Rachel Shapcott from PositiveNegatives introduces‘Ola’.
Co-created with young migrant activists, ‘Ola’ is a unique comic following the love story of two teenagers facing the challenges confronted by thousands of young people in the UK who are undocumented and have irregular immigration status.
Despite being smart, outgoing and popular Ola is desperately trying to keep a secret from her friends. At the start of the school year she meets a new transfer student, Sai. As Ola and Sai get to know each other their connection begins to grow, that is, until Ola’s secrets start to catch up to her.
Of the tens of thousands of children and young people in the UK with unresolved immigration issues, many have an entitlement to British citizenship or a right to remain. Young people without status to remain in the UK face significant challenges in accessing higher education or formal employment. This carries huge potential personal suffering, forcing people to live outside the formal economy and drastically limiting their potential. In turn this has a significant loss, and cost, to society. Put simply, when young undocumented people get status, it unlocks their potential – and benefits society.
The aim of ‘Ola’ is to raise the awareness of young undocumented people about the importance of applying for citizenship, before it limits their options as adults (e.g. applying for jobs and university). The comic is designed to connect with 14-16-year-olds and their support networks, highlighting the issue and signposting them to organisations who can help. Additionally, the comic reduces stigma and isolation for young people with citizenship issues, by providing characters who young people can identify and empathise with.
Co-creating the Comic
PositiveNegatives is a non-profit creating comics and animations on social and humanitarian issues such as conflict, migration, trafficking and more.
PositiveNegatives co-created this comic with:
Let us Learn, an ambitious organisation of young migrants, who advocate for migrants to be allowed to fully contribute to UK society.
Kids in Need of Defense UK an organisation helping children and young people access pro bono legal support so that they can enjoy their entitlement to citizenship, or start their journey to permanent status.
The project was generously funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
About the Artist
Born in Libya in 1984, Asia Alfasi spent her formative years first in Tripoli, and then in Glasgow, Scotland upon migrating there with her family. Following the events of 9/11, and upon discovery of serious acclaimed graphic novels such as Art Spiegelman’s “Maus”, Joe Sacco’s “Palestine” and Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis”, she realised their immense potential at humanising issues and bringing forth the plight of often marginalised peoples to the fore and therefore furthering understanding.
Asia has since won several national and international manga awards with short stories, earning her a position in London’s acclaimed 2014 “Comics Unmasked” exhibition. She has also spoken both nationally internationally on the importance of graphic storytelling in bridging gaps between different communities and given workshops addressing youth and comics enthusiasts.