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Narratives of Displacement - a cross-cultural visual dialogue, exchange and understandings between refugees and host societies

A collaboration with Rachel Gadsden and Dr Yafa Shanneik

Birmingham University

Directed by Dr Yafa Shanneik (Ethnographer and Lecturer in Islamic Studies, Islamic Studies, University of Birmingham) and Rachel Gadsden and using visual arts as a catalyst, this pilot project offers a perspectival shift on Muslim marriages by placing the experiences and voices of Muslim women at the centre of creativity. It focuses on Iraqi and Syrian war-widows who have settled in the UK & Germany since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011. Life narratives will be creatively explored to examine how Muslim marriage practices play a role in shaping women’s social relations, challenge religious boundaries and facilitate community belonging and integration.

Taking Walter Benjamin’s definition ‘aestheticization of politics’ (2010), understood as the ability to provide an expression of resistance through aesthetics, the ethnographic interviews and  art creation will provide a means to examine the various ways women articulate their power within their new diasporic contexts. 

Shannneik and Gadsden are thrilled that this project has recently been awarded a grant from The British Academy to undertake this pilot project through The Humanities and Social Sciences Tackling the UK's International Challenges Fund. This fund supports projects that bring original interdisciplinary research ideas from the humanities and social sciences to bear on our understanding of the international challenges and opportunities which the UK has faced, is facing and will face. 

In May 2018 Shanneik received a received an additional fund from  the British Academy and the Council for British Research in the Levant to extend her work to Jordan, and Gadsden join the project to lead the artistic creativity.Additionally Gadsden was delighted to recieve a Travel Award from the Roberta Cimetta Fund to support her travel, and research in the region.

Centre for British Research in the Lavant - Jordan 
Artistic Residency & Exhibition  July/August 2018

Project exhibition in Jordan shows artwork by Syrian refugees
On Wednesday 8 August 2018, the British Institute in Amman held an exhibition showcasing art created by Syrian women who have found refuge in Germany, the UK and Jordan.

The art was created in collaboration with University of Birmingham academic Dr Yafa Shanneik and internationally renowned artist Dr Rachel Gadsden, who was assisted by Palestinian artist Amna Ali Hussein. The exhibition also featured an excerpt from “All at Sea”, a live painting and music performance created by Rachel and composer Freddie Meyers. The exhibition is part of Yafa's on-going project on Reconsidering Muslim marriage practices in Europe: the case of Iraqi and Syrian war-widows, funded by the British Academy and the Council for British Research in the Levant.

Dr Yafa Shanneik's Blog for CBRL
Jordan Times review of the Exhibition and Research

October 2018 - British Academy Award

Dr Yafa Shanneik was awarded a British Academy Award from the Sustainable Developement Fund for her project - Negotiating Relationships and Redefining Traditions: Syrian and Iraqi Women Refugees in Jordan.

The award is part of the Sustainable Development Programme  supported by the UK Government’s £1.5bn Global Challenges Research Fund, which aims to respond to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Rachel Gadsden is absolutely delighted to have been invited by Dr Yafa Shanneik to be part of her BA Sustainable Developement programme project in Jordan. Gadsden will develop the artistic narrative of the project and collaborate with Syrian and Iraqi Refugee women who will share their stories and emotions through creativity.

Elements of Displacement  - DaDaFest International 2018
In November 2018 Gadsden was invited to exhibit her work at DaDaFest International 2018 - her exhibition included Narratives of Displacement artworks created in UK, Berlin and Jordan. Gadsden also undertook a workshop and talk with Dr Shanneik. All at Sea a performance "live" art and music collaboration composed by Freddie Meyers and featuring Gadsden and Syrian oud player Rihab Azar was also showcased as part of the launch of the exhibition.