Fragments from another Life
When people flee their homes and homelands because of persecution they are often lucky to escape with their lives.
In a new photographic exhibition photographer Rhonda Klevansky has captured the images of 50 recent arrivals to the UK - refugees and asylum seekers with the few precious possessions they managed to salvage in their flight to safety.
Their very personal connection to the objects is highlighted by annotations each survivor has made to their photograph. It is with the addition of these sketches, poems, statements of hope and of continuing despair, that this exhibition offers a potentially new insight into the forces that have brought this latest, and much maligned, wave of immigration to Britain. Those in the photographs come from backgrounds as diverse as Iraq, Rwandan, Sri Lanka and Colombia.
The exhibition, entitled Fragments from Another Life, will be shown for the first time at the Diorama Gallery (34 Osnaburgh Street, London, NW1), starting January 19 and running through to February 21. It then moves to the Islington Museum Gallery where it will run from March 03 until Easter.
Rhonda says the idea for this exhibition came after visiting Ellis Island in New York, which a century ago was used as a reception centre for newly arriving immigrants to the United States:
”I am a South African living in London. My great grandparents were Russian Jews. At home we have a few objects that my forebears carried across the world, including a samovar. Since my childhood I have wondered why they chose to bring it, and how they carried it," she says. ”At the Ellis Island museum, for me, one of the most poignant exhibitions was that which had photos of early immigrants along with the things that they brought."
Rhonda Klevansky is a photographer and television producer with over 15 year's experience in photojournalism, providing photo artwork for book illustrations and contributing to photographic exhibitions. She is also a volunteer with the UK-based charity the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. They have supported the exhibition and helped find some of her subjects. Rhonda hopes the exhibition, which has the backing of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, will help people see past disparaging newspaper headlines about asylum seekers and regard them as human beings.
”In the developed world we place enormous emphasis on possessions - my hope is that the inclusion of these in the photograph will establish a resonance with the viewer - giving him or her something with which to identify," she says.
The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture is the only organisation in Britain dedicated to providing care and treatment to the survivors of torture and organised violence. Clients include former British servicemen who were the prisoners of the Japanese in World War Two, refugees who were tortured in South America in the 1970s, and torture survivors fleeing today's conflicts.
Most of those the Medical Foundation helps are adults, but sadly it is also called upon to treat children who have either suffered torture themselves, or have witnessed acts of extreme violence against members of their families.
In London, the range of free services provided by some 200 paid and voluntary staff include:
- Medical, psychiatric and psychological assessment and treatment.
- Rehabilitation, both short and long term, through social care, case work and counselling, psychotherapy, physiotherapy and a range of other complementary treatments including osteopathy, reflexology and even gardening.
- Forensic medical reports to document allegations of torture.
- Legal advice in furtherance of applications for asylum for torture survivors.
- Practical assistance over matters such as housing, benefit advice and education.
Most of the Foundation's work is focused on cases living in this country, although it has on occasion run projects further afield, for example, in Guatemala, Uganda, Israel/Palestine, and Kosovo.