Meet the artist: reflecting the spirit of Refugee Festival Scotland 2024!

Artist Malini Chakrabarty standing in front of a window.

You might have noticed our new Refugee Festival Scotland website is bursting with colour – a perfect reflection of the spirit of the festival and this year’s theme – RISE!

We caught up with Malini Chakrabarty, the artist behind this year’s stunning artwork, to learn more about her and her designs.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I have a background in investigative journalism and filmmaking. When I moved to the UK in 2019, I pursued a Masters in filmmaking and media arts at Glasgow University. I now run an independent artistic practice and small business called Art of Birdie in Glasgow.

Through my work, I aim to explore the crossings of cultures, migration, heritage, and nature, drawing inspiration from my Indian-Bengali heritage, travels, and profound connection to the natural world.

My creations invite viewers into a realm rooted in human rights, where diverse influences converge to foster a sense of wonder and joy.

What inspires you?

My creativity and design process are deeply rooted in a commitment to human rights and social justice. Drawing inspiration from my background in investigative journalism and filmmaking, I am driven by a sense of responsibility to amplify marginalised voices, challenge systemic injustices, and advocate for positive change through my art.

I find inspiration in the stories of individuals and communities who have faced adversity and discrimination yet continue to persevere with resilience and dignity. Their courage and resilience serve as powerful reminders of the importance of using art as a tool for social transformation and empowerment.

Nature, too, serves as a source of inspiration for my work, reminding me of the interconnectedness of all living beings and the need to protect and preserve our planet for future generations. I believe that environmental justice is intrinsically linked to social justice, and my designs often reflect themes of sustainability, eco-consciousness, and respect for the natural world.

How did you approach the design process for this year’s festival artwork?

My late grandmother/Dida’s experience as a refugee during the partition of India in 1947 deeply influenced my understanding of migration and its struggles. Having immigrated to this country on my own as an international student and journalist in exile, I am intimately familiar with the feelings of alienation and otherness that often accompany such journeys, whether forced or chosen.

For Refugee Festival Scotland 2024, I sought to create visuals that not only honoured the resilience and strength of refugee communities but also underscored the importance of collective healing and growth. In today’s world, where hostility and intolerance towards refugees persist, it was important to me to create visuals that served as a poignant reminder of our shared human journey towards healing and unity.

Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” and the novel “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett also served as inspirations. Angelou’s message of overcoming adversity and rising above challenges resonated deeply with the festival’s ethos of healing and unity. The Secret Garden’s iconic quote, “If you look the right way you can see that the whole world is a garden,” was my inspiration for the aesthetic of the design.

Each flower in the design represents a different country or culture. And the diverse group of people holding hands emphasises the collective nature of healing and resilience. Just as flowers rise towards the sun to thrive, we too rise when we embark on the journey of healing ourselves and each other.

What do you hope the designs will contribute to the overall atmosphere of the festival?

I hope that the designs will contribute to an atmosphere of inclusivity, celebration, and empowerment. By visually representing themes of growth, unity, and healing, I aim to evoke a sense of warmth, optimism, and solidarity.

Amidst the turmoil in the world today, the theme of healing emerges as a priority. Through visual storytelling, I aimed to convey a sense of warmth, inclusivity, and optimism, mirroring the festival’s commitment to celebrating everyone and fostering community connections. I hope that these visuals catalyse collective introspection, dialogue, and action towards a more compassionate and healed society.

Find out more about the artist by visiting www.malinichakrabarty.com