, we managed to visit our friends and celebrate a birthday of our friend MO. This is the first birthday party that we attended in 2020.

Baking during lockdown

1/4: Lockdown meant I had more time with my little kids. Baking and cake making became our hobby and my kids loved it … Different shapes, colours and tastes.

Baking during lockdown

2/4: Lockdown meant I had more time with my little kids. Baking and cake making became our hobby and my kids loved it … Different shapes, colours and tastes.

Baking during lockdown

3/4: Lockdown meant I had more time with my little kids. Baking and cake making became our hobby and my kids loved it … Different shapes, colours and tastes.

Baking during lockdown

4/4: Lockdown meant I had more time with my little kids. Baking and cake making became our hobby and my kids loved it … Different shapes, colours and tastes.

Doing business during lockdown

2/2: “Demand increased and we opened a new branch and recruited new staff. All of us are refugees and migrants. We worked so hard during this period and our hard work paid off.”

Doing business during lockdown

1/2: Mr Rashid says: “Lockdown has hit many businesses hard in Germany. But it has been quite positive for me and my new food business. We have adapted very quickly to this new reality.”

My child is a Covid Warrior

Ahmad said: “School asked if my daughter would be happy to take part in a Covid testing trial. We accepted and she has been very brave. She took part in the experiment and was awarded a Covid Warrior certificate for her role in fighting corona virus.

Graffiti Art in Birmingham

Powerful graffiti art by Josh Billingham (aka Gent48) in Birmingham, photographed by Ahmad. The work celebrates key workers including members of Birmingham’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities who have been fighting the terrifying monster, COVID-19. More information here.

Keys: A Symbol of Trust

Jack said: “For a Filipino domestic worker like me, the key is a symbol of trust that binds us with our employer. We always keep them safe. This week, I took out the keys for my employers’ houses. I haven’t used some of them since the lockdown. Now I will start using them again. My employers texted me to come to work

Thank God it’s just a nightmare

 “It’s a Nightmare and I’m alive

It’s dark and frightful

I can hear the ambulances

People running everywhere in all directions

My heart races fast

I turn around and still

It’s dark, frightful and lonely

Can anyone hear me? I screamed…”

Vicky’s Poem 25.06.2020

Tree of Life

1/2: Sara’s words: “I love painting but never had the time for it. These paintings I made during corona. One is a semi self-portrait: feeling cut off from life, symbolized by the tree, also hiding behind the tree for safety.”

Tree of Life

Sara’s words: “During corona I didn’t have much materials. I picked the bear because of the details. The more details, the more realistic it will look”

Hop Food Bank, Swansea

1/3: Ann Griffiths, volunteer at HOP Food Bank, told Marie: “I was dismayed by some of the stories I read on this website. These are important stories to tell.”

Hop Food Bank, Swansea

2/3: “These are important stories to tell. We too are doing what we can to raise awareness of the asylum seekers’ and refugees’ plight. I have found that not many people are really aware of their needs which is why I wanted to offer pictures of our work during the Covid crisis.”

Hop Food Bank, Swansea

3/3: “So many people have had to resort to Food Banks to feed their families”

New refugee camp on Lesvos flooded

1/4: Nearly 13,000 refugees became homeless after fires destroyed the overcrowded Moria camp on Lesvos, Greece on 9 September 2020. 

Facebook | Instagram

New refugee camp on Lesvos flooded

2/4: Slowly, families living on the streets without food or sanitary conditions are being registered and moved to what is now called Moria 2, an expanded Kara Tepe camp. 

Facebook | Instagram

New refugee camp on Lesvos flooded

3/4: These shocking images are by Refocus Media Labs:

Facebook | Instagram

New refugee camp on Lesvos flooded

4/4:

Thank you NHS and care workers

A colourful house in South Wales supporting the NHS and care workers.

