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Folding and unfolding

This week Fawzia Afifi and Jess Linton facilitated art therapy sessions in the large refugee camp in Calais for Art Refuge UK. On Thursday, they did outreach in the camp where they met familiar faces again and re-connected. They also visited inspiring spaces such as L’Ecole Laique du Chemin Des Dunes and One Spirit Ashram Kitchen to speak with others working in the camp.

Today they facilitated an open art therapy group in Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Calais clinic throughout the day. In the morning, the room was quickly filled with many male residents of the camp. They worked collaboratively with a psychiatrist, two nurses and interpreters from MSF. In particular, with a Kurdish man in severe distress who managed to use the art space to acknowledge the death of his father and his brother, when their boat overturned on route to Europe. After creating an image of a boat at sea with pastels, he folded it tightly and shared that he wanted to take it with him. He then asked to use the big white hand drawn map on the wall. He pulled the map up higher to make it more visible and connected to the vast space of the map through the movement of his body and the touch of his hands by smoothing and expanding the maps surface and finally, taping it at all sides. He wanted to trace his journey from Iraqi Kurdistan to Calais and work with the team in another session next Friday.

Collaborative and collective art-making continued into the afternoon. Two Iranian Kurdish men who used to be goldsmiths and create jewelry in their home country, modestly shared intricate skills with us, continuing the process they had begun last Friday. The calm process of stenciling together highlighted the importance of the support that the group offers to each of us in turbulent times. The men guided the process; whilst one person used the cut out, another person always used the template. The men used the materials delicately and shared Persian poetry about love, wisdom and madness.

For the last hour of the day, the group found themselves working together with plasticine, led by another young man in the camp- an Iranian artist and animator, who, like the Kurdish men, is also desperate to reach the UK in order to use his talents and skills again and to their full potential.

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