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Refugee Role for Church Artist

Tuesday October 2 2018

Iain Campbell's painting of the Bakhsh family

The artist-in-residence at a Glasgow church has been appointed an Affiliate Artist of the UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts (RILA).

Iain Campbell was invited to apply for the position, run through Glasgow University, because of his interest in the subject of refugees. This year he has painted the Bakhsh family, who are at the centre of a campaign, led by their local church, to prevent them being deported to Pakistan.

He joins a multinational collection of artists – painters, writers, musicians, filmmakers and photographers – who all work with and reflect on the role of arts and languages in integrating refugees into their new communities.

Iain is the artist-in-residence at St George’s Tron Church and among his previous works are ‘Our Last Supper’, featuring clients of Glasgow City Mission. He is currently in the final year of a three-year project interpreting St Luke’s Gospel through a series of paintings, and has also worked with the Scottish Bible Society, Christian Aid and Tearfund.

He got in touch with Professor Alison Phipps, who holds the UNESCO Chair in RILA at the University of Glasgow, because he is hoping to focus on refugees for his next project. He said: “The idea had been bugging me for a long time, partly because of experiences here with people I’d ended up painting, that a focus on refugees would be very timely.”

Iain (right) believes that art is an effective way of breaking down barriers among people, especially where they don’t have a common language. “Art can go way beyond the language barrier. I visited Nepal with Tearfund earlier this year, and while we were visiting different groups Tearfund were in partnership with, I’d be sitting and sketching some of the folks telling their stories.

“They were just so tickled that someone was drawing them, it’s something beyond words. There would be big hugs and handshakes when they saw what I’d been up to.

“And with the current project I think just getting to know people and know their backgrounds made me realise how essential it is to get some of their stories across to people, to help them understand we are talking about real people’s lives, not just statistics and people who want to come over here and steal our jobs and all these other pejorative terms people use.”


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