How the arts support refugee healing and showcase their contribution to society

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Healing means getting over a painful experience or situation, so that you can continue to live. Those who have lost their homes and had to rebuild a new life from scratch know this better than anyone. We have a lot to learn from refugees about how to hold on to hope when going on seems impossible – as well as how art, creativity and community can help us heal.

This year’s Refugee Week program offers a rich diversity of examples of how the arts and creativity can help heal refugees – and all of us.

In London, No Direction Home, a collective of refugee and migrant stand-up comedians, will perform at the Southbank Center and the National Maritime Museum. For audiences, these concerts tend to be unforgettable moments of learning and empathy through laughter. For the performers, they provide, as Yasmeen Audisho Ghrawi, one of the participating actors, explains, “a space for each of us to reclaim and reclaim our voices and our power”.

Almir Kolzic. Image: Nana Varveropoulou

The Great Walk Together, a national initiative of Refugee Week and The Great Get Together, invites people across the country to come together to walk, experience the healing power of nature while reflecting on the journeys refugees face.

In Bristol, the city-wide Bristol Refugee Festival celebrates ‘community healing’, with exhibitions, walks, music concerts, workshops and other events that aim to help refugees rebuild their lost networks and connections so they can feel welcome, safe, valued. and thus begin to heal.

Many Refugee Week event organizers have built activities around the idea that participating in artistic creation is therapeutic and potentially transformative. Other initiatives could aid healing in less obvious ways, for example by providing greater visibility – and more nuanced depictions – of refugee experiences in public spaces.

Examples of this are Little Amal, the 3.5 meter tall puppet of a refugee girl who will take a trip from Manchester to Kent; Council House in Derby which will be illuminated every day of Refugee Week; and the Stories of Sanctuary Sunderland Choir, an inclusive “pop-up choir” that will learn and sing songs written by refugee communities celebrating Sunderland as a place of welcome.

As the past few years have shown us, healing matters to all of us, whether it means caring for ourselves and others in difficult times, overcoming political divisions, or coming together to fight for survival of our common planet. Whoever you are and wherever you are, we hope you will join us for Refugee Week 2022, to imagine a world where healing replaces evil and care becomes our common currency.

Refugee Week 2022 runs from June 20-26, and you can get involved by joining an event near you or doing one of eight “simple acts.” Scotland Refugee Festival takes place from June 17 to 26 and has the theme “Storytelling”.

Almir Koldzic is CEO of Counterpoints Arts.

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