Vandalising the homes of those who support refugees on Lesvos

Racist attacks are on the rise across Europe. Doorways of refugee support workers in Greece daubed with red paint. Reminiscent of times of plague when it was common to mark the doors of victims of the disease with in red paint. Please see our blog “Spiral of Hate: Lockdown on Lesvos” by Lena Altinglou.

Ramadan Under Lockdown - Children's home made mosques

1/3: This is a series of three images of children’s home made mosques – during Ramadan under lockdown. Visits to the mosque were impossible. This brother and his sister decided to build a home made mosque constructing it out of card board boxes. They began by creating a cardboard cut out.

Ramadan Under Lockdown - Children's home made mosques

2/3: Keeping children occupied and entertained at home during lockdown was not easy. By the time Eid arrived they had been cooped up for nearly two months. We couldn’t go to the mosque or to the shops, so we had to think creatively and recycle what we had at home. We decided to use cardboard boxes to make our own Mosque. We surprised ourselves at how good it turned out and we had great fun in the process.

Ramadan Under Lockdown - Children's home made mosques

3/3: We got the idea to make a home-made mosque from our friends. They shared their plans and photos with us on WhatsApp. We didn’t have a lot of space in our living room or a lot of cardboard but we had paints and coloured paper to make a mini mosque. We all shared photos of our home-made mosques and  had a Zoom Party with friends. It wasn’t as good as seeing them but it was better than nothing.

World Beyond Fence

Usually I’m desperate to go out, I can jump over this fence, or break the panels, to escape, but today I want to stay in way behind the fence, to avoid people pass by, I may need to have a thicker net, the world has become stand still, the grass is definitely greener this side!
(An asylum seeker in Swansea)

Lockdown workspaces at home

Lockdown photo by a refugee family from Kenya. “Our homes have been turned into schools and offices spaces but space is precisely the issue. Living in very small flats, it’s not been easy. We managed to carve out space to do schoolwork. But it’s hard to concentrate at home, someone is always on the phone talking, watching TV or listening to music. I’m lucky to have a computer and wifi. Many friends don’t. They miss out on a lot of schooling under lockdown.”

Support the NHS (a rainbow dress for Cindy)

This Kyrgyz asylum seeking family are shielding under lockdown. The mother has made her 5 year old daughter a rainbow Cindy dress to support the NHS.

Where has all the toilet paper gone?

“One thing that I still can’t understand is why one of the very first items that disappeared from the shelves was toilet paper. Since mid March I have seen many many people buying large quantities of toilet paper. This week I was going for grocery shopping and I realised that all the toilet paper disappeared from the shelves. The only toilet paper I saw was of a graffiti that recently appeared in one of my local streets’’.

Ramadan in the time of Covid-19

“Ramadan is a very special time for our family. Each year we wait patiently for this holy and blessed month to come. It is a time where we all come together and celebrate what we have and appreciate Allah’s blessings. It is a time where we contemplate and think about the people who are struggling in their lives. We are separated from our loved ones, we are separated from our community. May Allah grant us all patience and may this test come to an end soon.”

Freedom Air

Armando took a shot of himself taking a “deep breath of freedom”. Armando and his family are asylum seekers looking for protection after fleeing from gangs in El Salvador.

Wordart

Are you scared?

A different perspective on wearing face masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in public places or at work. Refugees are forced to leave their homeland due to threats to their lives. Therefore, they are always anxious. This refugee, who is also a key worker, feels good about wearing a mask. It’s not just a protection from the virus but from other possible threats – even threatening looks or aggression because of the colour of your skin. When the world is in lockdown, it’s the safest moment to go out for refugees and asylum seekers.

Click through to view all of our contributions, each with an interesting story to tell.

It’s so rare that refugees have a real and present platform to express themselves fully and without constraint. This project is not just about asylum seekers or refugees it’s an archive that is being co-created with them and for them. It’s a living archive that will always remain and remind future generations of this very strange moment in time and it will show them how people suffered but also how they worked together to gather and collect these stories of their lives – it’s a living museum.

