Refugees showcase reality of life before moving to Capital

A group of refugee families have been creating artwork which is going to be exhibited in the Scottish Storytelling Centre.  Picture; Neil Hanna
A group of refugee families have been creating artwork which is going to be exhibited in the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Picture; Neil Hanna
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REFUGEES who fled war and conflict to start a new life in Edinburgh have drawn upon their traumatic experiences to create an imaginary city through art.

The pilot project, developed by Imaginate and Multi-Cultural Family Base (MCFB), has gathered a group of refugee families in the city, encouraging them to use theatre, puppetry and visual art to explore their relationships with the cities they know from life in Syria, Lebanon or Egypt and their new home, Edinburgh.

Their experiences, memories and imaginations have all combined to create Edippo, a city which has been made through artworks.

Named My City, the project involved a small group of young people and their families who attended workshops led by Victoria Beesley with Yvonne Buskie and Arran Howie where they shared their culture while exploring the traditions in Edinburgh.

Local artist Victoria Beesley, 33, said: “It has been really good fun. The kids have really embraced the project and have had brilliant ideas.

“Some of these children have gone through bad experiences. They have reflected on that and coming to this unusual place that they all now call home.”

Edippo is a city people have travelled from all over the world to live. It is a friendly place. People sit in the streets together, eating and talking and look after each other.

The city is run by a king who is scared of his people. Whenever he comes out of his castle he is surrounded by guards to keep him protected.

There is a dragon who lives just outside the city which occasionally chooses to attack the city, meaning the people have to run and hide.

But when the city comes under attack, a group of citizens known as whistle-holders can call a unicorn which defeats the dragon to keep everyone safe.

Diline Abushaban, 28, of MCFB, said: “The unicorn and dragon is really interesting because the dragon represents war and the unicorn peace.

“These people have been through a long and difficult trauma before coming here. I think it has been very therapeutic for them. Not all the memories from back in their countries are bad.

“I’m glad they feel so happy and welcome here. Some children have realised they have talent doing something they don’t usually do which is great.”

Jamilia, 11, came to Edinburgh with her family from Syria. She said: “I really liked making the unicorn because it is very colourful. It has been great fun and the first time I’ve done anything like this.”

Irum, 30, moved to Edinburgh in 2008 from Pakistan with her husband and praised the city for welcoming her family into the community.

She said: “Edinburgh is very much our home now. It was a strange feeling at first but the people here are very understanding and caring towards us. Helping me with the pram going up and down steps.

“The project has been great. My daughter has got so much more confidence after taking part in the sessions.”

My City is co-funded by the National Lottery and supported by MCFB and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

The ideas the families shared about Syria will also be incorporated into a new, professional theatre production by Victoria Beesley based on the story of the Cat man of Aleppo.

The exhibition in the Scottish Storytelling Centre is on until July 22 and entry is free.