On 20th June 2019, while the National World Refugee Day (WRD) was being commemorated in Bidibidi a refugee settlement in West Nile (Uganda), in Kampala all roads led to the Design Hub in Bugolobi for an art exhibition for refugees.
Fred Rogers, a former American media personality once said that anything that is human is mentionable and anything mentionable is more manageable. Similarly young refugee artists in Uganda have come to terms with their traumatic pasts and have learnt to live again through telling their stories using art and this has helped them to overcome the trauma.
Following the perspective of art, the World Bank in conjunction with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework in the Office of the Prime Minister (Uganda) gave refugees in Kampala an opportunity to tell their hope filled stories through art by organizing an art exhibition for refugees at the Design Hub on World Refugee Day.
The exhibition dubbed ‘story telling through art’ was the very first of its kind. The event was graced by the presence of dignitaries from the NGO forum, World Bank, the office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the international community. But most importantly the presence of the refugees whose amazing work was being celebrated. These refugees came from Mirror Group Network and FACESUP, groups in Kampala that bring refugees together for a developmental purpose.
Darcy a Burundian male refugee from the Mirror Group Network had beautiful pencil drawings in his corner but there was one that stood out and it was of a baby crying.
“From childhood I loved drawing and it was part of me so through my art I want to tell the world out there that where we came from was not flat ground but please hold our hands and give us courage to live again” Darcy said.
“When I saw that baby, memories of my experience back in 2015 when I lost my father in the war and remained helpless arose.” Darcy expressed.
So I saw myself in that babies place because I could feel the pain it was feeling.” He further explained.
Art helps us find ourselves and also lose ourselves at the same time. Darcy found himself in the baby and he made an artistic impression of it to the world.
“Art has helped me come out from my past and also helped me face this world with more courage.” Darcy expressed.
However the refugee kids from FACESUP crowned the day with their amazing art pieces expressing their love for the environment.
At the event there was a chance given to about three male refugees to say a word to the audience and amazingly the message of courage was highly placed in their vocabulary.
One of the young men, Oscar who also happened to scoop a prize for his amazing art, encouraged young people to love their passion from childhood and also make sure that they have a goal.
Daudi Karungi, main curator of the exhibition, said encouraging artists of any kind helps them discover their potential in future. “For example, when refugees move to a country, they are hopeless about their future but when they settle down and are encouraged, they can excel tremendously. The exhibition is one of the things that encouraged them to appreciate that whatever they do is good and what I did as a curator was to encourage these young people,” Karungi explains.
Uganda remains the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, with more than 1.2 million refugees, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the Office of the Prime Minister. The country has been hosting refugees since achieving her independence in 1962, and has been praised for having one of the most progressive and generous refugee laws and policy regimes in the world. In fact, the 2016 United Nations Summit for Refugees declared Uganda’s refugee policy a model. The 2006 Refugee Act and 2010 Refugee Regulations allow for integration of refugees within host communities with refugees having access to the same Public services as nationals. They have freedom of movement and are free to pursue livelihood opportunities, including access to the labour market and to establish businesses.