Basel Zaraa, born and raised in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, is a musician and street artist.
His grandparents fled Palestine in 1948 and since then his family have not received citizenship elsewhere. In 2010 Basel moved to the UK, despite two failed visa applications, to be joined with his wife.
In 2018, Basel Zaraa collaborated with Tania El Khoury to create the project As Far As My Fingertips Take Me. This was an interactive installation featuring a hole in the wall of an art gallery. On the other side of the wall was Basel, waiting to paint the arm of the vistor through the hole. The artist and visitor interact without seeing each other.
Whilst the visitor has their arm painted, they listened to a song recorded by Basel, inspired by the journey his sisters made from Damascus to Sweden. The project aimed to spark stronger empathy and understanding of border discrimination in light of the Dublin Regulation. This regulation mandated a fingerprinting database across Europe for all refugees and migrants.
This project has been continued in collaboration with Counterpoints Arts. In 2019, Basel took part in the Who Are We Project with his work As Far As Isolation Goes. Here Zaraa and Tania came together again to create a piece focussing on the experiences of mental and physical health of refugees in the UK.
Inspired by interactions with friends and colleagues who claimed refuge in the UK, Zaraa produced a song to spark conversation and understanding. The focus of this project was on the British mental health system and detention centres.
This is in addition to a song Zaraa produced with Lowkey and Mohammed Yahya called Escape from Yarl’s Wood. This song was commissioned by Counterpoints Arts in 2018 and can be found here.
Image (c) Marion Savoy