I was recently commissioned to conduct and film interviews for a collaborative gallery show that will go up in June 2016. The subject of the gallery is asylum seekers, or those who flee their country for political reasons and seek refuge status in another country. I conducted 8 interviews with asylum seekers in NYC, mostly from Africa and South Asia.
The stories were nothing short of amazing. Most of the subjects were activists who represented marginalized groups or spoke out against the government.
One subject was a gay rights and AIDS advocate in Nigeria. He was forced to flee after a law was passed that criminalized his work. He had to leave his wife and newborn at home and head for NYC where he knew no one. He expected the asylum status process to take less than 6 months, at which point he could send for his wife and baby; It's taken over two years at this point.
The aim of the project is to bring visibility to the process of seeking asylum. In short, It's long, exceedingly stressful, and very difficult to navigate for refugees, many of whom don't speak english or know anyone when they arrive in the US.
The glue that holds the project together is the Refugee Immigrant Fund, or RIF.
RIF is a grassroots organization that looks to give asylum seekers the information and support they need to navigate the complex asylum process. RIF has partnered with the Brooklyn Grange, an urban farm on a rooftop in the Brooklyn Naval Yard, to provide work opportunities for asylum seekers in transition.
The project promises to be poignant and exciting, and this post is but a taste! I'll be making some sort of short form web series out of the interviews, emphasizing share-ability on social media, while other contributors to the show will be working in different mediums, like photography, painting and drawing, and architecture.