Sophia Gardiner (2013-2014)
Sophia Gardiner was RAPAR's Artist in Residence from 2013-2014. She came to RAPAR in 2012 whilst in the midst of her Interactive Arts course to produce a project with members, which became Greetings From Manchester.
After that, she remained as a volunteer and became the organisation's first Artist-in-Residence in 2013.
She studied at Manchester School of Art (MMU) where she completed a Foundation Arts course and a degree in Interactive Arts.
31/01/2014 - After Porajmos
RAPAR's Artist-in-Residence has started a photographic project in honour of this years holocaust memorial day.
The project features portraits of migrant Roma women showing their traditionally long hair as a defiant contrast to the images of shaven headed prisoners usually observed in Auschwitz mug shots.
You can see this project HERE.
15/06/2013 - Arrivals
Arrivals was installed in the Holden Gallery at Manchester School of Art for the MMU Degree Show. RAPAR members came along to the opening night to view the work.
Projects with RAPAR
RE-Telling : Scapegoats, Media & Politics
On 4th September, RAPAR members took part in a workshop as part of the People's History Museum's 'Play Your Part' project.
Led by Artist-in-Residence, Sophie, the group tackled issues surrounding scapegoating in the mainstream media and political arena, and how this affects them being targeted in this way.
The workshop saw them cutting apart the biased headlines of tabloid newspapers and anti-migration quotes from politicians and sticking them down to express their own perspectives and experiences as asylum seekers and marginalised groups.
The Arrivals project was an interactive piece featuring audio testimonies with some contributions from RAPAR members.
The project is a celebration of migration and multiculturalism that features a variety of individuals from different backgrounds and with different stories.
Through my work at RAPAR, I recognised a continuing struggle for members who were struggle through the asylum system to have their story told and to be recognised as an individual.
Audio & Transcripts
My name is Abiola Olaoye. I hail from Nigeria. I fled from Nigeria because my in-law wanted to perform a Female Genital Mutilation (F.G.M.) on my daughter, Olayinka by name. This barbaric thing had been done on me. I also had a daughter in 1984 that passed away in 1992 due to this horrifying procedure. Her name was Olamide. In 2009 my in-law came to demand Olayinka for this purpose, which I refused, but it did not go well with them. Then they made every attempt to go through with it, but I kept fighting it until we left Lagos- where we lived- and ran to another state in Nigeria, but they managed to find out where we were and they made an attempt to kidnap Olayinka in this state that we had fled to. Then I realised that the only way out was to leave the country.
That is why we came to the UK, for the safety of my daughter. Sadly in 2010, her father passed away in Nigeria. Now the family are more bitter, and more adamant to carry out the F.G.M. on her because they believe that more tragedy will befall the whole family if Olayinka does not get circumcised.
I am appealing to the UKBA or anyone who is willing to listen, especially Mrs May, to please have compassion on my daughter and give her a chance live…
I want to give you an interview in relation with this country, this country of England. I want to say that it is a special country, a country blessed by God.
It’s a country where there are work opportunities, it’s a country where you can earn some money, give a better future to the children. It’s a country
where everything is in the right place, it is a big difference from Romania.
I’m coming from Romania, I’m here for approximately four years. I live in Manchester with my family. I have seven children, I’m a Christian, I’m
Pentacostal, I’m proud of this. I’m here now in England, it is much better than home. I would have never left Romania if there would have been places to work. If I had a possibility to work I would have not come here. But because Romania goes through an unfortunate financial crisis, I came here where I can be happy with my family and kids. And that’s that.
God bless England, and Romania, and all the countries.
Here we are in Manchester. We came here because it’s important. We didn’t have any work in Romania. I came here four years ago. I have three children.
Here you can get more work and better pay, better conditions. In Romania it is very crazy for that. You find more work in Manchester and England than in Romania. Here in Manchester we gather scrap and get paid enough money to feed our children. You get £20-25 to feed the children whenever they want. In Romania, you can’t do anything. You can’t even wash, or drink, you have no possibilities. But here, you get better money, feed your children. You have nothing in Romania. you have to stay at home and everything is expensive, very expensive. Bread, meat costs £20 in Romania. Here you can get enough food for £10, but in Romania it’s more expensive. And this is what I’m saying… I’m living with God…
Hello, my name is Manjeet Kaur. I came into this country in 2011 March and claimed asylum. I’m originally from Afghanistan and for a few years I was in India. My family lives here in London. And I came here to be safe from the threats that I received in India and Kabul, Afghanistan.
When I claimed asylum here, UKBA put me into a non-accessible accommodation. I’m in a wheelchair because of polio that I caught in Afghanistan and I cannot walk at all.
They put me in a house which was not accessible, the toilet, bath was not accessible. I went through huge struggle with them to put me in an accessible flat. They sent me to Manchester from Liverpool and the building that they sent me was… my flat was on the second floor, so I had to struggle from the lift which was very heavy for me to open considering my manual wheelchair, and there was a step in the front door.
So … I’m just saying al this to say that they don’t really consider that a person is in the wheelchair and the least they can do is to put them in an accessible flat.
When I was interviewed, they were not nice to me, they were very rude. They were not abusive, but very rude. And after my asylum interview, they put me on weekly reporting centre to Dallas Court. They wanted me to report every week, going from Manchester, Chorlton to Salford, which used to take approximately three hours for me- one way- because there was two buses that would go there, and I would have to push myself in my manual wheelchair, in the rain, in the snow and… the weather basically, of Manchester. And when I would go there, even if I’m early, then they would not let me in. And there’s no shade or anything so you have to wait outside until there is your time to go in. Forget about getting in when you’re late.
