A picture is worth a thousand words is a phrase that doesn’t begin to cover Iranian-born British artist Maryam Nilforoushan’s work. UK for UNHCR got the opportunity to speak to the Algarve-based creative about her career, motivations behind her art and why she supports displaced people around the world:
Q: Thank you for choosing to support forcibly displaced people. Can we ask what drew you to support UK for UNHCR?
A: I felt compelled to support UK for UNHCR to help facilitate your ongoing care and emergency response to help those who are vulnerable and forced to flee.
“Art has the power to make people think and feel.”
Q: Could you tell us a bit about the painting Exodus and what it means to you?
A: For years I’ve been hurt and disturbed by the challenges of forcefully displaced people, and the difficulties that charitable organisations face. As an artist, I felt helpless to do anything apart from giving regular donations, but this wasn’t enough. I wanted to create something to bring awareness to the humanitarian crisis and the pain of the people who feel forgotten. Painting a scene that depicts women, families, children from all different parts of the world affected by forced migration and the inhuman conditions they face was the thought behind the Exodus, 2021. Using the biblical word “Exodus,” defined as a mass departure of people, as a title for the painting, reminds us that we are all children of migration.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A: People inspire me. All the people who do great work: charity workers, human rights lawyers, medics, social workers… individuals who put helping and giving to those less fortunate at the forefront – people who give their time to help others without expecting anything in return – that’s what inspires me. The incredibly brave, displaced individuals who start new fruitful lives and become great members of a community and society, they inspire me too.
Q: How do you think art can be used to raise awareness and support of the plight of refugees?
A: Art has the power to make people think and feel. Art can bring awareness to people, and these people have the power to inspire policymakers, and policymakers could influence and stop the governments who are getting away with all kinds of unlawful injustices: ethnic cleansing, murder, torture, aggression, rape, unjust imprisonment, destroying people’s home, forcing people out of their land, distorting the truth; history shows people have the power to make the change and therefore bringing awareness to people is what art can do.
Q: What is one thing that refugees and displaced people have taught you?
A: People have the same needs and rights wherever they are from. Seeing their courage, love, hope and belief in making a better life for themselves and their loved ones – their motivation to carry on despite their unbearable and desperate circumstances is probably the greatest lesson I’ve learned from refugees.
For more information on the silent auction and how you can bid on Maryam’s work, visit our Instagram profile. You can make a bid on Maryam’s work when the silent auction begins on Tuesday, 22 June by emailing Maryam: [email protected]
To find out more about how you can help refugees, visit our website.