DAVE & TOMMY
“It has given me strength and courage to find a new life,” writes Dave, of the art that is helping him to deal with trauma and isolation. Dave’s paintings give him a therapeutic way to address the difficulties of both past and present.
Dave (standing on the right, with HostNation's Anthony Berman) has been in the UK for 18 years but has still not been granted refugee status. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this interminable existence in limbo has led to PTSD. He also had to endure a period of homelessness during covid lockdown and believes that it is only his creativity that has helped preserve his sanity.
But now through HostNation, he has found a new friend. Music producer Tommy plays the double bass, drums and guitar and like Dave, loves making art.
“I’m really looking forward to developing my friendship with Dave and sharing our passion for the arts,” says Tommy, who plans to explore galleries and parks together with his asylum seeker friend.
“The work that Dave has produced as an artist & writer interests me greatly. I can't wait to learn about his projects and perspectives.”
In a beautiful piece of writing (see below) that perfectly captures the experience of being an asylum seeker, Dave describes how finding an artistic voice has brought him hope.
Here with kind permission from Dave, we reproduce some of his paintings, alongside extracts from a powerful and moving personal testimony he wrote for Refugee Week, first published on the New Art Studio website:
Torn between a burnt home and cultural rejection
by Dave, in his own words
Never sure, never know how far we could fall to the great unknown. Many mountains and valleys, and all that will come in between, desert and ocean, just to risk it all, to feel safe.
Even when you do find sanctuary one still has to encumber with the static, hostile environment and worst of all is being treated as if you are not a human being or you don’t exist.
You are relegated to zero and all your rights stripped.
At times it feels like you just escaped from one frying pan only to be placed into another while living in two worlds, a stranger in a strange land.
You can’t tell people you are an asylum seeker as it is a dirty word and the stigma that comes with it, one might not know how people will react, with love or hate.
Which itself makes you feel like an unwanted visitor in a different culture, while you just have to swallow the tears inside that empty feeling, as you cannot even explain this to your youngen why you had to leave your birth country. Only to be asked, is this our home Daddy?
On the outside I am smiling but inside I am dying slowly. Only the mirror knows my pain…
Missing home, the food, the culture, the soil… one thing you can never take is your heart, it will always belong in your homeland.
No matter where we come from, look like or what language we speak, inside we are all the same and yearn for the same things – that is to feel safe and to be treated with dignity as human beings.
We all have the same emotions, feelings and only want for our family to be in a safe place, just like you. People forget that we are human too, just like you. There is no alien, foreigner and no-one is illegal, there is only one race: the human race…
One can’t begin to ever understand what it is like, unless you have been through the journey. One doesn’t choose to be a refugee, it is not who you are nor a lifestyle choice. It is something that happens to you.
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in their shoes ‘cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose, what it’s like to lose it all.
The only thing I could take were my ideas: art, painting. It was therapeutic, a great relief and escapism from the horrors of being in a war zone, the trauma that was playing in my head, or my uninvited friend PTSD who visits me frequently while being street homeless.
Painting in my tent while waiting for the painting to dry and the rain to stop. Which one will be first?
It has given me the strength and courage to find a new life to live for. By expressing myself in this way it has given me a voice, given me hope to look forward... I hope this will inspire, motivate and empower others to use their voice.