Refugee Festival Scotland artists share their stories

Meet the people behind the portraits. We catch up with the artists who designed the Refugee Festival Scotland 2022 artwork as they see their posters on display around Glasgow for the first time!

The artists are part of Museum of Things, which was set up by Maryhill Integration Network during lockdown to offer a creative outlet to people in isolation.

Lead artists Paria Goodarzi and Mousa AlNana have created a space for people from many different cultural backgrounds to come together, be creative and feel a sense of belonging, while learning a range of new skills and techniques.

Scottish Refugee Council was delighted to commission the group to design posters for Refugee Festival Scotland 2022. The artists were then split into three sub-groups, who all came up with different ideas, colours, shapes and design elements which were combined into the final poster.

You can see the posters all around Glasgow in the lead up to Refugee Festival Scotland 2022, including at Kenmure Street, where the local community made international news by preventing an immigration raid in May 2021.

The project has meant a lot to the artists involved, many of whom arrived in Scotland during the pandemic.

Beauty, a mum-of-two young children, is originally from Nigeria. She said:

“It’s been really nice being in the group because I was new to the UK and immediately after it was Covid. Coming to the UK as an asylum seeker with two kids was very difficult. I had a lot of anxiety and I was feeling depressed.

“Because of Museum of Things and these sessions, I became a happy person again. I believe doing art can really help. When you’re doing the artwork, you don’t even know you are stressed. It really gives me joy to see our artwork exhibited for all the people to see.”

Roya, from Iran, shares how the project has helped her grow:

“Back in Iran we didn’t make collaborative work like this. For me, being part of this project and working as a collective has been a very interesting.

“The Museum of Things is such a diverse group. We all come from different countries and cultures.  Working with people from so many different backgrounds has really inspired me and has really added to this piece of work. It was definitely a group effort.

“I’m so happy that I’ve found so many great friends in this group. Before I joined Museum of Things I felt so lonely but now I feel like I’m part of something. I feel like this project has given me some confidence that I didn’t have before and has encouraged me to make my own work.

“We came to this country as refugees. When you are a refugee, it’s like you have lost your identity. By doing something collectively and making art together that will be shared with other people in Scotland, it’s given us back our sense of identity. I feel like we have found ourselves.”

Yamama, who is new to Glasgow with her young son, says it has been great for both of them:

“I’m really new here in Glasgow, just one year. When me and my son came here we were alone, no family. My doctor told me about this group. It’s such a lovely group, people are friendly and I enjoy it a lot and so does my son. I can meet other people and practice my English, it makes me really happy.

“I’m excited when I see my work around the city, it makes me feel like I am a person in this society.” 

Sara, from Egypt, feels pride when she sees the posters around Glasgow:

“I feel proud. When I saw the posters for the first time I thought WOW that’s our work! It represents all of us. I hadn’t worked in a group before so it’s my first time to feel that I am a part of something like this and it belongs to all of us, I can see all of us in this poster, see all our stories.

“I am not a refugee but I can feel all of these feelings from this work, there are a lot of emotions involved and this group means a lot to me. I feel proud, I showed it to all my family and friends back in Egypt like look what we did!” 

Kidisti, from Eritrea, says that the workshops have really helped her be creative and feel happy:

“I love it. This is very nice. Good for people, for future, for friends and family with children. After all the lockdown problems, when people see these posters they will feel happy.

“During lockdown, over Zoom with Maryhill Integration Network, I made a lot of projects. My dream is to study art at university in Glasgow. In my house I did knitting and crochet, and Pinar from MIN sent me materials to crochet for homeless people. I made a big blanket and blankets for children in prams, and scarves and gloves. I love it and I want to learn more and more. My mum made lots of things, so I think about my mum and want to make lots of things for the future. I am happy.”

Museum of Things artists Yamama, Kidisti and Paria, and friends Sekou and Syeda, pose next to the Refugee Festival Scotland 2022 artwork which they designed. Image: Paul Chappells