May 1, 2020
We wanted to take a moment to show our appreciation for the work that four students from SOAS University contributed this year during their placements with Counterpoints Arts.
We are so pleased to be working with the MA in Migration and Diaspora Studies programme, led by Dr. Ruba Salih, to set up the four placements for students Ludovica Radici, Hsiao-Chi Chu, Ershad Islam and Ciara Redmond. We remember some of the initial introductory conversations about socially engaged art, Middle Eastern cinema, student life but mainly we remember being so impressed by the projects, the skills and experiences the four brilliant students had under their belts already. They quickly took up supporting a number of our projects: Refugee Week, Traces Project, Platforma and Who Are We? at Tate Exchange.
As part of producing our collaborative programme with the V&A Museum, Ludovica and Ciara met one of our Refugee Week Leaders, Somali textile designer Hafza Yusuf. Hafza was to run a workshop at the V&A this June, with a group of older Somali women she’s been working with for some time. Ludovica and Ciara would have been supporting Hafza in designing and running this workshop and the audience’s participation. In preparation, they visited Hafza in her studio:
And Ciara had started thinking about how best to promote it via social media.
It is quite a luxury to have researchers support our production work, and all four students showed that they had seriously developed research skills. Ludovica had the task of researching the engagement platforms for Refugee Week and the Who Are We? Project, both socially engaged and popular culture, which will be referenced from here on.
Chi, who had already worked in mainstream cultural spaces in Taiwan, focused on our Who Are We? project and this year’s themes around hip hop pedagogies and archives. We had a glimpse of Tate Archives at Tate Britain, before the Covid-19 lockdown, and it was fascinating to spend some time around pieces such as Donald Rodney’s sketchbooks and be discussing ‘decolonising archives’.
Chi reflected on some of the conversations the Who Are We? team was having around the main Project’s themes, we will share this piece of writing very soon.
We suggested to Ershad to continue working on our Traces Project. This is the first official online timeline of contributions by artists, writers, designers, musicians, poets, from refugee backgrounds. There is a specific way of researching for Traces, and Ershad has done a brilliant job continuing with a number of profiles.
Ciara was able to turn her hand to a number of specific tasks and projects, from reconnecting with and refreshing our Platforma Arts artists’ directory to writing a few artists’ profiles on our main Counterpoints Arts website. We had great plans for Refugee Week London events, production and also promotion, some of which will now happen online.
The placements were interrupted by all the changes that happened as a result of Covid_19 pandemic, but some of this work continues.
We were delighted to be able to include our SOAS placement colleagues in some unique learning experiences, from discussing partnerships with artists and mainstream institutions to delivering events such as Li Du Man Learning Lab with artist Zehra Dogan, which Chi helped organise.
We hope that all four students got a sense of how Counterpoints Arts works as a team. We look forward to continuing working with some of the students during the lockdown, and to being connected to all from here on.
To end with, here is a part of Ciara’s reflections on pandemic and migration, written right at the start of the lockdown:
‘They are constantly checking and spreading the news. Constantly waiting for updates. Checking statistics, checking the stories, checking the cases and death rates
Their phones, their lifelines, with its ability to connect, has never felt more precious. It allows them to talk to the ones that they love in a crisis that feels like it’s endless.
Borders have shifted, borders have hardened, even the ones that seemed easy to cross.
Travel once made them intrepid expats, but now travel puts them in a state of increased precarity.