Artist in Focus: Latifah Stranack on the education of young refugees

“When a person becomes a refugee, their life is forever altered, from their daily life to their education—encountering numerous challenges and dangers trying to reach a haven." -Latifah Stranack

Latifah Stranack, A Right To Learn: The Excellent Teacher, acrylic, oil bar, pastel, chalk and charcoal on paper, A3, 2022.  

Refugees do not receive sufficient education

It can be difficult for refugees to gain access to fundamental human rights and basic necessities amongst conflict and disaster. In their homeland and refugee camps, lack of sufficient water, housing, healthcare and education increases their vulnerability. The latter point, education, is an imperative aspect to explore further; helping to provide opportunities for individuals by unlocking access to jobs and finances that might otherwise be difficult to reach. Not receiving sufficient education might simply extend and maintain the struggles faced by refugees - both in their homeland and in seeking safety.

Girls are among the most impacted as refugees

Across the world, there are many children that are unable to get access to education due to conflict or socio-cultural and economic factors. The education system in Afghanistan has particularly been devastated by many years of conflict. For many, even completing primary school remains a challenge. 3.7 million children are estimated to be out of school in Afghanistan, and 60% are girls. A shortage of schools and insufficient transportation are the main obstacles to education.

Stranack’s art brings representation to young refugees…

Latifah Stranack is a UK, London-based artist (b. 1981) who has been exhibiting her work now for 5 years. The new and upcoming activist artist joins artvocate in advocacy for the Refugee Rights movement; putting forward a series exploring the education of young refugees. A Right To Learn consists of three large artworks on canvas (350 x 215 cm) and ten smaller works on paper (A3). The two dimensions allow diverse visual entrances into the topic, where Stranack portrays intimate moments along with wider scenes.

…while advocating for their rights and freedoms

The artist pulls focus to the position that children - specifically girls - are placed in as a result of war, persecution and refugee inequities. The colourful artwork responds to the positive outcomes of access to education. Uplifting colours that reflect the cultural history and fashion of the country of Afghanistan, while acting as a source for hope, peace and prosperity.

Latifah Stranack, A Right To Learn: Gathering Information, mixed media on canvas, 350 x 215 cm, 2021.

Stranack’s work utilises the “female heroine” to explore subconscious emotions

Being part of two diverse cultures has created a rich visual language for Stranack to work with as an artist. Having always been fascinated by cultural hybridity, she reshapes her memories in washes of paint, working with subconscious emotions and fears. Stranack invented her "female heroines" as a means of exploring the above concepts; appearing half visible beneath a sheer fabric, eyes staring intently through a traditional batoola mask, or with lids delicately closed, lost deep in contemplation. In her series A Right To Learn the female heroines are the teachers and students who are in pursuit of educational freedoms and rights, in spite of their situational struggles.


Stranack expands on her series, A Right To Learn:

“In this new body of work I have created for Artvocate, I have reflected upon female rights and access to education. I wanted to create a series that used the classroom and spaces for learning as a starting point for doing the work. I worked with a mixed-media technique and a loose pastel mark to hint at shapes and forms. Colour application was significant as a way of expressing emotion, identity, and a passion for learning. The work is taken from a female perspective and the belief that education is essential for female empowerment and independence in life. The structure gives young people confidence and tools to vocalise and express their thoughts and ideas about life and our world.”

Latifah Stranack studied art formally at the Royal College of Art, Slade School of Fine Art and at Central Saint Martins. For more information on Latifah Stranack, explore her artvocate page.

Latifah Stranack, A Right To Learn, at the Not On Paper artvocate exhibition at The Holy Art Gallery, 2022. 


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