Online Exhibition ‘Gallery of the (New) Home’ launches to mark Refugee Week
- Refugees and a host of names have shared images of what the notion of home means to them
- Visit www.unrefugees.org.uk/home to visit the digital exhibition showcasing what home means to refugees, their friends, family and supporters
- Be a part of the exhibition by uploading a photograph of what home means to you and stand #WithRefugees
UK for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency’s national charity partner for the UK, is launching a ‘Gallery of the (New) Home’ exhibition, as part of this year’s Refugee Week (20-26th June). The Gallery will explore the notion of ‘home’ by asking people to share a photograph of what home means to them.
A variety of people, including refugees, have already submitted photographs, with images ranging from family members, to a beloved childhood toy and even their mum’s cooking. The online gallery is open for submissions throughout the summer, with plans to curate a physical exhibition later this year.
The Gallery of the (New) Home aims to shine a light particularly on what home means for people who have been forced to flee, like Haya, a 20-year-old student, volunteer and refugee from Syria.
Haya, chose a jasmine flower (see submissions below) to reflect what home looks like for her:
‘’…Anyone who visits Damascus will notice how this particular flower is found everywhere in the city. The smell literally makes one fall in love with the city. Most of the locals will tell you that the jasmine flower is what they love the most about the place…’’
The jasmine flower– the national flower of Syria – reminds Haya of home, the place she loved but was forced to flee alongside her family. She and her family embarked on a difficult journey which took them from Syria to Lebanon and Egypt before eventually finding safety in the UK. Haya never expected that she’d leave her country forever, only for two or three months. However, a year after leaving Syria the war was still ongoing. Picking just one photograph for the Gallery was a challenge, as ‘Everything reminds me of Syria,” she said.
This World Refugee Day, Haya reflected on the importance of standing with refugees: “When your friend has a problem, the normal thing to do is to help them, you would not ignore them because you understand how much your friend needs you. You picture yourself in their shoes and how desperate you would be for someone to lend you a hand. The same logic applies to refugees. We must help the millions of refugees fleeing war, so they’re not stranded with nobody by their side. It is such a horrible thought, even forgetting one person is a disaster to humanity.”
Emma Cherniavsky, Chief Executive of UK for UNHCR commented: “The beauty and variety of images in the Gallery are incredibly inspiring, and manage to convey both unique, deeply personal meanings of ‘home’ and a unifying sense of home as a place of safety and comfort.
“My personal photo submission is of a toy owl I’ve had since I was younger. He has been at my side in every new place I have lived in. He reminds me that from a young age I have always found my way, thanks to the wisdom and kindness of others. That is what home is for me – not a particular place, but the feeling of becoming part of a new community through shared experiences, overcoming adversity together and building friendships that can last a lifetime.
“We hope the Gallery of the (New) Home encourages people to think about home in a new and engaging way, and consider what it takes to find a new home after being forced to flee. Everyone has the right to seek safety, but reaching that safe space is only the start. At UK for UNHCR, we work to help refugees find new, safe homes, places where they can build a better future.“
The number of forcibly displaced people needing a new place to call home recently reached a new milestone, with conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere pushing the total number above 100 million for the first time1.
The war in Ukraine is also affecting attitudes towards refugees. A recent survey found that almost two in five (37%) Britons have taken action to support refugees in the last year2. Actions taken range from donating money to volunteering or offering refugees a place to stay in your home, with more than half (57%) of respondents saying that their actions were particularly motivated by the war in Ukraine3.
This Refugee Week, people can stand with refugees by being a part of the Gallery of the (New) Home and uploading a photograph of what home means to them at unrefugees.org.uk/home or visit the site to see images of what home means to refugees, their friends, family and supporters #WithRefugees #WhatHomeMeans.
Notes to Editors
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About UK for UNHCR
UK for UNHCR is the UN Refugee Agency’s national charity partner for the UK. We build solidarity, create partnerships and raise funds across the UK to help deliver global humanitarian relief for refugees through UNHCR’s work. www.unrefugees.org.uk
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. It delivers life-saving assistance like shelter, food and water, helps safeguard fundamental human rights, and develops solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. UNHCR also works to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality. www.unhcr.org
UK for UNHCR is a registered charity in England and Wales (registered charity number 1183415).
About Refugee Week:
Refugee Week is a nationwide programme celebrating the contribution of refugees to the UK and encourages a better understanding between communities. An established part of the UK’s cultural calendar, Refugee Week is now one of the leading national initiatives working to counter the widespread negative media coverage, defending the importance of sanctuary and the benefits it can bring to both refugees and host communities.
Highlighted submissions to date:
Eid (refugee from Syria): When I first approached the photographer David Emery about taking an image of me for this project, we talked about how water was where I felt most at home. This was in spite of the fact that during my journey from Syria to the UK I was stranded in the sea for four hours after the boat I was in capsized. For me, this photograph represents how I have managed to turn my fear of water into a strength, by training as a swimmer since my arrival in the UK. Today, as soon as I dive in the water it becomes a place where I feel most at peace, and for that time that I’m in the water I feel free of my negative thoughts about the situation back home in Syria and the pain of missing my family and my home city of Damascus. The photo shows reflections on my skin of water and of flowers in the home where I now live in London. The reflections represent the trauma of my journey from Syria but also the sense of positivity and hope I feel for a better future in the UK.
Haya (refugee from Syria): The jasmine flower in Damascus has its unique significance. Anyone who visits Damascus will notice how this particular flower is found everywhere in the city. The smell literally makes one fall in love with the city. Most of the locals will tell you that the jasmine flower is what they love the most about the place.
There are so many potential photos I could have sent, I found it hard to choose just one because everything reminds me of Syria for example, the sea, the sky, the water, and family. Especially the Eid holiday because I know for a fact that I will never be able to experience the joy and celebrate Eid as I used to in Syria.
Khaled (refugee from Syria): Al-Arada Al-Shamiya – Syrian traditional clothing –represents home for me. Although I couldn’t carry anything with me from Syria, I bought the costume after I settled in Exeter to remind me of the ancient and beautiful capital, Damascus. Whenever I wear it and show it to other people, I remember Syria before the war, and this is how I want people to always remember my country.
I feel sad because my children didn’t know Syria like I did but I always encourage them to learn Arabic and I tell them bedtime stories about home and why we are here. I want my children to tell these stories to the next generations.
I’m building my life here in the Exeter and once I start my own business “Khaled’s Taste of Syria”, the employees and I will wear traditional costumes and serve Syrian food. I really want people to experience the unique cultural heritage of my home country.
Home is a very big word and so is Syria; I don’t believe that any description could fit that word.
Emma Cherniavsky, Chief Executive, UK for UNHCR: Growing up in a family where we moved and travelled a lot, Owly was my companion when I was overwhelmed or homesick, and in the decades since he has been at my side in every new place I have lived in, whether that’s for a day, a month, a year or ten. He reminds me that from a young age I have always found my way thanks to the wisdom and kindness of others, and that is what home is for me – not a particular place, but the feeling of becoming part of a new community through shared experiences, overcoming adversity together and building friendships that can last a lifetime.