2022-23 | 'Human X: portraying mental health amongst stateless forced migrants'
TORCH Knowledge Exchange Innovation Fund Awardee
Andreas Bjorklund | Faculty of Anthropology | University of Oxford
Kuwait Community Association | Ms Gjinovci Dea
This project builds on the PI's doctoral research and aims to produce an online aural-visual exhibition about mental health issues in a community of stateless forced migrants from Kuwait in the UK: the Bidoon.
The project focuses on the life of Yacoub (a pseudonym), who for 15 years has had asylum and other leave to remain applications rejected. He, like many others in his community, is stuck in limbo: unable to get residency or to leave the country because he has no access to a passport. This situation can compound mental health issues that already exist from having to leave his family and home country.
But mental health is a sensitive matter and, based on the PI's research, is sometimes a taboo amongst Kuwaiti Bidoon forced migrants. Similarly, the vulnerability of asylum-seeking and living without documentation presents challenges to portraying human life with all its important details. Yacoub wants to share his story, but how can this be done in an ethical way?
Given concerns for privacy and anonymity, the project's artistic vision is to use a combination of real-life footage, miniature models and 2D animation, so as to present humanistic portraits without exposing forced migrants to risk and identification. To realise this, Human X (Yacoub chose the title) is a collaboration between an academic researcher Andreas Bjorklund, film-director Dea Gjinovci and Nasser Al-Anezy from the Kuwaiti Community Association, a community centre for Kuwaiti Bidoon in Britain.
The first steps to producing the exhibition is to organise a collaborative workshop to share knowledge on mental health issues and explore ways to talk about them in creative ways and new forms of expression. The recorded visual, oral and material output of the workshop will be used for the exhibition.