‘Through Jungle Eyes’ is an exploration into to the desolate state of refugee camps through the eyes of those directly impacted. Delivering an alternate perspective, audiences are given the opportunity to see what the refugees see and experience the reality they face every day.
Hosted by Refugee Radio, the exhibition showcased images captured by ‘Jungleye,’ a group of refugee photographers living inside the Calais camp, known as The Jungle, in France. Alongside the photographs were paintings from Adelaide-based refugee rights activist Ali Reid, who volunteered in Calais in 2015.
Since 1999 there have been various ‘jungle’ camps set up around Calais, filled with migrants attempting to enter the United Kingdom in hope of finding solace from the tortures of their own countries. The Calais refugee camp continues to be a much publicised flashpoint for the broader global refugee crisis, however the material published is usually one sided and from the view of outsiders looking in.
The exhibition is the only one of its kind, as it shows images from the refugees themselves.
The artwork gives a unique perspective of life within the camp, and provides a counter narrative to what we are used to seeing in the media. Rather than the usual onslaught of violence against authorities there are pictures of makeshift homes, children playing, and day to day tasks; people trying to continue living their lives. The most inspiring element is the theme of hope. Amongst the dark clouds and pollution, there is a sense of survival and the will to live.
The opening night featured an introduction to the exhibition and a skype Q&A with Baraa Halabieh, one of the Jungleye photographers, and artist Ali Reid. If the images were not enough to illustrate the dire circumstances and struggles that the refugees are going through, then the way that Baraa and Reid retold their stories would have anyone convinced. Reid explained the meaning behind her paintings, and detailed her experience coming into the camp as an outsider wanting to help. Being a volunteer, she was limited in what she could do, but overcame this by focusing on certain tasks like sorting through clothing donations and helping rebuild homes. She said that the exhibition is important because it gives the refugees a platform to tell their story.
Being a refugee in the camp, Baraa described the reality of the living situations and the brutality of the police. The people there have nowhere to go and spend every day just trying to stay alive. Sickness, violence, poverty; all obstacles they must overcome on a daily basis. However, Baraa spoke with conviction and hope. “We created Jungleeye to generate awareness. The more people know, the more we can work towards improving our future,” he said.
“Together we can do something.”
The ‘Through Jungle Eyes’ Exhibition ran from June 17th– June 19th at The Stables in North Melbourne.
You can view the Jungleye images via their Facebook page: facebook.com/Jungleye-1685383875041393
And listen to Refugee Radio’s first interview with Ali Reid here: 3cr.org.au/refugeeradioshow/episode-201602211000/refugee-radio-amanda-interviews-ali-reid-her-time-volunteering