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WRITING HOME: Myth, Letters and Refugee Well-Being

Part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities, ‘Rhyme or Reason’, in collaboration with @kclclassics London University, November 15, 2023

‘Writing Home’ was a collaborative workshop at Napier Drop-In. Co-led by Art Refuge with Kings Classics, the workshop was designed to creatively explore ideas, feelings and responses to themes around global displacement.

Everyone present - people in the asylum system housed in nearby Napier Barracks, local residents, artists, composers, academics, art therapists, musicians, dancers, volunteers - were welcomed to explore the Greek myth of Penelope, Odysseus, and their son Telemachus: an ancient tale of migration, trust, conflict, gender-based oppression, and parental absence.

Students from Kings contributed translations of Odyssey passages into Arabic, Farsi and Pashto. Sources included a new English translation of Ovid’s 'Letter from Penelope', Margaret Atwood’s 'The Penelopiad', and video recordings of music written for a modern opera ‘Penelope’s Web’. And also to bring musical instruments, words and dance from home.

The workshop began with immensely welcome news that the Supreme Court had ruled against the government’s Rwanda scheme, which in turn contributed to a warm atmosphere in which music-making, dancing, eating Turkish food, writing, building and conversation took place around The Community Table. A geographic map without national borders was marked with Odysseus’ journey and added to with their own journeys by men in the room from Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran…

In ‘Writing Home’ participants were invited to compose their own letters, using words, rhythms, and sound, to develop a voice that navigated their distance from home.

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