Hannah Rose Thomas Unveils Refugee Crisis Portraits From Jordan

Hannah Rose Thomas is a twenty-four-year-old British artist and recent Durham graduate in Arabic and History. Hannah has received commissions since she was eighteen-years-old to fund her humanitarian work in Mozambique, Sudan, Madagascar, and, more recently, in Jordan and Calais. This special exhibition collects portrait works undertaken during Hannah’s time in refugee camps in Jordan, where she partnered with UNHCR and Relief International to organise art projects for children in the camps. Her most recent portraits are of refugees she has met while volunteering in the Calais ‘Jungle.’

Hannah’s intimate portraits seek to humanise the individuals forced to flee their homes

Hannah’s intimate portraits seek to humanise the individuals forced to flee their homes, whose personal stories are otherwise shrouded by statistics. She draws inspiration from Islamic art and Arabic poetry, to celebrate the rich heritage of the Middle East, so often forgotten and overshadowed by war. The title of the exhibition is inspired by a verse from William Blake’s poem The Divine Image: Hannah is currently studying for an MA at the Prince’s School of Traditional Art in London. Her next art project will be in Kurdistan, to assist with the rehabilitation of abducted young women from the Yazidi community.

In April 2015, Hannah returned to Jordan to organise an art project for Syrian children living in the refugee camps, with the support of Relief International. The first canvas painted in Za’atari camp was an expression of the children’s experience of war. After a number of groups of boys and girls had painted on it, the canvas had become an abstract chaos of splashes of red paint, dark colours and layers of the children’s drawings of tanks, soldiers, dead bodies, planes and destroyed homes. It is a small glimpse of all that the children witnessed in war-torn Syria.

However, many of the children confessed to Hannah that they did not want to think about or paint the war anymore. Therefore the second canvas painted with the children was a vibrant expression of their memories of Syria. It was inspired by Islamic art and arabesque design, to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the Middle East, so often forgotten and overshadowed by war.

After a couple of days at Za’atari, the art project moved to Azraq refugee camp, in the midst of a desolate desert wasteland on the Saudi and Iraqi border. The two canvases painted in Azraq are a reflection of the children’s daily life in the refugee camp. Hannah also painted a mural on one of the new school caravans.

DIVINE IMAGE Hannah Rose Thomas St Stephen Walbrook from 9 – 20 January (Mon – Fri, 10.–am – 4.00pm, except Weds, 11.00am – 3.00pm). The opening night reception will be on Monday 9 January from 6.30pm, all are welcome.

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