By Anrike Piel
Peace in Exile is a book consisting of a collection of portraits and personal statements of young women refugees. It debunks myths by stating verified facts while as well explaining and highlighting the hard work of grassroot non-governmental organisations working in some of the most difficult circumstances.
In times of circulation of falsehoods, young women refugees get a voice to share their truth articulating their personal experiences from the beginning of the first bombing, to the journey of finding smugglers to help them cross mountains and seas to find safety. Against all odds, the stories radiate hope and faith in a better future. Creative photographs portray the resilience of survivors, redefining the word ‘refugee’.
Since 2017 I have facilitated workshops called Peace for Women at refugee camps, developed out of my experience working as a storytelling fashion photographer. It is the creative process of exploring the emotions in oneself, resulting with a vision of how to express it and then eventually making that ‘dream’ into a reality, often by channelling MacGyver – creating a paradise world using duck tape and whatever junk is available.
The moment the women step their foot into the space (a small isobox or small classroom turned into a makeshift paradise), they are surrounded by flowers, glitter, feathers and such, obviously Ed Sheeran and Shakira singing in the background (big hits!). Hijabs come off, the room is filled with laughter, girls are dancing and just being silly.
A series of classes are facilitated that focus on exploring their own individual inner voice, understanding own tastes and ideas, realizing all the possibilities and potential they have and learning how to find use of any resource available. They get inspiration by learning about badass artists such as Frida Kahlo, Rupi Kaur, Mona Haydar, Roberta Einer, to name a few, then exploring different techniques to renewing second hand clothing, using each others faces as canvases to create creative makeups on, practising posing like models, amongst other things, resulting with days of photoshoots when they act as models, each others stylists and makeup artists, together creating beautiful photographs as the final product of the time shared together.
Harrowing camps, the indefinite waiting process, agonising boredom, uncertainty, heartache and trauma of war, no independence but constantly relying on aid, hope is easy to fade but in order to carry on it is crucial to hold onto it. Peace for Women offers psycho social support, creating a safe space for female refugees, serving as a reminder that where their lives are right now, does not determine who they are, it is just the circumstances they are facing currently.
Photos: Anrike Piel
Behind the scenes photos: Lighthouse Relief