Child refugees - vulnerabilities and strength through art

Refugees are vulnerable and put in dangerous situations

Refugees face massive threats from various angles: in their hometown, escaping dangers such as persecution, war, and climate; in seeking safety, within refugee camps; and in their host countries, experiencing racism and inequities in the form of healthcare, education and more. Facing these threats within such environments makes refugees vulnerable, and this is increased when looked at from the perspective of a child.

The threats facing child refugees are especially acute

Of all the refugees world wide, around 45% are children under the age of 18. What is more shocking is that between 2018 and 2020 almost 1 million children were born as refugees. In the early years of their lifetime, they will be at risk of violence, psychological distress, family separation, exploitation, poor living conditions and more. 


They also face restrictions on their freedoms beyond movement

Along with restrictions on their freedom of movement, children will experience limitations on their freedom to access education. War and conflict completely disrupt a child refugee’s chances to have a stable and safe childhood. It is simply unjust for millions to go without the freedoms and rights that others around the world have. Children are vulnerable based on their reliance to be cared for; the refugee crisis negatively exploits this through governmental avoidance in providing significant care. 

James Earley’s hyperrealism art, specifically A Child of Iraq, expands on governmental lack of intervention, while Wires explores this sense of vulnerability and innocence.


Some activist artists seek to portray their vulnerabilities

Emel Çevi̇kcan’s watercolour piece, The Innocence of Childhood, emotively portrays the position of a child within this sphere. Surrounded by fellow refugees, the girl remains in colour clutching onto her teddy; signifying the remaining space of innocence that she holds amongst a field of grey difficulty. Ultimately, Çevi̇kcan’s work is quite melancholic. With its pause of time, the child is shown to be vulnerable simply due to her age, with greater challenges coming to extend it. 




... and their strength

Helena Barbagelata’s series, Water-Giver, visualises women and their children with a greater sense of strength to Çevi̇kcan.  The original watercolour paintings provide a sense of softness and fluidity to the visuality. Rendering them in shades of solidity, the artist plays visually on the lack of visibility that refugees have within society to portray their persistence within extremely difficult times. The connection between mother and child reminds audiences of the importance of family ties; thus, simultaneously acting as a reminder that that is precisely what is lost when one seeks refuge.






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