'The Space Between' Exhibition

Open to the public, Monday to Friday between 10 am and 5 pm at the Wiener Library, 29 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DP from 8 - 25 March 2012 this exhibition, celebrating International Women's Day, will also be shown at the Crypt at St Martin-in-the Fields, Trafalgar Square from 12 -18 March and will continue as part of a collaborative exhibition in the main foyer area until July 2012.

This exhibition provides a space for four women academic refugees to tell the story of their journey; to explore and celebrate their identities, as women, as academics and as refugees from their own country and culture. 

This photographic exhibition featuring the work of the artist, Kay Goodridge, has been developed by Birkbeck University in partnership with the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA). This project is part of Birkbeck’s campaign to promote understanding and awareness of issues surrounding ‘Tolerance and Freedom from Discrimination’.

From war torn countries, Iraq, Burma and Burundi, these women have faced the loss of their home, friends, family and even their sense of self. Each were successful women in their home country, involved in women’s rights, education and politics; women forced to flee, sometimes after months of moving from place to place, arriving in the UK with almost nothing of their home or past life.  They have had to re-start their lives in a country that is foreign to them; to learn a new language, understand a different culture, often without any of their family around them.

‘I can’t feel free. I have lost myself in this country. Here I am someone I don’t know’.

They have suffered discrimination here as well as in their home country and have struggled to come to terms with their situation and their sense of loss. However, they are determined women who are rebuilding their lives. Starting a new life, in a place of safety and strangeness, these women are coming to terms with their new situation and its challenges. Each has turned to education and has found refuge in the familiarity of study.  The support that CARA has given them has helped them to start again and to rediscover their sense of self. These women are so much more than the label of ‘refugee’.

‘I believe this country is my home and this is my definition of home; people who respect me as a human being;who respect my rights as a woman; people who care about me; people who love me.’

These stories highlight the courage of women who have defended their rights as women and the right to academic freedom. Many refugee academics, particularly women, face similar trials and tribulations in fleeing their countries due to victimisation and persecution by oppressive regimes and societies. .

Moving from tolerance to acceptance is a journey that starts within ourselves; within our own understanding and compassion for people who are different to us. We hope that the stories of these four women will challenge us to see beyond the stereotypes, and preconceptions that prevent us from accepting others.                                             

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