Margate, 2003 – 2006
I was invited by the London-based public art commission ArtAngel to undertake a project in Margate, a down-at-the-heels seaside resort that had been a destination for refugees since World War One. The British Home Office was using the old hotels as housing for hundreds of families who had come to England as asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East.
I decided to focus on the issues of moving and uprooting from one culture to another in children’s lives–whether it was a family fleeing domestic violence from within Britain or a refugee leaving Sudan after everyone in his village had been killed.
I worked with 20 children who had recently moved to Margate. I photographed them and their possessions; I taught them how to take pictures and I recorded their stories. I made triptychs with images of their faces, the backs of their heads, and still lives of their belongings. The triptychs were enlarged to 3 x 4 meters and printed on vinyl. The first sets of these banners were mounted on the chalk cliffs looking out on the sea. Nine months later, other banners were hung in the town center and on the old amusement park Dreamland–as if they were slowly marching into town.
Born 1991, Afghanistan; arrived in Kent 2004. Resettled in Kent.
I don’t have any contact with my family or friends there because my father was killed and my mother’s missing. My father was killed somewhere in Kabul. And as for my mom, she fled one day while I was at school because there was fighting. When my brother returned, he told me that my mother had gone missing. I am in mourning, because I don’t have my mother with me and her protecting shadow over my head. If the whole world forgave me for a mistake, it wouldn’t be as much as a tiny amount of forgiveness from my mother.
Born 1995, Democratic Republic of Congo; arrived in Margate 2004. Resettled in Scotland.
We came from Congo on a plane. We left because there is a war in Kinshasa. We left my cousins, the house and friends. I brought nothing… well, a little bit. It was just me and my mom. The journey wasn’t good, but I liked the plane. We always fastened our seatbelts and in the window it made clouds.
Born 1994, Longfield; arrived in Margate 2004. Lives in Margate.
My family is me, my brother, Carole and my dad. I don’t get on with my brother very well because he’s annoying. Carole’s the person that looks after me and lives with me. My mum died three years ago. I don’t know how old I was. About six, I think. Her name was Kim and she was nice. I miss her.
I was worried when I first moved here that I wouldn’t have any friends. I thought no children would be living in my street. But there are a lot. I miss all my friends back in Longfield, but I’ve made loads of new friends. I feel the same really, except that now I drink tea.
Born 1995, Belarus; arrived in Margate 2004. Current whereabouts unknown.
My name is Ura, Uryi. I came from Grodno in Belarus. It happened that we had to leave our lovely city. Now we are living in a beautiful English city, Margate, which is by the sea. Every day, my mom and I walk by the seaside. I love this place, but I am always thinking about my grandmother and my friends.
Nothing frightens me here. Well, I’m afraid of bumblebees. I think I am safe here. There are many people who can protect me. I think that in the future everything will be fine. I want to stay here.