A New Beginning: powerful exhibition reveals the human stories behind the refugee status

A New Beginning: Beilqes Alzawm

Exhibition: A New Beginning
Dates: 4th – 7th October (8.30am-6pm)
Address: Protein Studios, 31 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EY (nearest station Shoreditch High Street overground, Old Street/ Liverpool Street underground)
Entry: free

“All my life I have been a fighter. I was forced into marriage when I was 16. This is the tradition in Yemen.”

Beilqes Alzawm, a Yemeni human rights advocate displaced by war, controversially sought a divorce soon after her son was born.

“My parents supported me and looked after my son while I finished my studies. I fought to study political science, which everybody said was not a subject for women. I fought to go to meetings with men. I fought to get into senior positions. Every day, men insulted me and said I was an impolite woman, trying to enter a man’s world, and I was not fit for marriage. I continued to fight for women’s and children’s rights,” she says.

“I made a good life for myself in Yemen. I had a house, a small car, and a prestigious job in human rights that gave me the opportunity to work in London in 2015.”

Then the war started and Alzawm lost everything. Then her fight to have a meaningful life in Britain began.

Alzawm’s story is told as part of the A New Beginning Exhibition at Shoreditch’s Protein Studios.

The collection of 10 portraits, shot by renowned photographers and artists, follows the stories of refugees from around the world. It includes a Syrian family arriving in the UK without speaking a word of English; a gay man from Egypt seeking personal freedom; and a Kurdish political activist forced to flee from Turkey after being handed a jail sentence in childhood.

The powerful photographs, commissioned by London’s leading refugee employment charity Breaking Barriers, challenge the negative and pessimistic stereotypes associated with the representation of refugees.

Each portrait is paired with an interview by journalist Samira Shackle, which offers an insight into each person’s individual story and culture.

The exhibition is essential viewing that won’t fail to deeper your understanding and sense of compassion.

Collectively it is a story of human resilience, hope and optimism.

*Breaking Barriers partners with corporations and organisations to provide sustainable employment for refugees. Find out more here.

Main image: Beilqes Alzawm from Yemen by Leonie Hampton

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