Artist spotlight: Meet Sadia

Meet Sadia.

Artist Sadia Sikandar has been working with Refugee Festival Scotland, GREC’s Language Café in Aberdeen, and community groups in Glasgow, to create a mural which will be shared at our Festival closing event.

Together We Rise – North East Refugee Festival Scotland Closing Event – will take place on 23rd June, 2.30-6.30pm, at The Barn, Banchory.

Hi Sadia! Tell us a bit about yourself – and what inspires you?

As an artist, photographer, activist, and campaigner in the UK, my inspiration stems from the rich tapestry of diverse cultures, historical narratives, and social movements. The vibrant street art of Glasgow, the evocative landscapes of the countryside, and the powerful stories of grassroots activism have profoundly influenced my work.

I draw from the resilience of communities fighting for justice, the beauty in everyday moments, and the urgency to address social and environmental issues. My art and photography strive to capture and amplify these voices, aiming to inspire change and foster a deeper connection among people.

How does it feel to be part of this year’s Festival?

 Super excited and blessed. As an artist working on mural “Together we rise” involving different asylum seekers to create master piece together. I hope the audience will love it .

I am also involved with Sound of Refugees radio podcast [coordinated by Greater Govanhill and Radio Buena Vida]. I shared my story from struggle to rise, which will be on air near refugee week days.

As a photographer, capturing the portraits of asylum seekers stuck in the system for years reveals deep stories of resilience and despair. Many are educated professionals, stripped of the right to work, trapped in a hostile asylum process. Their faces tell of unfulfilled potential and relentless hope. Each portrait embodies a personal journey marked by waiting and uncertainty. The frustration of their talents wasted and the longing for normalcy resonate through their expressions.

These images aim to humanize their plight, shedding light on the systemic challenges they face and their enduring strength amid adversity.

Digital illustration by Sadia Sikander
Tell us a bit about your event?

I am working hard on my mural art piece to deliver a powerful message that resonates with the Scottish people, urging them to contribute to a fairer asylum system and improve lives. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” My art aspires to reflect this sentiment, compelling viewers to act.

Echoing Nelson Mandela’s words, “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” my mural will inspire hope and change. By combining visual impact with these potent quotes, I aim to stir a collective conscience, driving efforts towards compassion and justice for all.

I hope through my art work many people will understand

“We rise by lifting others.” – Robert Ingersoll

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

My mural piece will be a practical example of this.

What are you most looking forward to during this year’s Festival?

I am most looking forward to my upcoming art mural event, especially as I am honored to be one of the three artists selected by the Scottish Refugee Council. This opportunity fills me with gratitude and excitement.

Being part of this project is a profound privilege, and I am committed to giving my best to create a mural that resonates deeply. My aim is to bring out the best of my abilities and contribute to a piece that not only showcases artistic talent but also tells a meaningful story, reflecting the resilience and diversity of the refugee community.

Anything else you’d like to share?

As an activist, I am working tirelessly to create a fairer asylum system, one that treats everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve. The hostile environment I faced upon seeking asylum is something no one should ever have to endure in the future. My experiences have driven me to use my art and photography to raise awareness about the complexities and injustices within the asylum system. Through my work, I strive to shed light on the often-overlooked struggles of asylum seekers.

The media, unfortunately, does not accurately reflect the reality for the majority of asylum seekers. More than 80% of them face significant challenges that go unreported and unnoticed by the general public. It is our duty  to present the facts and counteract the negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media. By showcasing the true stories of asylum seekers, we can foster empathy and understanding among the public.

One of the key aspects of my activism is to highlight the positive contributions made by asylum seekers. When an asylum seeker makes a positive impact on their community, it is crucial that their achievements are recognized and celebrated. This not only honors their efforts but also challenges the prevailing negative narratives. I believe we should mention and promote these individuals ten times more than we ever have before, ensuring their stories are heard and appreciated.

Art and photography have powerful roles in this endeavor. They can capture the human side of the asylum experience, conveying emotions and stories that words alone may fail to express. Through exhibitions, social media, and community events, I aim to bring these stories to a wider audience. My hope is that by seeing the faces and hearing the voices of asylum seekers, people will be moved to advocate for a more just and humane asylum system.

The current system is fraught with bureaucratic obstacles and a lack of support for those who need it most. As an activist, I push for policy changes that streamline the asylum process and provide adequate resources for asylum seekers. This includes legal assistance, mental health support, and opportunities for education and employment. By addressing these issues, we can create a system that not only welcomes but also empowers those seeking refuge.

Public awareness is a critical component of this movement. Many people are unaware of the realities faced by asylum seekers and the hostile environment they navigate. By engaging with communities through my art and photography, I aim to educate and inspire others to join the fight for a fairer system. The more people understand the complexities and injustices of the asylum process, the more pressure there will be on policymakers to enact meaningful change.

Collaboration with other activists, organizations, and allies is essential in this work. Together, we can amplify our voices and make a more significant impact. By sharing resources, knowledge, and strategies, we can build a stronger, more unified movement for asylum justice. It is through collective action that we can achieve lasting change.

In conclusion, my journey as an activist is driven by a deep commitment to making the asylum system fairer and more humane. No one should have to face the hostility and challenges that I experienced. Through my art and photography, I strive to raise awareness, counteract negative media portrayals, and celebrate the positive contributions of asylum seekers. It is our collective duty to ensure that the facts are known and that those making a positive impact are recognized and celebrated.

Together, we can create a future where every asylum seeker is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Thank you Sadia!

Don’t miss: Together We Rise – North East Refugee Festival Scotland Closing Event – 23rd June, 2.30-6.30pm, at The Barn, Banchory.

Sadia is also working on her first solo photography exhibition for Refugee Week: a collaboration with Asylum Matters and Walking within North Tyneside. Following this, the exhibition will travel to various locations across North Tyneside and feature at several solidarity events, aiming to highlight the journey and hardships faced by asylum seekers.