Stay/Clash; An exhibition by Art For Refuge

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Art appreciator exploring the Art for Refuge exhibition. (photo: IO/Aldo)

IO, Jakarta – Based on a report from UNHCR in June 2018, there were 68.5 million people worldwide who were forced to leave the land where they lived, where 25.4 million of them were refugees. Ironically, more than half are under the age of 18. Indone­sia itself, has now become a ‘transit’ country for refugees and as of De­cember 2017, the number of refugees and asylum seekers reached 13,840. Once the refugees are officially reg­istered at the local UNCHR office, it takes a long time for them to be re­located to the destination country. While in Indonesia, they lived in the limbo phase, because access to work and education was very limited.

In response to this situation, Art For Refuge, a social initiative spear­headed by Katrina Wardhana, be­lieves that art can be a media for refugees in Indonesia to share inspir­ing stories. Through art they can get comfort that is owned by others when they are at home and surrounded by their beloved family. Indonesia may not be their home country or perma­nent home, but they deserve to feel safe and given a warm welcome when they live here.

Art for Refuge (AFR) is a social ini­tiative that combines art and digital media as a platform to share many interesting stories about refugees in Indonesia. Founded by Katrina Wardhana, AFR began its activities by teaching painting and photogra­phy to refugee communities.

To appreciate the talents owned by refugees, as well as efforts to in­crease public awareness of this issue, Art for Refuge collaborated with Alia Swastika as a curator in organizing the Exhibition “Stay / Visit” on Sep­tember 20-27 2018 in Building B of the Indonesian National Gallery. The exhibition supported by the Indone­sian National Gallery – Ministry of Ed­ucation and Culture, Madani Foun­dation Foundation, UNHCR, and the Roshan Learning Center is a presen­tation of art activities involving sever­al artists and students from a refugee school, the Roshan Learning Center, in Jakarta. Katrina Wardhana, along with photographer Chris Bunjamin actively shared the knowledge and talents they had in painting and photography classes for Roshan stu­dents. In the narratives that appear, a picture of the life of refugees from various countries who then wrestle in Jakarta, trying to realize it with a new space situation. How landscapes and socio-political contexts in new places build new perspectives, and in the same place, memories of pre­vious escape places, and a shadow of what they remember as “home”. The visual images they depict away from the cliches about refugee life that we usually find in the mass media, and therefore bring us to another picture of life in Jakarta.

An important concept in the ar­tistic idea of this exhibition is the displacement: a discontinuity of narrative and space. In the process of discussion with artists, an un­usual reading of this space will also encourage the birth of a new imagi­nation of a place and time, which can be moved and exchanged. Narratives about families that are mutually separated, new friendships formed in new spaces, a feeling of closeness to a city like Jakarta, all blend into poetic stories in Roshan’s classroom that is presented here. The study room is not just a place to sit and lis­ten to teachers, more than that, it is a space of new hope that is nurtured and re-sown.

In addition to displaying the works of Roshan students and several refu­gee communities, Berdiam / Bertan­dang also exhibited the works of two artists who were lecturers at Roshan, namely Katrina Wardhana and Chris Bunjamin, as well as several Indone­sian artists and Afghan artists who had spent a long time in Indonesia. The artists were Mella Jaarsma, the sambunghambar group, Mes 56, Amin Taasha and Mumtaz. Overall, as many as 72 works of paintings and photography from the artistic process of 27 artists will lead visitors to understand the life of refugees. (Aldo)