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Showcasing the work of refugee artists in Scotland

Edinburgh Printmakers welcomed the first artists to the studio and gallery this week, ahead of a new residency programme to support and platform the work of refugee artists based in Scotland and the UK.

The UK’s first ever open access studio is now leading a Europe wide project called In From The Margins in collaboration with four other arts organisations on the fringes of Europe where each organisation provides dedicated residencies for artists from refugee backgrounds.

Six dedicated residencies will take place at Edinburgh Printmakers starting on 3 May with the final residency finishing on 2 December. Developing the Studios of Sanctuary model, these residencies are designed to give opportunities to refugees and asylum-seeking artists and/or artists affected by forced migration, bringing such artists into mainstream programming.

In total 30 artists will take up residencies across all venues in 2022 and the results will be exhibited culminating in a group show at Edinburgh Printmakers in Spring 2023. The €178,000 Creative Europe funded project connects Edinburgh Printmakers with Cork Printmakers, Ireland, AGA LAB, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Funen Printmaking Studio, Odense, Denmark and International Centre of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The selected artists will have the opportunity to work in a print medium of their choice and will be supported to develop their practice over a month-long residency.

The artists selected by Edinburgh Printmakers are:

Artist Aqsa Arif visits Edinburgh Printmakers ahead of her residency as part of In From the Margins (Photo: Neil Hanna)

Aqsa Arif is a Scottish-Pakistani interdisciplinary artist based in Glasgow. Her work incorporates the interdisciplinary mediums of poetry, printmaking, installation and film to construct complex structures in which she explores the surreal nature of the human psyche. As a Pakistani refugee to Scotland, she has described her experience as a life with the split of two cultural identities. This polarity underpins her work and is manifested through her use of film. Printmaking also plays a significant role in her practice. By re-moulding its two-dimensional plane within her three-dimensional surreal world, she personifies the medium within her structures. Since graduating from the Glasgow School of Art in 2019, Aqsa has exhibited her work in Gallery of Modern Art, Jupiter Artland, Royal Scottish Academy and Tate Modern. She is also the co-founder of Salt Space Co-operative in Glasgow.

Arafa and the Dirars are an artists’ collective based in Hull. Born in West Sudan the Dirars family was resettled as refugees to the UK in 2015 through the UN Gateway Protection Programme. Having fled the war in Libya and during four years in a refugee camp in Egypt, they used the time waiting for a decision on their future to develop their skills in drawing, painting, and poetry. Today they use their art to reflect on their journey, share their story with others, and draw attention to the ongoing plight of millions of people fleeing war and persecution.

Mousa AlNana’s work Unorthodox Heretics

Mousa AlNana is a Glasgow based Syrian artist working in painting, print and graphic design. A Fine Art graduate from Damascus University and Master’s Graduate from Glasgow School of Art, Mousa’s work draws from his own experiences showing humanity in its different colours and its vulnerable stages, under rough surfaces and delicate lines. Using collage techniques and monochromatic style Mousa aims to share what lies between the human soul. He also works as part of Salt Space Co-operative delivering workshops for refugee artists in Glasgow.

Najma Abukar is a Somali-born, Glasgow-based photographer documenting cultural and gender identities, the African diaspora, and immigrant experiences. She is passionate about curating, archiving, and re-focusing the untold narratives of those underrepresented and marginalized. Being a first-generation migrant woman of African heritage, her photographic body of work focuses on the strife and resilience of the Other. Najma’s practice is concerned with issues of identity, belonging and (self) representation within the Scottish landscape.

Paria Goodarzi is an Iranian born artist, her practice revolves around cultural and political transfers and translocations, the ideas of the contemporary human condition, cultural identity and political issues that result in an ambivalent coexistence of civilised life, conflict, and displacement. Her work examines the hybrid condition of our society and the processes of formation, performance, and representation of identity through a multidisciplinary practice that often takes the shape of participatory and socially engaged artworks. Paria is a  UNESCO RILA Affiliated Artist   and co-founder of  the art initiative ‘Distanced Assemblage’ with the aim of making a positive impact in the  wellbeing and visibility of people from diverse cultural and social backgrounds by providing opportunities to engage with creative practice.

Zory Shahrokhi

Zory Shahrokhi is a British-Iranian visual artist based in Greater London. She was born in Tehran and grew up in brutal poverty within a country that harbours a massive class divide and gender inequality.  Her initial art training was with renowned teacher Ebrahim Jafari, who was a poet, artist and lecturer.  Zory’s early work reflects her personal experiences and emotions through the abstract expression of the belaboured female body.  Her practice developed through a concern for exploring cultural and political agendas, employing performance in relation to installation, photography and drawing. Through experimental work and symbolic expression, she investigates issues and perception around freedom related to displacement, exploitation, and gender oppression.

An engagement programme with refugees, schools and wider communities will be running alongside the residencies. The contribution that refugees and migrant communities make to wider society will be celebrated also through exchanges of their work, exhibitions and multi-disciplinary events.

The project emerged from discussions between the partners, all print studios with civic aims which are based in multicultural cities on the margins of Europe. The residency programme further develops the ‘Studios of Sanctuary’ model, which originated in Yorkshire in response to the work of migrant artist Mohammad Barrangi, an artist and former paralympian from Iran who became resident artist at The Art House in Wakefield, in a range of contexts across Europe. Mohammad Barrangi’s latest solo exhibition Anything is Possible is currently on show at Edinburgh Printmakers until 27 March 2022.

Edinburgh Printmakers CEO Janet Archer said: ‘We were delighted to get such a positive response to the call for artists for the In from the Margins programme and the selection process was extremely difficult. The artists chosen work in a range of disciplines and many are at different points in their artistic careers. We’re excited to welcome them to our studio and support their artistic journey in printmaking over the coming months.’

Artist Aqsa Arif said: ‘I am delighted to be selected for this residency because of its unique aim to support and empower artists who have experienced displacement. Having moved to Scotland as a refugee aged five this displacement has been the largest source of psychological conflict in my life. I experienced life with the split of two cultural identities and this duality of belonging is a theme I explore in my own art practice. I’m looking forward to developing those ideas and learning new printmaking skills to integrate into my work. The supportive creative environment provided by this residency will allow me to directly engage with these issues and express my own experiences from a more vulnerable and conscious place.’

Artist Mousa AlNana said: ‘I’m excited to have the opportunity to experiment in the studio, develop my network and work alongside Edinburgh Printmakers members. In particular I’m looking forward to showing the world a different side of the refugee experience and tackling the stigma around refugees. I hope too that this residency will act as inspiration for other displaced artists working in Scotland today.’

Find out more about Edinburgh Printmakers HERE.