Discussing 'The Making of Home'

Discussing 'The Making of Home'

21 March 2024

We're hosting a display of work by members of Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support's 'Creative Club' in the showcase outside our Simmons Learning Room (until 7 April). Two of the participants sat down with project lead Merrydith Russell, PhD researcher at the University of Plymouth for a conversation. Here's what they shared.

Matin Ahirad (MA) is a young creative with a practice in film and was fundamental to ‘The Making of Home’ project, translating for other participants. He also volunteers at FotoNow CIC.

Mosa Najafi (MN) recently arrived in Plymouth and has become involved in multiple activities across Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support and other charities. Mosa helped co-create ‘The Making of Home’ display and workshop series, sharing his lived experience of forced displacement.

Merrydith Russell (MR) began ‘The Making of Home’ project as part of the research for her PhD at the University of Plymouth, looking at understanding how lone males who’ve experienced forced displacement begin to (re)make their home in the UK.

What did you like the most about the project?

MN: It was nice being together, seeing new people, making new friends and being active, to go through our memories, relive some of them and hopefully do a positive thing for refugees and asylums.

MA: For me, the stories that each person carried with them were interesting, and after a while I noticed a shift, from people just trying to hang out to seeking someone to listen to them.

When you were mapping, which activity reminded and brought back memories of home?

MN: I remembered home the most in the smell mapping session. We had some smells of flowers and it reminded me of the flowers my mother used to take care of, and the medicines – especially teas she would give me. It is a great thing to share personal stories and inform others of the experiences you’ve had. It helps give perspective as most people have no idea about how we live and what journeys we’ve taken.

MA: I am constantly re-living memories in my mind but would consider the session about drawing a road map of our journeys as one the most impactful moments in this project. It showed that you may think you know the person sitting next to you well, but you will never have a full idea of what they have been through to get here, and how they are still standing after everything they have faced.

Mapping image from The Making of Home display

Does your experience of Creative Club support you in feeling comfortable in Plymouth?

MN: When you don’t understand a lot of English and you go to a new country you feel isolated sometimes. In Plymouth you have that opportunity not to feel alone and find friends and Creative Club is good for that.

MA: I feel connected to the art pieces in the sessions and gallery. You can understand so much about someone through their artwork, and sometimes can find new details that are not intentional.

What impact does coming into The Box have as an asylum in Plymouth?

MN: It gives stability being in the same space. Right now, I feel I am part of a team.

MA: It is comforting, to see other people happy even if you don’t feel the same. It gives you hope that although most asylums struggle they still can find small moments to be themselves and enjoy it.

Why do we call ourselves asylum?

MN: What should we call ourselves? Guests?

MA: It is more of a social term like student, rather than being a foreigner. You will never always be a student, you will graduate. After the exam it will be passed. Then afterwards they will call you by your name.

Find out more about The Making of Home and see it on display until the end of Sunday 7 April.