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Photographer tells story of refugees' garden of hope

A postgraduate student who runs a drop-in centre for refugees and asylum seekers in Birmingham launches a series of exhibitions of her photographic work this week, supported by Eastenders actor Nick Bailey.

 

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Pat Nimmo is a Photography postgraduate student at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) and as a result of her volunteer work and her Master’s, was asked to put together the exhibition to mark Refugee Week 2017. 

The asylum seekers have helped her put together the exhibition which runs at the MAC Birmingham arts complex in Canon Hill Park from Saturday (June 17) until Sunday, to coincide with a free Celebrating Sanctuary performance event.

It will also be shown at several other city venues, including the Centrala Gallery in Fazeley Street, Digbeth, from June 20 to 22. A launch will be held at Elmwood Church  in Handsworth from 5.30pm on Friday, June 23.

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Nick Bailey, who played Dr Anthony Truman in Eastenders and is now in West End show Dreamgirls, is from the area and is making a video with the Dreamgirls cast to launch the exhibition. 

Pat said: “The Kushinga Gardens is a small piece of land leased from Bournville Village Trust and cultivated by asylum seekers and refugees. 

“This exhibition tells the story of their work in the gardens but also how they feel about their situations. It has an educative purpose.

“Kushinga is an African word meaning empowerment, strength and endurance in times of crisis. 

“The project develops co-operation and resilience through food-growing and eating together. Foods grown include international plants from their home countries.”

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Those who use the gardens include people seeking protection, refugees, and established migrants. Most have escaped violent traumatic situations and have suffered extreme stress and resulting depression. 

“Their status is processed by the UK Home Office,” added Pat. “This can take months or years. For some of them their faces can't be seen. So hands, sowing seeds, tending the soil, weeding, digging and harvesting are shown. 

“To be outside, socialise, grow vegetables, fruits and herbs is very therapeutic and gives an escape from their forced imprisonment created by the immigration process.

“Their stories are about a need for safety and peace for themselves and their loved ones. They are a small part of a much greater global human tragedy, part of the largest movement of displaced people since the Second World War.”

Posted on Friday 16th June 2017

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