Art

IWM extends Refugees season: commissions emerging young artists to respond to themes of conflict and migration for Refugee Week 2021

“We often hear about migration from the perspective of those in positions of power. I want to share the perspectives of young people… Your voices, life experience and forms of self-expression are vital and deserve to be heard and celebrated.” – mandla rae, artist and creative producer” ( image credit:© IWM Museum visitors explore Refugees: Forced to Flee, supported by AHRC and ESRC)

On 19 May 2021, Imperial War Museums (IWM) will reopen* its doors with an extended programme of exhibitions, following months of closure due to Covid-19. Its five-star Refugees season at IWM London and IWM North will now remain open into the summer and autumn respectively.  At IWM London, exhibitions and installations including Refugees: Forced to FleeLife in a Camp and A Face to Open Doors will run until 13 June 2021, with Ai Weiwei’s site-specific artwork, History of Bombs, running until 5 September 2021.

Mari-Anne Le Du clasps a treasured book in the ruins of her house in Normandy, July 1944. © IWM (B 7700)

At IWM North, the major exhibition Aid Workers: Ethics Under Fire will run until 26 September 2021. In addition to extending these exhibitions, today, IWM announces the commission of a brand new artwork – Whose Land? – for its Refugees season. Created and performed by poet and rapper, Meduulla, and produced by artist and creative producer, mandla rae, the work explores themes of conflict, land reform and mass migration in relation to Zimbabwe, where both artists were born. This response to IWM’s Refugees season will launch on 14 June 2021 on IWM’s website and social media channels as part of Refugee Week (14-20 June 2021). 

Whose Land? is an original rap that focuses on the legacies of conflict in and around Zimbabwe in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The 3-minute performance highlights the experiences of those who lived in and fled from the country as a result of violence and economic turmoil, drawing especially on the experiences of young people like Meduulla and mandla rae. Lyrics address events that shaped Zimbabwe’s social, political and economic future. At its heart are issues of agency, poverty, democracy and identity. 

Susie Thornberry, Assistant Director Public Engagement and Learning at IWM, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on museums and galleries across the country, but as restrictions ease, we are thrilled to be extending our Refugees season and launching Whose Land? by Meduulla in Refugee Week. By working with young artists like mandla rae and Meduulla, we can share different perspectives on the issues raised in the season for our global digital audiences.”Whose Land? was commissioned by IWM and mandla rae as part of Counterpoint Arts’ Refugee Week Leadership Project. Refugee Week is an annual festival celebrating the contribution of refugees and promoting understanding of why people seek sanctuary.

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