Sophie De Marco 🌈

Asylum Seeker & Refugee Advice Worker, Asylum Rights Programme

Ethnic Minorities & Youth Support Team Wales (EYST Wales)

Regarding my hopes and dreams, my dearest wish is for the whole world to enjoy peace and safety, ending all wars, and for every child in the world to have the right to life. And my dearest wish for our beloved Syria is that after so much devastation and destruction of our homes, our lives, our history and  our culture, that we will be able to leave a Syrian footprint in this world to show the true extent of our culture and our love for the world. And finally, I wish to integrate Arabic and European Culture in my next artworks and I thank this project for supporting me as an artist.

Hassan Al Tabbaa, Graphic Designer, Painter, Sculptor

So many families have had to choose between phone and food during lockdown. Without access to the internet children miss out on schooling, doctor’s and solicitors cannot be contacted, families cannot stay in touch and social isolation has a devastating impact on mental health. This is digital poverty.

Thanuja Hettiarachchi and Kelly Wearing, Asylum Rights Support Workers

Moria Camp, Lesvos, Greece

Photos by journalist Katy Fallon, who reported on the destruction of Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos in September. The graffiti ‘Human Rights Graveyard. Welcome to Europe’ sums up the grim reality: tens of thousands condemned to misery in prison-like conditions, just because they want a safe and better life.

Diary reflection on Time

Vicky’s hand-written diary entry dated 21.06.2020 starts by asking us as readers to: think about what you really care about. She ends with:

Now is the time and chance

It’s never too late

Don’t forget to always visit yourself.

Helen commented: The effect is pretty poetic. Something between prose and a poem, perhaps.

Thank you NHS and frontline workers

“My daughter who is staying at home and is unable to go to school due to Covid-19 has seen this poem somewhere online and thought she would write it down and colour it. She has been inspired by the hard work of all frontline workers and told me that she wants to be a nurse when she grows up so she could look after people”.

Eid celebrations in Corona times

The 2020 festival of Eid-Ul-Adha (30 July- 3 August) was scuppered due to last minute government lockdown policy in parts of Northern England – home to many of the largest Muslim populations. The announcement was made just two hours before Eid celebrations. This meant that for many Muslims Eid celebrations were cancelled, leading to much disappointment. So why the government left it so late unclear – like many of their policies.

World view challenged

Sergio is a black American citizen but born and raised in Venezuela. He migrated looking for a better future for his family. He is a mental health professional and reflects about COVID and lockdown impact in his clients specially BAME communities.

Thursday Clapping found us new friends

“It was a good experience for me. Before the pandemic I didn’t have any idea about my neighbours. Now we are clapping NHS each Thursday, and while clapping I met with my neighbours. Each week they prepare something for my children. One week squash and haribo. One week they gave colouring books and pencils.”

Out Out

A satirical combination; material of a well- known comedian and UK government policy. UK government communication has been the subject of fierce attack from many corners. In particular, the mixed messaging which has been very confusing for British citizens who by and large have abided strictly by the rules. However, as the lockdown has eased, we can see the effects of this mixed messaging in the behaviour of the public where some ignore while others stick by the rules. Further confusion has arisen as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland differ in their lockdown policies. As fears of a second wave rise, the government need to communicate more clearly.

Nation / Imagination

Pandemic graffiti seen in South Wales during COVID-19. This project shows how our imagination has been unleashed during lockdown. Living with the anxiety of uncertainty and more time on our hands has forced us to think about our lives – past, present and future. But it also makes us think about how we live together and how this virus transcends national borders and how we need global solutions more than ever. Narrow xenophobic nationalism helps no one.

