Art on the Run
By Torben Ulrik Nissen, Jesper Lorentz Bertelsen and a KANERE reporter.
Art on the Run is a project supported by the Danish Centre for Culture and Development. Danish artists arrived in Kakuma on March 21st and left on April 6th, 2011. During their stay, the Art on the Run team shared their experiences with a welcoming and enthusiastic refugee community. The artists met with KANERE journalists, artists, refugees and humanitarian Agencies
Our project is about art and identity. We hope to describe the lives of artists in the refugee camp and to initiate a dialogue between the Danish art audience and those creating art under impossible conditions. We identified a number of talented visual artists living in the camp, and we have proposed that they produce paintings for an exhibition in Denmark later this year. Art on the Run will promote awareness about living conditions in the camp. We want to also emphasize the strength and resourcefulness of refugees.
Living in a refugee camp like Kakuma is hard. Burning heat, dust and sand are often unbearable. Most important, the people who inhabit the camp have experienced traumatic events in the process of escaping their home countries. Most have lost relatives. A large number of the refugees in the camp are unaccompanied children who have to cope with the loss of their parents. Yet there is also much beauty and warmth in Kakuma. During our stay we became familiar with the camp, walking around, visiting people and listening to stories. We are extremely impressed not only with the hospitality of refugees but also with their ability and determination to preserve their culture.
Refugees are not only victims. They are people with amazing potential for the future. Some have even produced art to cope with the harsh conditions of their daily lives. Their art will be on exhibit along with photos and portraits of the artists themselves in November. The exhibit will reveal the role art plays in the lives of refugee artists who live in the camp and also struggle to maintain their personal and artistic identity. We seek to investigate the role that art and artists play in strengthening the hope and will power of people living away from their homeland.
To do this, we have invited a number of artists living in the Kakuma refugee camp to take part in the project. “Refugees in the camp are not suffering people who ask for money. They are powerful and strong,” said Jesper Bertelsen in an interview with KANERE journalists. The artists will have their own personal profile on the internet gallery. We think this will be the first fair-trade approved art gallery supporting artists in developing countries.
Art on the Run will be promoted in Denmark in December through traditional posters, Go-cards and articles in the media. We hope this will attract the attention of a greater audience, thereby generating more widespread interest in the arts and conditions of the camp. We hope, too, that Art on the Run will succeed in raising funds for the project to return to Kakuma yearly to facilitate workshops and exhibitions for young talented artists – maybe even with the participation of Danish volunteers.
Lastly, we want to thank the Kakuma News Reflector – (KANERE) for their generous welcome and hospitality at the camp. We learnt a lot from KANERE and we encourage readers to support the KANERE initiative.
To follow future exhibitions in Denmark and awareness efforts about the living conditions in the camp, visit us on our website: www.artontherun.dk