From refugees to Kiwis

March 21, 2017

From refugees to Kiwis

Artist Tiffany Singh wants to let people know how much migrants can offer. Photo: Sarah Downs

An exhibition about immigration has made a journey of its own.

After its successful debut on Waiheke Island, social practice artist Tiffany Singh’s The Journey of a Million Miles has made its way to the Maritime Museum.

Ms Singh created the exhibition with the Auckland Resettled Community Coalition (ARCC) to reflect the struggles of moving to New Zealand.

Inspired by the book Beyond Refuge – Stories of Resettlement in Auckland, four recycled boats were dotted along Waiheke’s coastline and used as sound shells to broadcast the challenging journeys within the pages.

Each story was recorded in familiar Kiwi voices to personalise the narrative of immigrants and make the point they had become New Zealanders, said Ms Singh.

One of the stories is of ARCC general manager Abann Yor, originally from Southern Sudan, Mr Yor has been in New Zealand for 11 years.

Like the ARCC, Mr Yor wants to encourage a shift in labels that stick to refugees.

“When refugees arrive in New Zealand they arrive as a permanent resident. We don't have refugees in New Zealand, we have refugee backgrounds,” said Mr Yor.

“If you still refer me to my past you’re not helping me.”

For Mr Yor it's a “golden opportunity”, as even more Aucklanders will listen to the stories at the Maritime Museum.

Weathered and sun-kissed, the boats now sit inside the museum, as part of the second stage Following Steps, which uses film, audio and digital technology to consider all immigration stories.

A fifth boat with an audio booth has been added and invites visitors to share their own journeys, which become part of the exhibition.

Ms Singh, who has been working on the project for 18 months, didn't expect how timely the work would be.

“There’s a lot of animosity towards new immigrants. It’s unfounded and unfair.”

The artwork tries to open up a more human perspective, said Ms Singh who hopes people will respond and take its messages out into the community.

  • The exhibition runs from March 18 to September 3 at the New Zealand Maritime Museum.
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