Exhibitions in Birmingham and Manchester

Our National Lottery Grant funded project “You can see me, but I don’t exist” is on display at the Library of Birmingham until 7 August and at Manchester Central Library until 30 June.

“You can see me, but I don’t exist” is an exhibition of photography by Alan Gignoux and creative writing by people seeking refuge living in Birmingham, London, and Manchester.

Birmingham 31 May – 7 August

Alan worked with two refugee organisations in Birmingham – Stories of Hope and Home, a story-telling project offering asylum seekers and refugees a space to share their stories, and the Baobab Women’s Project, an advocacy organisation with refugee and migrant women.  The writing workshop leader was Iraqi poet Malka al Haddad.

The exhibition in Birmingham is a collaboration between Alan Gignoux and the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project, whose mission is to unlock the first, oldest and largest Shakespeare collection in any public library in the world.  Alan’s portraits and the creative writing by refugees from all three cities is installed in the Shakespeare Memorial Room at the top of the landmark Library of Birmingham.  The exhibition also incorporated a selection of items from the Shakespeare Collection that engage with stories of exile, highlighting texts from, amongst others, The Tempest and The Comedy of Errors that address these themes.

At the opening event, three women active in the Baobab Women’s Project (Beauty, Espoir and Temitayo) spoke about the support and advocacy work that the organisation provides for women asylum seekers in the Birmingham area.  There was also a performance by refugees from the Stories of Hope and Home group, with poetry readings by contributors to the project of all ages.  The performers read their own work and extracts from Shakespeare addressing themes related to exile.  They also read Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech in English and in their mother tongues, which included Spanish, French and Yoruba.

Thank you to everyone in Birmingham who made this exhibition possible: Nicola Gauld, Helen Annetts, and Lauren Jansen-Parkes (Everything to Everybody), Malka al Haddad, Stephanie Neville (Stories of Hope and Home), Sarah Taal (Baobab Women’s Project), and the refugee contributors: Abimbola, Alberto, Andrea, Aster, Bethlehem, Cedric, Danawit, Dani, Emeka, Esther, Faith, Fares, Hana, Kwaku, Margaret, Massaba, Maurice, Meskrem, Mika, Samrawit, Temitayo, Tesfay.

Manchester 2 -30 June

In Manchester, Alan worked with Everything Human Rights, a community group offering a variety of services with the aim of promoting the wellbeing and integration of migrant ethnic minorities living in Wigan borough.  The writing workshop leader was poet Ambrose Musiyiwa.

The exhibition in Manchester is a collaboration with Manchester Central Library and the portraits and creative writing is installed in the Pantheon-inspired Reading Room on a circular counter at the centre of the room. 

At the opening event, a musical group from Everything Human Rights performed traditional Zimbabwean music, singing, and dancing to start the programme.  This was followed by poetry readings by the refugees from Manchester who had contributed to the exhibition. 

Thank you to everyone in Manchester who made this exhibition possible: Ambrose Musiyiwa, Farai Nhakaniso (Everything Human Rights), Darren Rawcliffe (Manchester Central Library), and the refugee contributors: Alfredo, Aziz, Christopher, Clarence, Ediri, Esnath, Farai, Gloria, Jayson, Lubna, Raya, Sonia, and Sherma.

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