The stories are all too familiar: prejudice, intolerance, dawn raids, abuse, honour killings, terrorism, murder. But scratch the surface of the hysteria and xenophobia whipped up by tabloid press headlines, and other pictures emerge: of community, tolerance, education and empathy.Experiences are as individual as fingerprints, which is why curators Jess Lawson and Alasdair Campbell’s timely new exhibition, Glasgow Anew, exists- to raise consciousness using real, lived experience of people from abroad who have settled in Glasgow.
Leela from India (now Milngavie) says she sees an acute divide in the haves and have nots; yet initially couldn’t believe that there are food banks here in Glasgow, or “that people are buying second-hand socks”. Martin from Zimbabwe (now Shawlands) has experienced first-hand the trauma of seeking asylum.But Tim from Thailand, a medical student, believes Glasgow “feels more real than Edinburgh”, as it’s not so consistently inundated with tourists. Many now feel more Glaswegian than anything else, and put this down to having a no-nonsense attitude, or simply feeling settled.
Jobs and ambitions vary wildly- Juliana, originally from Brazil, was motivated by good old-fashioned wanderlust . She worked as a writer, interviewing hip-hop artists, and now works with the charity Friends of Romano Lav, for Roma people in Glasgow. Sri Lankan Prabha is more traditionally-minded, and moved for new opportunities- her husband studied at Strathclyde University. Meanwhile Vasso from Greece (whose mother is from the Czech Republic) became an actor, and has always been politically motivated- often missing out on classes because of her pro-democracy demonstrations.
Hearing these disparate voices on headphones (thirty people took part in the interviews) is incredibly moving- there is a real sense of intimacy, as though they are speaking to you as an individual. You can hear so much in the cadence of a voice- a sigh, stammer,pause, or laugh. Symbols of different cultures are dotted around the room- a Baglama,a traditional instrument from Turkey, a magazine, photograph, or a South African drum – all very significant to the contributor.
In addition to the exhibition, there are also various events taking place- from poetry and storytelling, to theatre, workshops and music nights. For more information on this very necessary exhibition, and to get involved, head to the website.These stories must be shared.
Part of Refugee Festival, Scotland
Glasgow Anew is on until June 26th, The Pipe Factory, Bain Street, Glasgow