Clocktower photo exhibition highlights plight of refugees

Sand & Vision, an exhibition of photographs by young Sahrawi refugees, opened yesterday at the The Clocktower Café on Katharine Street.

Sand & Vision: one of the photographs now on display at the Clocktower Café

The exhibition has been organised by Olive Branch Arts in partnership with Croydon Amnesty International, who describe it as “a captivating journey of visual storytelling”.

The showcase, scheduled to coincide with Refugee Week, aims to create awareness, foster understanding and provide a platform for the voices of a marginalised community.

Refugee Week (June 19 to 25) is the world’s largest arts and cultural festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugee people seeking sanctuary. This year the theme is “Compassion”.

The exhibition is on display until June 29, and on June 17 (11am), photographer Emma Brown and Becky Hall, of Olive Branch Arts, will give a talk, and Beverley Foulkes-Jones, the chair of Croydon Amnesty International, will talk about Amnesty’s work on Western Sahara, refugees, asylum seekers and the work of the Croydon Amnesty group.

Half a century in camps: the plight of the Sahrawi, exiled from Western Sahara since the mid-1970s, is little known outside north Africa

Olive Branch Arts conducted photography training programmes in the Sahrawi Refugee camps in Algeria in 2017 and 2018. Led by creative director Becky Hall and associate artist Emma Brown, “these programmes nurtured visual literacy, composition skills and the art of storytelling, empowering young refugees to document their own stories”, they say.

“By bridging the gap between communities, Sand & Vision amplifies the Sahrawi refugee’s own voices. Olive Branch Arts, Croydon Amnesty International, and Emma Brown join forces to highlight the power of art and culture in promoting social change and understanding.”

Brown’s photographs have won awards, including a UN World Food Programme accolade.

It is estimated that there are almost 120,000 Sahrawi refugees in camps in Algeria and Mauritania, where generations have been forced to flee since the Western Sahara War began in 1975, with attacks from Moroccan military forces who invaded Western Sahara. The Sahrawis are recognised as one of the world’s most protracted refugee situations.

Olive Branch Arts, collaborates with communities to empower individuals and promote social change. “In conjunction with Croydon Amnesty International, Sand & Vision invites viewers to contemplate the strength and humanity of the Sahrawi refugees, fostering empathy and connection through the medium of photography.”

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