So it was a huge struggle from the bus stop to Dallas Court for signing. And as a disabled person, they have a policy that you are not required to sign, you can do a telephone reporting from home if you are physically not capable to come down yourself. That was a huge fight of approximately 9-10 months with different letters from RAPAR, refugee and asylum seeker organisation in Manchester, and my doctor sending letters to support my reporting from home.
So all this process took 10 months ’til they didn’t agree to it, then we went to a Disability Discrimination Act lawyer, Pannone, they helped to put me on voice reporting.
So, this all could have been avoided and all the struggle, everything could have been avoided if they’d just agreed that… the way they see me, is the way I am, I’m in wheelchair for a reason. I’m not in a wheelchair just for fun. So after that I’m just… I had a court appeal, for giving me an appeal and… I’ve got an appeal now so I’m waiting for the decision for that. And it’s been a huge struggle and huge fight and I’m still not through the system yet, but I’m hoping to get there, but I know that it’s a double, triple fight for me considering that I’m disabled and I have to fight for it myself.
I came to Manchester in September 99. And the reason I came to Manchester was because during the war in Kosovo, I was injured. And when KFOR came and landed in Kosovo, we met some British doctors who – and this involves my cousins as well- who spoke to a doctor here in Manchester. And the process of it, the way it’s called is ‘Telemedicine’, so basically what they do is they take photographs of patients who’ve been injured in a place of conflict and they email those pictures to doctors around the world, and they get responses from different doctors who are willing to treat the patient, so a doctor from Manchester said that he could treat me and my cousins and then we moved to Manchester.
My journey to Manchester was, I guess in a way, slightly different to a lot of refugees and asylum seekers – I was flown by an army plane, by the British army, so it was a pleasant journey, I guess, to Manchester.
And when we arrived (cos I came with my father, and I mentioned- with my cousins) when we arrived to Manchester we were greeted by the nurses and doctors. We were picked up by an ambulance cos we had to be taken straight into to hospital, at that time it used to be Withington hospital, but now, that’s all moved to Wythenshawe, so… And I think one of the things I always remember at the airport was when we were waiting to get all the documents sorted and you know, all the kind of legal side of it that needed to be done whilst we were waiting, I always remember how there was this guy who was selling snacks and offered to give us chocolates and whatever we wanted really. So it was a nice memory and it was nice to kind of… to be greeted that way and to have that kind of… because I think, of the experience of the war and to have someone, to kind of… in a different country where you can’t understand the language or the culture fully, to kind of have that first memory of someone being kind, you know, is very important.
So I spent a lot of time in hospital because of my treatment and I learnt a lot of English from the nurses while I was in hospital. And even though it was hard, it was quite a nice experience I guess. And also, because I had to spend a lot of time during the war in hospital in Kosovo, it was a completely different experience to what, you know, in Manchester where I felt like I had my own room and, you know, all the time I was taken different activities whilst I was in hospital, and as well as with the language and the way the nurses treated me, so, it was a good experience I guess. And then, once I got better, I started school which was… I remember being very nervous, I think because, I couldn’t speak the language properly, so it was a bit difficult.
Luckily I had some Kosovan friends who were at the school as well who helped me out, but also what was important was that even though I didn’t understand most of the things that I was taught, or the students, or the friends I made there, it was really nice that I had people looking after me. So I had, you know, girls from my form or in different classes always kind of, helping me out to get from one class to the other. And also, I was… I always remember it was nice to have friends and I never remember being, for example, going for lunch and sat on my own, I always was surrounded by a lot of people, which was, I think, very, very important. And as I said, I really couldn’t understand that much of what they were saying but it was just nice to, you know, to have the company.
And then, you know, slowly I learned the language and then moved to college and university and it slowly became home, because it was kind of from this process of when I’d just become a teenager to really, adulthood so, it became part of me and a lot of people that I met and the support that I had I think, it made a huge difference. And it’s nice not to think, you know, that if I go somewhere that, you know, I want to be back home.
You know… It’s a nice feeling.
My name is Karol Kochanowski, I’m a student from Poland. I came to UK six years ago with plans of staying no more than one year, to work. I realised life here is much easier so I decided to stay for longer. After a while I decided to start university in the UK. Till now, I didn’t think about going back to my
country. I can’t imagine such an easy life there in Poland and I don’t want to make it more difficult by going back home.
Thank you very much.
I came to the attention of Iranian authorities in summer 2007 because of my father’s political activities which were unveiled to them after he left the
country, and also a relationship of mine which was illegal by the rules of the Iranian State.
I arrived in the UK on 6th October 2007, I was full of hope, glad for re-joining my family and thinking I now have a second chance in life.
Soon after I realised the old life is still following me and I am still paying for the past.
All my hopes were soon proven to be chucked in the bin by the UKBA. I am now in limbo with no way forward or back. This limbo is like a circle within a circle and never seems to end. Soon it becomes a nightmare, a never-ending nightmare. With no right to work or study, I could not build a life and grow up regardless of the fact that I am getting older and older.
The UKBA is in control of this situation and is very well aware of the impact this has in people’s lives but frankly, they do not care.
The Arrivals project was installed in the Holden Gallery for the 2013 degree show.
Greetings from Manchester (2012)
Uncredibles: Greetings from Manchester was a project involving two RAPAR members who contributed quotes from their Home Office refusal letters along with statements about how they are treated in the asylum system.
These were produced into postcards as a satirical take on the traditional tourist postcards that try to promote the city as a beautiful and welcoming place.