Inner agonies of urban refugees

lifestyle March 13, 2019 01:00

By THE NATION

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SEA Junction in collaboration with the TIFA Foundation is holding the exhibition “Inside Out: Bodymaps of Bangkok Refugees” from March 19 to 31 on the curved wall of the 4th floor of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC). The show displays paintings created by urban refugees living in Bangkok.



The so-called “bodymap” paintings are self-representations of each painter. They were made starting with the drawing of a real-life outline of the artist’s body. Then memories, and hopes were painted onto the paper and the bodymap became a life-sized documentation of each refugees caught between past and future.

The paintings were produced during therapeutic art classes coordinated by artist Gerda Liebmann and conducted by artists and volunteers as a way to allow the refugees to share their stories and heal their emotions. Many of them are traumatised and depressed. They have experienced persecution and have been forced far away from home. Now they have to survive in the shadows of the bustling city of Bangkok, waiting for years in vulnerable and not always safe conditions with the hope of being relocated to a third country. Art helps them express their feelings and affirm their presence. As the project’s coordinator puts it: “Art is a therapeutic way to express oneself inside out”.

 

The artists represented are from Pakistan, Vietnam and Eritrea. The youngest is 17 years old and the oldest, Brief summaries of their stores hang besides each of the painted bodymaps.

To conclude and celebrate the exhibition on March 30 at 5pm a panel discussion will be held that focuses attention on mental health among refugees in Thailand (both urban and camp refugees) – an important, yet often neglected topic. The panel will discuss issues as well as approaches, especially creative approaches that are used to strengthen the resilience of refugees and other marginalised groups in coping with trauma and insecurity.

Topics are “Creating a Safe Space with Creative Processes” by Sangusanee "Cherry" Nawamarat, Thai art therapist; “Art as Therapy for Refugees” by Liebmann, an artist and facilitator of art classes for adult refugees and Inside Out project coordinator; and “Mental Health Issues among Refugees: Experiences and Approaches” by Cherry Soe Myn, supervisor and trainer of SEA Junction’s Common Elements Treatment Approach (CETA) counselling, Myanmar.

The exhibition and the panel are a continuation of the series “Displaced and Uprooted in Southeast Asia” in collaboration with TIFA Foundation. The series aims to give visibility to the fate of displaced persons, asylum seekers and refugees in the region and stimulate public discussion on inclusive policy and intervention responses to forced movements of people.

The event is free, but donations are most welcome to enable SEA Junction to continue its activities and keep events accessible to the public.

For information and reservations, call (097) 002 4140 or email: southeastasiajunction@gmail.com.