Home and Belonging

Find out more about the work we began in 2016 with refugees and asylum seekers who have come to settle in the North East.

This project was been inspired by Kurt Schwitters, whose seminal art work, the Merz Barn Wall is housed in the Hatton Gallery. Schwitters fled from his home country of Germany during World War II and eventually settled in Ambleside in Cumbria where in the face of great adversity he still continued to create art.

The project was about the migration of refugees, the time it takes to achieve a sense of belonging in a new country and when does one go beyond the basics of food and shelter and begin to think about creativity and culture.

People who took part in the project were refugees from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kurdistan ,Eritrea and Congo as well as other countries.

Participants were encouraged to respond to Schwitters’ work and create their own artwork whether it be a film, audio recording, collage or textile piece. Some of the participants had undertaken incredible journeys such as some men from Eritrea who have travelled through Sudan then Libya, crossing the Mediterranean to Italy in small boats, many of which sea voyages have ended in tragic results, then to Germany, France and finally England. Some had left families behind, some had seen their families killed in the terrible conflicts.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums offers the refugees a temporary place of sanctuary in our venues where they can be welcomed and find a new place of their own, a way of integrating, a way of having their amazing stories of migration and hardship heard and being given a platform to participate.

The Home and Belonging Project was been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Shears Foundation.

Here is what some of the participants had to say about the project:

"For the first time I feel optimism here" Participant from Iraq.

"Any land where one finds dignity and prestige will be their land" Participant from Iraq.

"This history shows me that there are some things which are very similar in different cultures. Things have changed in modern times... but we were connected in the past, very, very connected" Participant from Pakistan.

Image: Home and Belonging Workshop with with textile artist Mandy Pattullo.