IDENTITY

I celebrate the values of humanity, love and compassion in my work by examining the real-life stories of women from diverse ethnic backgrounds and depicting their struggles and roles in society. Textiles are used to reference cultural backgrounds and are combined with embroidery to connect with both the past and the present imbuing the work with a deeper symbolic meaning. There is a sense in the mixed media paintings that humanity is interwoven into the society like textile and embroidery threads. The use of colour highlights both the multiculturalism of society and its beauty.  

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Service to Humanity,  mixed media 75 x 80 cm 

My name is Sameenah. Though I was born and raised in London, England and it forms a very strong part of my identity, I had very traditional upbringing which is equally as strong a part of my heritage and identity. I could not even speak English when I started nursery.

I am the oldest of 4 siblings, a sister and 2 brothers. I work for the NHS having joined the London Ambulance Service almost 20 years ago chasing a lost dream to be a doctor or something/ someone medical. I love my job. I love serving London. During my service, I achieved a degree in traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture in order to find more of a work life balance with my children in mind. But my life took a turn, and I unexpectedly became a single parent. I could not afford to take the risk of becoming self-employed. So, I pursued my existing career. Did I mention, I love my job! I recently graduated from a paramedic degree programme. I was offered a scholarship which I took and then I became single parent with two children. It was a challenge. Parenting, working, studying. And in my final year Covid hit.

During that time, the NHS rose to the biggest challenge in its 70+ year history. People took on more or even different roles to their bit. Both myself and my children's father work for the NHS. We had to make a tough decision to send the children out of London temporarily "for a few weeks" we said. A few weeks became a few more, a month, another month. Three and half month in total. And that was a challenge for us all, beside the Covid19 itself.

But here we are. A year on. I have secured my degree. The children are settling back into the new norm, which is still fraught with so many changes and uncertainties. 

We are slowliy working our way through it. And finding that after hardship there is ease. 

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Bringing Closer, mixed media 75 x 80 cm 

My name is Helga and I am from Eritrea. I was brought up in a city called Keren - second biggest city of Eritrea. My grandmother taught me to cook when I was 14 years old as I lost my mother when I was 7. I have two brothers and one sister. Like most of the families in my country only women cook, so my brothers never cooked, only me and my sister did. I have been in the UK for 3 years. I got my refugee status last year.

In 2010 I joined the army in Eritrea. Army service is compulsory in Eritrea unless one is medically unfit. After 5 years of army service I wanted to leave it because I did not like it and it was not according to my natural abilities and tendencies. It was a tiring job, without holidays and rest and army was underfed most of the time. My grandmother was very ill and old. I had emotional attachment to her. I asked the officers for a leave to go and see my grandmother in her last moments, but I was not granted leave. I broke the protocol and went to see my grandmother in the hospital. I was arrested and put in the prison. My uncle paid the fine and I was released after 10 months of imprisonment. I escaped the country with the help of my cousin and reached the neighbouring Sudan. I went to Sudan, then Egypt, then Italy and then France. In France, I along with three others sat in a cabin of a truck which was coming to UK. That truck brought us to the UK.

London is like a paradise. I was helped by the authorities to claim asylum. I enjoy all the necessities of my life. People are helpful and friendly. I am married and have two children. I don't have to worry about their health and schooling. I have made so many friends in London. My friends are my new family and UK is my new home now.

I want to contribute to my new home according to my abilities. I share my love and passion with the English society. 

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Here is Sunshine, mixed media 75 x 80 cm 

I am a teenager born in a village in Bulgaria. In my village women are oppressed and had to live a life according to the will of their male head of the family. My mother was not allowed to marry the man she liked. Instead, my grandfather forced my mother to marry with a man he had chosen for her (My father). After her marriage with my father, my mother moved with my dad. My dad was not well off. My mother also did not bring a fortune with her. Therefore, everyone in my father's family used to hate my mother. My father banned my mother to have any contact with her family. My father took all the money, savings, jewellery of my mother and spent it on drinking. 

 

I had a miserable childhood. We had a very small house. A room for my parents and me, my sister used to sleep with our grandmother in the living-room. On several occasions we had to sleep without any food. We hardly could afford milk, bread, or rice. I never had a toy in my childhood. The only toy I had in my entire childhood was  a barbie doll from my uncle which I used to share with my sister to play with. Unfortunately, it got stolen and we could never have any toy again. It was a childhood without any sweets, fathers' love and toys. My sister had to walk to school as we could not afford bus fare. My mother used to work for 15 hours a day to afford us food.

One day my father left me on the street alone when my sister was in the school and my mother was at work. On this occasion, my mother decided to leave my father. My sister was taken by my dad and my grandmother. My mother fought for my sister for three years but without luck. She took me with her and we migrated UK. Here I had school, but missed my sister. When I was 11, my mother finally got the custody of my sister and brought her to UK to live with me. Finally we, we were a little family again. We have school and small little business. We are happy and content with our situation now. I have big dreams and will contribute to my country as a professional. 

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Live your Dreams, mixed media 75 x 80 cm 

Who I am? .... I am a botanical artist, a mother,  and a wife. I was born in South Korea in 1973. I graduated in February 1997 from Grama University in South Korea. While I was studying at university, I met my husband and fell in love. He was studying in the same university. After graduation we got married. We decided to study further in London. When we came to London in March 1997, economic situation was devasting for us and we were forced to stop our education. 

In my first year in UK, I got pregnant and gave birth to my first son. Then soon after I had my second baby. My husband failed to cope with the pressure of small family and its expenses and decided to go back to Korea, leaving me behind with my two small children. This was a challenging moment. Either, I could leave everything and go back, or fight. I decided for the second. I worked harder and raised my both children. Now, when both of my children are university students and I have a sense of accomplishment my dream of studying started and bothering me again. And now here I am as an art student. I feel proud of my struggles when my children tell me how thankful they were to me for not taking them back and raising them alone.