Counterpoints Arts
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Refugee Week

Painting Freedom
8th February 2019
Hannah with Yazidi woman

By filmmaker Zenia Selby

In 2017, artist Hannah Rose Thomas went to Northern Iraq and ran an art workshop with a group of Yazidi women who had escaped ISIS captivity. She encouraged them to express their identities and tell their stories by painting self-portraits. Many of the women had never picked up a paintbrush before, but over the course of two weeks each of them produced incredibly poignant and expressive works of art.

Hannah has since done her own portraits of the women, and is exhibiting her paintings alongside theirs, together with a short testimonial from the women, as a way to share their stories around the world. To accompany the exhibition, I made a short film tracing the journey of these paintings from Northern Iraq to the Houses of Parliament, where the exhibition sparked a discussion with the Department for International Development about providing British Government aid to the women.

Since then, the paintings have been exhibited at Buckingham Palace, Lambeth Palace and European Parliament. Art has a unique power for facilitating and encouraging reconciliation in a post-conflict environment, giving a voice to the voiceless, prompting discussion, and raising awareness – this has been made clear by the reaction to these paintings around the world.

Please do get in touch if you would be interested in hosting an exhibition of the paintings and the accompanying film. The accompanying costs for the hire of exhibition boards, transport of the paintings and screening of the film would add up to approximately £1,000.