On 4 November 2017 at 5PM, the month-long exhibition “Shift Maps” launched at SEA Junction exposing the personal live histories of refugees and migrants living in Bangkok as written and illustrated by them on palm leaf manuscripts made from the Talpiot Palm, also known as the ‘Shadow Palm’
The bulk of manuscripts were produced in two workshop sessions conducted by Bangkok-based artist Varsha Nair at SEA Junction on 26 and 28 October by a group of refugees and migrants composed of clusters of family members as well as young refugees on their own from a variety of countries including Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Sudan. They worked with leaves to tell their personal stories, reflecting about “who we are, where we come from, our connection with the past, and present way of being”. Recording oral histories, they drew and wrote their stories, from memory and based on their current reality – life stories connected with location, relocation, dislocation – the physical, emotional and psychological shifts – at times subtle and at times tectonic.
At the opening, and intermittently during the course of the exhibition, short videos created by some of the same refugees and some others will be shown. They were made as part of a research project conducted by Rebecca Warren, in which several young refugees wrote and created digital poetry based on a poem by George Ella Lyon, called ‘Where I’m From’. The poems explored the young person’s sense of identity, memory, and attempted to capture their journey through life with images and descriptions of things that they’ve felt, sensed, touched, heard, smelt, seen, the experiences that make us who we are. Irrespective of varying degrees of elaboration, each is unique and poignant in its own way.
The opening also featured a panel discussion including Varsha Nair, Rebecca Warren as well as representatives of refugee organizations. The participating refugees for now prefer to remain anonymous, but names/pseudonyms may be provided at a later date if conditions allow it.
Photos by: Rosalia Scoirtino and Kanyawee Seedabut