Refugees and asylum seekers work with artists for a new art exhibition at the Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth

work on the topic of ‘Healing‘, textile artist Vanessa Rolf worked for three months with refugee service users and families at the Portsmouth City of Sanctuary Refugee Hub, creating two quilts, one in fabric and the second in colored paper.

“I have been inspired and touched by the people involved in this project, whether service users or volunteers, who have given their time, generosity and warmth, putting together pieces for create something bigger. I felt lucky to have sat together cultivating something colorful and joyful,” Vanessa said.

Also on display now we are here, a new series from Portsmouth-based photographer Olufemi Olaiya. It was created to highlight the contributions and achievements of refugees in the UK, and how their journeys, struggles and aspirations for a better life helped define their status and place in society in their new home. .

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Artist Olufemi Olaiya with some of his works. Now We Are Here exhibition at the Aspex Gallery, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth. Photo: Chris Moorhouse

The portraits produced by Olaiya during a month-long residency at Aspex aim to challenge the dominant narrative of who a refugee is and simultaneously explore the complexities surrounding their reasons for fleeing their country of birth.

Olufemi said: “Being a migrant myself, I put my heart and soul into this project by having personal connections with each of my models to capture their stories in a way that reflects their strength, vulnerability and their aspirations. Making them important and larger than life was a priority for me.

“I was inspired by Renaissance artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, Anthony Van Dyck, Hans Holbein the Younger and contemporary 1960s African photographers such as Seydou Keita and Samuel Fosso to create the perfect mood for this project.”

Joanne Bushnell, Director of Aspex, added: “This exhibition builds on Aspex’s many years of work with our local refugee and asylum seeker communities in Portsmouth, initially in partnership with Artswork and Journeys Festival International .

Quilted artwork by Vanessa Rolf. Healing exhibition at the Aspex Gallery, Gunwharf Quays. Photo: Chris Moorhouse

“We would like to thank the City of Portsmouth City of Sanctuary and everyone who has worked with us, and the Portsmouth Partnership who have supported this important project.”

They are in the Gunwharf Quays-based gallery’s learning space until July 24.

Artists Olufemi Olaiya, fourth from left, and Vanessa Rolfe, fifth from left, with Mayor Cllr Hugh Mason and Mayor Marie Costa, and well-wishers. Now We Are Here exhibition at Aspex Gallery, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, in celebration of Refugee Week Photo: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 220622-05)

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