Friday, 30 June 2017

Identity Without Borders

Ahead of Refugee Week in June 2017 the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Joint Museums Outreach Team undertook numerous community and public engagement events connecting with people from refugee communities. It is a series of activities geared at transforming the museum into a platform for the voices of people who are refugees, many of whom are locally based. The run of events culminated in a free public evening event called Identity Without Borders. 

Here is a taste of some of the events and activities:

Family Day craft activity
Ahead of the numerous community events taking place at the Pitt Rivers Museum training was arranged for Pitt Rivers staff around supporting refugee and asylum seekers and understanding their experiences. It was led by our partners Asylum Welcome, one of the charities and organisations that support refugees in Oxford. The training offered a brilliant opportunity to learn a bit more about the experiences of refugees within our communities and also to think about how the museums are placed to support local refugee and asylum seeking communities to engage in new ways with the collections.

The Museum and Joint Museums Outreach team ran three family days for Oxfordshire's Syrian community and people who access Refugee Resource services. The families used the museum spaces and spent time in the galleries.

BK.LUWO crocheting
The international women's group, BK.LUWO, 'took over' the balcony, working on their current craft projects and chatting to visitors. BK.LUWO is a women's empowerment group based in East Oxford Community centre. They come together twice a week to offer peer support, share skills and just be. We invited them along and they decided to make the Pitt Rivers their home for the afternoon covering the balcony with their craft projects!

Photograph by John Wreford

A Private View was held for community members and organisations involved with the project, of two new temporary displays, Syrians Unknown and Identity Without Borders. Syrians Unknown is a photographic exhibition by John Wreford which will be on display until September 2017. Visit the Upper Gallery to encounter large scale portraits of people displaced from Syria, now surviving and thriving in Istanbul, Turkey. Each person photographed has written powerful testimonies about their experiences. The exhibition is in English and Arabic.

Identity Without Borders is a display of Pitt Rivers Museum objects and loaned objects co-curated by volunteers who came to the UK seeking asylum. The two case displays were developed with community volunteers in partnership with Refugee Resource and Asylum Welcome. Through facilitated visits to the collections volunteers have used familiar museum objects to share stories from their home countries and reflect on their identities.

Nuzhat Abbas singing at Identity Without Borders
We also co-hosted, with TORCH, an event exploring identity, memory and migration. The event was a really interesting and thought provoking session chaired by the Museum Director Dr Laura Van Broekhoven. Lots of people came along to discuss this timely topic. 

Amir Darwish, a Syrian/Kurdish poet, led two Poetry workshops at the museum. Budding and established wordsmiths were encouraged to join in.  People who took part in the workshops also had the chance to perform their poems at the Identity Without Borders event.

The Pitt Rivers Museum has also supported English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision for refugees. Oxford University Student Administration identified the museum as a location to teach English to refugees. The volunteer teachers delivered language lessons for women with young children, and museum provided family activities for the children, enabling parents to attend.

African Dance Oxford performing at Identity Without Borders

Identity Without Borders, was the public evening event celebrating the project, with our community partners performing dance, poetry and music in the Pitt Rivers Museum. The event was a celebration of identity and who we are - showcasing the two new exhibitions: Syrians Unknown and Identity Without Borders. Refugees make up most of the performers and this event was a culmination of activities which have spanned over the last three months.

All of these events are part of the Migration project which aims to connect people who have suffered forced migration to engage with the collections and the PRM as a space. 

Thanks go to ...

Firstly thank you to all the community members and especially Asylum Welcome and Refugee Resource for their support. Thank you to Nicola and Beth who co-managed the project. Many thanks to everyone in the museum who helped get the migration project going, especially to Al and Chris who managed to install both displays at a very busy time. I'd also like to say thank you to George who helped translate activities into Arabic - really, really helpful! 

Jozie Kettle
VERVE Programming and 
Communications Officer

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let us know what you think...