Last week Borderlands presented “Rise Exhibition” at the Hamilton House to promote The Mentoring Project, funded by People’s Project, in partnership with ITV and the Big Lottery Fund. Refugees and asylum seekers have presented the artworks for the exhibition, prepared during Borderlands’ twice-weekly Drop-in sessions.
Borderlands is charity based in Bristol that works with refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world. The members organised a week of events in Hamilton House to promote the Mentoring Project and celebrate the work done by the charity. Since it started in April 2016, The Mentoring Project has been training volunteers as mentors for asylum seekers and refugees, to provide support with orientation, English language and integration into the community.
The exhibition has been launched on the 3rd of March with speeches from Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, and artists from Borderlands. During the past week, additional events have been organized to offer a wider overview of the refugee culture with music nights, short films and talks.
‘Rise Exhibition’ illustrated the solidarity and the connection that has been formed within the community of Bristol. During the past two months, refugees and asylum seekers worked with the local artists Hannah Kirmes-Daly for painting and Joyce Nicholls for photos to present the artworks at the exhibition and tell us their personal stories.
Portraits, painting and photos made us reflect on what it means to leave behind your own origin to adapt to a different culture and the difficulties of being in an unknown place without your family. However, the main feeling coming up from the exhibition was hope and the strong relationship that has been forged between the members of the charity and those asking for help. Last week wasn’t only a celebration of the members of Borderlands but also a chance for the refugees to present their own culture through food, art and music.
It was a concrete example of the main scope of Borderlands as a charity: making people feeling independent, giving them the chance to learn new skills to overcome a sense of isolation and exclusion. These people have been forced to change their life because of traumatic and unviable circumstances. However, even in England, they have to face suspicion, disbelief and racism, and too often they end up living on the edge of society, vulnerable to violence and abuse.
Borderlands is working around this pre-conceived tendency by building a safe space where people can feel welcome. In addition to the practical help, the real aim is forging a one-to-one relationship with the refugees during workshops and recreational activities. The exhibition celebrated the importance of talking with people and working on the social aspect rather than just the necessities such as a bed and hot meal. Playing on similarities and differences, art and music have been used to build a mutual ground between different cultures, a chance to open a conversation with real people rather than giving us a stigmatic overview. or to help break down the stigma, of a “problem of our society”.