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Art Refuge UK – Journey into Exile Exhibition

Journey into Exile: Part 1

The art in this exhibition is taken from our archive of work with Tibetan children and young people in transit and is organised around three of the themes which recur in the children’s work: beginnings, the journey and future hopes.


Children who took part in the Art Refuge programme often drew and painted their recollections of home. Some children also produced vivid and disturbing images depicting killings and violence. Whilst some children had witnessed acts of brutality in their homeland, many of the images portray events from narratives, which have been passed onto them by their elders. For the children to draw such events spontaneously and voluntarily in the Art Refuge programme highlighted the emotional impact and significance of oral history in a political environment that limited spiritual freedoms and a culture where expression through visual art would not necessarily be encouraged.

The Journey

‘The Journey’ is a theme which repeatedly appeared in the children’s and young people’s artwork. Whilst it was impossible for them to portray the full intensity of the cold, hunger, fear and danger they experienced, the images communicate something of the emotional impact the journey had. The majority of the artwork within this theme was created by survivors of the Nangpa Pass shooting in September 2006 – an event which attracted extensive media coverage in the West.

Future Hopes

One of the most striking themes to emerge within the work produced on ‘Future Hopes’ is the repeated depiction of the Tibetan flag which is outlawed in Tibet itself. Idyllic rural scenes and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet are also portrayed.

Journey into Exile: Part 2

A refugee’s story did not stop when they reached the Reception Centres in Nepal and India. This was a challenging transition point in their journey to a new future and the children and young people had to deal with unfamiliar surroundings, often without their friends and family to support them. Art Refuge UK provided morning art sessions and afternoon play activities in which the children continued to have opportunities to share their stories and know that they were not alone. It also helped the Art Refuge adult facilitators to keep an eye out for any signs of upset that they may have been able to help with.

This self-expression took place in the process of painting/image-making and through dialogue with Art Refuge teachers and volunteers. The pieces of art in this section of the exhibition illustrate how the art in our classroom helped refugees to develop friendships, grow in confidence and strengthen their coping mechanisms.

Journey into Exile is exhibited in the Doric Room of the Crypt Bar from Friday 6 March 2015

Music performance on 6 March… Tashi Dhondup

During the interval of the Martin Carthy gig on Friday 6 March, Tashi Dhondup, a Tibetan singer and artist living in Bristol, performs a short set in the crypt bar. Tashi has a uniquely powerful voice that has previously reverberated around the likes of Colston Hall and Bristol Cathedral at events which have left audiences in awe. Tashi is also a skilled craftsman, offering woodwork, painting and a variety of trades. He designs and makes Tibetan-style tables and wall paintings to order. Tashi wants to showcase his artistic skills to the people of Bristol through this exhibition, with a view to gaining commissions or being programmed to perform.