"I am a twenty-four-year-old British artist and love to paint the portraits of people I encounter on my travels; from African women in remote villages in Mozambique to Syrian refugees in Jordanian refugee camps. My most recent paintings have been of refugees I've met while volunteering in the Calais ‘Jungle’. It is to share their stories that I paint the portraits of the people I meet and hope to express something of our shared humanity.
As part of my BA in History and Arabic at Durham University, I spent a year living abroad in Jordan. It was both the hardest and most incredible year of my life. Initially I felt overwhelmingly lonely arriving alone to an unknown city in a foreign culture. It was a struggle to communicate as I had only studied formal Arabic and not the local dialect. I learned the difference that a smile or a kind word from a stranger could make.
While living in Jordan I was given an amazing opportunity by UNHCR to organise art projects with Syrian refugees, which were exhibited in Amman on World Refugee Day 2014. For the art project, UNHCR refugee tents – a powerful symbol of displacement – were transformed into beautiful pieces of art, to raise awareness of the plight of refugees. These tents have since been exhibited in various European cities, including Geneva, Paris and London.
I was touched by the warm affection from the refugees who took part in the art project and learned that you never become poor by giving. Therefore I returned to Jordan this April for another art project with refugee children in educational centres in Za'atari and Azraq camps.
I have a deep love of the culture, customs and language of the Middle East and desire to seek understanding, especially in the current tense political climate which capitalises on accentuating difference and spreading fear.
This September I will be beginning an MA at the Prince's School of Traditional Art in London. I seek to incorporate the beauty of Islamic art, poetry and calligraphy in her paintings, to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the Middle East, so often forgotten and overshadowed by war."
This story was provided by i am a migrant's partner, One Young World.