Cultural exchange gives refugees a chance to share memories of home

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Refugees are often expected to integrate into their host countries without a deeper understanding of their heritage and home practices’ needs. In 2002, when 2% of the Plymouth population were of BME/MABE backgrounds, the Home Office designated Plymouth as a dispersal centre for asylum seekers in the UK. By 2011, this percentage had risen to nearly 10% and is still rising. This shift has greatly impacted local communities that have found it difficult to adjust. The South West of England has been further marginalised by government funding cuts and scarcity of provision addressing issues of migration and integration. Conflict across the Middle East and Africa has largely driven the recent rise in the number of forcibly displaced people. For those people the loss of homes, communities and sense of belonging is nostalgic as well as material. Mapping these sites of memory mobilises collective spatial heritage that has been displaced and currently lacks representation and expression.

This project acts as a catalyst for unpacking the spatial manifestations of home-making practices and social communities of refugees’ former lives, before they became displaced. Through a series of innovative architectural maps, we will mount an exhibition in the city of Plymouth-UK. The project will reveal the informal and intangible heritage of the everyday of refugees. These maps of former homes and communities will be co-produced with refugees through a series of workshops in partnership with British Red Cross. The purpose of the project is to pilot an innovative and direct way for refugees and their destination communities to recognise the differences and similarities that will need to be absorbed into a coherent social whole.

For more information, please read the feature story about the project on the University of Plymouth website.

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