One World: An Exhibition of Art work from Penally Camp

Art Work by Penally Camp Residents

By Zaina Aljumma

On the 20th of October, The Torch Theatre opened its hall to host the incredible (Life Seekers Aid) artwork exhibition for the ex-Penally camp residents. They were supported by Anna Waters, a local artist, and other volunteers from the Pembrokeshire area.

The fantastic reception started with warm drinks and tasty food made by a resettled Syrian family who The Community Sponsorship Scheme in Narberth supported.

Mr. Benjamin Lloyd, The Executive director of The Torch Theatre, was the first speaker. Ben welcomed the audience and the artists from Wales and England. He thanked Anna Waters and Carolyn Cox, who were the link to the outstanding artwork. Furthermore, Ben was pleased with all the people who worked hard on setting up this exhibition at the Torch Theatre.

Anna Waters, as always, spoke powerfully about the message of the exhibition, which was strongly delivered to the people, and she was impressed with the artists` unique expression of how they were feeling in the Penally Camp. She added: “The body of the work produced by The Penally Camp Artist is a gift to the people of Wales as it can help us cement our values as a Nation of Sanctuary. Recognising this, Marj Hawkins has nominated it for the St David Award for Culture. Finally, she invited the crowd to join the local people at the North Beach in Tenby Saturday morning 23rd of October, to show solidarity to the refugees against the new Borders Bill.

Delicious Syrian Food

Mr. Patrick Connellan, a University Lecturer also working with Stand Up to Racism West Wales, then gave a speech that empathised with refugees and asylum seekers against the Bill, he said: “Its only purpose is to divide” he invited the audience to show solidarity to stop the Bill.

Kenan, our VOICES Ambassador, has created all this artwork and other activities; as he mentioned in his speech, he supported his resident friends in Penally, organised them into ESOL classes, Yoga, meditation, and sports classes. He thanked the local volunteers who were compassionate to the Camp’s residents and announced that: “Recently, Life Seekers Aid granted the status as a registered charity in the U.K,” then he thanked Ms. Vicky Moller, one of the trustees to the L.S.A. charity who believed in their rights to build a better future in the community.

Ms. Carolyn Cox’s speech was full of emotion; she explained to her old mother, who visited the exhibition and asked about the reason for the pictures, the paintings expressed terrible memories. Ms. Cox said: “Mom, the guys came with these memories from their countries, and when they sought safety in the U.K., another tragic life was waiting for them in Penally camp.”

The speakers’ words touched the audience, everyone clapped with tears in their eyes.

The reception ended with chats around the paintings with the artist, selling prints, and a fantastic play about a Kurdish refugee story, “The Angel.”  

All the speakers mentioned the Nationality and Borders Bill. One of many concerning plans for the Bill is to develop offshore processing centres. The artwork and experiences from ex-Penally camp residents demonstrate how detrimental camps and processing centres can be for mental health. We must see Penally as a lesson against using this type of accommodation for asylum seekers.

The artists of ex-Penally Camp

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