Few women seeking asylum have adequate access to mental health channels, especially given the challenges of living in a foreign country and potential fear of stigma.
While much artwork related to warfare focuses on fighting and destruction, Of Ordinary Things aims to capture the everyday life of those women living in the shadow of war. “It can be very challenging to get women to speak up about their experiences”, sighs Rana.
Presenting the exhibition during a curator’s talk at the Museum of Oxford, Rana shared some of the ways in which women in her community group had turned to art: “When we talk about war it is very upsetting, there’s trauma and lots of bad memories. I try to use art because that’s how we can express ourselves in a safe way.”
Lubna, an IWAW committee member (and self-professed art neophyte) presented to the audience a stunning collection of watercolour paintings depicting her everyday life in Iraq. The emotional turmoil stemming from the contrast between the ‘ordinary things’ of life, set against the extraordinary background of war, is plain to see.
Memory and remembrance are central themes of the exhibit. Rana notes that many group members have reconnected with their Iraqi identities or long-lost memories through the project. Rana encouraged attendees to try expressing what they understood by themes of home, journey, and healing with art.
Marta Lomza, Community Engagement and Exhibitions Officer at the Museum of Oxford, hopes the Of Ordinary Things exhibit will help shed more light on the plight of Oxford’s refugee communities. For, Lomza adds, they are as much a part of Oxford as any other group.