This is not Europe: an apology

On the external borders of Europe, tens of thousands of refugees’ lives are suspended in limbo while they await their asylum claims to be processed. Greece, Italy and Spain have had to bear the brunt of pitiful European migration policies while European Member states, with few exceptions, turn a blind eye to their problems. The European Union was set up to espouse certain values. The Europe that is keeping refugees caged like animals in camps like Moria is not the Europe envisaged when the EU was set up.
Recordings

Mi Jardin - My Garden

Ruth is a Venezuelan migrant who fled from her country to seek asylum in the UK with her immediate family, leaving many behind. She worked as a teacher for 24 years and applied her creativity in teaching preschool kids. During the pandemic lockdown she started gardening, growing flowers and vegetables for first time in UK. In this audio she relates her experience.

Giving birth in lockdown

Rita tells her story of giving birth in lockdown: “After trying several years finally we were welcoming our second child in June 2020. We had many challenges already because of our residence permit and then COVID-lockdown started. … When my midwife shared with me the news that I might have to go alone to the hospital for the delivery because of Covid, that made me so stressed and I was frightened because of the situation … but in the end, my partner was able to attend to witness the birth and that was wonderful”.

Syrian family sharing experiences of Covid-19 Test

A Syrian woman who currently resides in England shares her thoughts on Cov-19 and what it means to her and her family.


Facing quarantine alone in Colombia

Yesenia shares her testimonial about living during the pandemic in Colombia with her child. A touching story and expression of emotions.

Can’t Plan

A staff member of Public Health Wales, originally from Africa talks about her own experience in work and private life during the lockdown.

Public Health Wales and Black Lives Matters

A staff member of Public Health Wales, originally from Africa talks about her own experience in work and private life during the lockdown.
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drawings & paintings

Fake News and COVID

“The internet has been flooded with lots of fake news about vaccines, medicines, conspiracy theories that left many people even more confused about this very strange virus’’.
Art by Dijwar Ibrahim Siraj

Corona Covid Crown

The dilemma between security vs. freedom is expressed by Deborah Garcia in this beautiful ink art. Deborah is a young Venezuelan artist living in Spain after all her family faced political persecution and fled from Venezuela.

Entrapment

A line drawing showing the immense stress and struggle of being locked in by a young asylum seeking mother, recently moved to a place where she knows no one, is frightened and isolated and cannot access support.

Confinement

In this moving image a young asylum seeker from Pakistan depicts her sense of confinement by sketching a song bird with its wings bound tight to its body. It is perched on the edge of a diving board.

Loving Horses

Mansoureh (Mahsah) Koohnab fled Iran due to religious persecution (she is a Christian) and has been living in Swansea for the last 10 months awaiting her asylum claim to be processed. “During lockdown many people turned to love and lovemaking, creating romantic atmospheres in their homes with scented candles (sales of which soared). These horses are smiling and looking lovingly at one another as did many who found love again in lockdown while others could only hope and dream for it.”

The Holy Trinity

Like many people, Mahsah had many challenges during lockdown to stay safe and avid giving in to depression.
“Many people also turned to religion during lockdown whether by praying or reflecting on the kind of existential questions addressed differently in different religions. Here we see an image of the Holy Trinity emerging from the crucifix.”

Dancing with my daughter

Mahsah had to leave her 6-year old daughter behind in Iran when she fled. This leaves an intolerable sense of pain from which painting only provides temporary relief. Here we see Mahsah dancing with her daughter. Her daughter reaches out for her mother while Mahsah’s hands are reaching up to the sky searching for freedom. This is their shared tragedy.

Woman in headdress

After she was given paints by Jill Duarte at the Africa Community Centre, the pleasures of painting helped her cope. These are Maseh’s lockdown paintings in which she explores the many regions of her imagination through painting, capturing fantasies, dreams and nightmares. “The woman’s eyes are covered, shedding blood for tears yet the face adorned with a magnificent colourful crown.”

Pink flowers block print

Neja is a gifted young artist. She is a member of the Kids Art Club (see blog) that meets on Zoom every Saturday since lockdown. Her work combines a deftness of draughtsmanship, a sensitivity to colour and a skill in manging materials well beyond her age. On this website you will see many such gifted artists and creative people whose work we celebrate.
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