Jaskirt Dhaliwal-Boora

'I am not a victim...I am free.' 

When Sheila* spoke so passionately about what the refuge had given her, about the trauma she had escaped, she was very quick to point out she was no victim. By leaving the violence, emotional and physical abuse behind, she was free. Her daughter was free. 

There were two pivotal moments during lockdown which propelled Boora into positive action in her arts practice. The horror of so many deaths due to COVID19, and the death of George Flloyd and the inspiring, yet heartbreaking, activism of the black lives matter movement. Heartbreaking because in 2020 this level of institutional racism should not exist.

Boora decided to channel her frustrations about these world events, and up until that point her inability to do anything about them because of lockdown restrictions, into something positive by volunteering at the Birmingham Crisis Centre. Over 6 weeks in the summer she ran a series of group workshops with women who had fled domestic violence and seeked refuge, often with their young children, at the crisis centre.

In those initial workshops she taught the women basic photography skills, and then with disposable camera's they shot their 'refuge life'. The women then sequenced these and made their own photo books by using Japanese book binding techniques.

Boora was so inspired by the women she met she continued working with the Crisis Centre and in the next series of workshops collaborated with the women to make portraits together, further exploring how to create a narrative of their experiences whilst maintaining their safety. 

The main premise of these workshops and collaboration is to empower the women with skills, and give them an opportunity to tell their story and have their voice heard. 

*All names have been changed. 

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