Transplanted: Refugee Portraits of New Zealand

Please join us for ‘Transplanted: Refugee ‘Portraits of New Zealand’, a ten-day photographic exhibit and ‘talking space’ around refugee experience and issues.

These gorgeous two-metre tall portraits are by renowned photographer Alistair Guthrie, former winner of the Brian Blake Memorial Prize. The curator of the project, Tracey Barnett, is a journalist who has reported from refugee camps and detention centres. She will be speaking about her reporting, as well as the dramatically changing new war against asylum—and how it is specifically affecting our own shores.

Come hear a variety of speakers each day and evening. In addition, we will be creating fascinating weekend ‘Human Library’ sessions where former refugees sit down to talk with those in attendance, one-on-one or in small groups to chat about whatever their conversation takes them.

We are happy to provide a speaker and guided commentary about the portraits for your group upon request.

If seeking asylum is having your life pulled up by its roots, then being transplanted to New Zealand soil as a refugee is its regeneration–in all its difficult beauty.

The Question:

You may not realise that the colleague who sits next to you in the boardroom, the doctor who writes your prescription, or the teacher who cares for your kindergartener, may have begun life in New Zealand as a refugee child themselves (about 45% of New Zealand’s annual refugee in-take come here as children). How do you honour the rich contribution to New Zealand of the incredibly diverse individuals behind the word ‘refugee’? Moreover, how do you dispel myths around asylum seekers and refugees in New Zealand—a conversation that’s needed now more than ever?

The Idea:

These gorgeous two-metre tall portraits by renowned photographer Alistair Guthrie, and the curated public conversations that surround them, honour the individual behind that label.

Funds for the Refugee Portrait Project will go into printing these stunning large-scale prints, the accompanying text, setting up the speaker’s forums to take place during the exhibit, and travel expenses for the show to tour the country. The first cities targeted are Dunedin and Wellington.

The ‘Human Library’

Just as vital as the visual component of this exhibit is the talking space that will be created within the gallery walls during the exhibit’s tenure. Public talks will accompany the project in each city. Guest speakers will discuss our rapidly changing situation in New Zealand, our region, and the world, with refugees invited to give their perspective on the issues at hand and tell their stories in a multi-culturally curated ‘Human Library’. Come sit down and talk one-on-one with former refugees. Exchange views, erase misconceptions, listen to personal stories and learn from each other.

Schedule of Events

6:00pm   Unwind after a long week with these gorgeous portraits by renowned photographer Alistair Guthrie, then stay for curator Tracey Barnett’s informal guide to what you see around you—and this columnist’s opinionated introduction to some of the contentious issues they raise for New Zealand.  Introductory speaker, Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

11:00am  I Am Not A Label: Young Refugee Voices

Come hear a panel of articulate young New Zealanders, former refugees, who have the mic to discuss whatever is on their consciousness. In these sessions, some may offer up pieces of their arrival narrative, others may educate you about their birth country and its politics, still others may choose to discuss prominent issues that are affecting former Kiwi refugees today–it’s up to them–and your questions from the floor.

1:00pm Human Library Session

This is a special session, by any measure, and one of the exhibit’s quiet highlights. When we first trialled this concept in Dunedin a year or so ago, it was surprisingly fun and even quite poignant for both former refugees and members of the public. Come by 1:00pm sharp and simply sit down with a refuge to chat together, one-on-one or in small groups. After a short while, a bell will ring and you will change partners. The floor is open for conversation. Did they find Pineapple Lumps and Vegemite revolting or delightful? How do they feel about the changing label of ‘refugee’ today? Or just feel free to sit and discuss the big questions of life. This is a fun, easy, accessible way to ask and get answered some of your questions from some of New Zealand’s newest citizens. Participants are asked to bring from home a printed out photo of one precious object that they would bring with them in a backpack if they had to flee their home, potentially forever (besides a passport or funds).

2:15 Human Library Session
(As above) Please arrive by 2:15 sharp to participate.

11:00am When Does Silence Become Complicity? 

Columnist Tracey Barnett has reported from refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border to Sydney’s own Villawood detention centre. Can politics and compassion find the right place to merge? How do we turn what’s personal into a political imperative? Come hear this very personal perspective on her reporting, as well as a strikingly honest view on the refugee  issues confronting New Zealand  today.

1:00pm Human Library Session

This is a special session, by any measure, and one of the exhibit’s quiet highlights. When we first trialled this concept in Dunedin a year or so ago, it was surprisingly fun and even quite poignant for both former refugees and members of the public. Come by 1:00pm sharp and simply sit down with a refuge to chat together, one-on-one or in small groups. After a short while, a bell will ring and you will change partners. The floor is open for conversation. Did they find Pineapple Lumps and Vegemite revolting or delightful? How do they feel about the changing label of ‘refugee’ today? Or just feel free to sit and discuss the big questions of life. This is a fun, easy, accessible way to ask and get answered some of your questions from some of New Zealand’s newest citizens. Participants are asked to bring from home a printed out photo of one precious object that they would bring with them in a backpack if they had to flee their home, potentially forever (besides a passport or funds).

2:15pm Human Library Session
(As above) Please arrive by 2:15 sharp to participate.

6:00pm The Compassion Deficit + I Am Not A Label: Young Refugee Voices

Are New Zealanders the compassion people we like to believe ourselves to be when it comes to refugee policy in our region and the world? Columnist and author Tracey Barnett will speak about her very personal reporting from Thai refugees camps to Sydney’s Villawood detention centre, addressing the most pressing issues going forward for New Zealand.

Come hear a panel of articulate young New Zealanders, former refugees, who have the mic to discuss whatever is on their consciousness. In these sessions some may offer up pieces of their arrival narrative, others may educate you about their birth country and its politics, still others may choose to discuss prominent issues that are affecting former Kiwi refugees today–it’s up to them–and your questions from the floor.

6:00pm Hot Spots: Perspectives from Italian Ambassador Fabrizio Marcelli and Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Ergin

Join Italian ambassador Fabrizio Marcelli and Turkish ambassador Ahmet Ergin in a lively discussion with journalist Tracey Barnett on the situation in their country, their region and the fast-changing decisions that are now affecting thousands. Is the EU deal with Turkey working? How is Italy handling boat arrivals from Libya? What can New Zealand learn from their experience?

6:00pm Heart or Soul-less? The Angry Politics of Compassion

What does New Zealand get right about how it handles refugees and asylum seekers? And where might we be going terribly wrong?  Join a panel of distinguished academics and those working in the field to unravel new directions where New Zealand policy may be headed–or stymied.

11:00am  I Am Not A Label: Young Refugee Voices

Come hear a panel of articulate young New Zealanders, former refugees, who have the mic to discuss whatever is on their consciousness. In these sessions, some may offer up pieces of their arrival narrative, others may educate you about their birth country and its politics, still others may choose to discuss prominent issues that are affecting former Kiwi refugees today–it’s up to them–and your questions from the floor.

1:00pm Human Library Session

This is a special session, by any measure, and one of the exhibit’s quiet highlights. When we first trialled this concept in Dunedin a year or so ago, it was surprisingly fun and even quite poignant for both former refugees and members of the public. Come by 1:00pm sharp and simply sit down with a refuge to chat together, one-on-one or in small groups. After a short while, a bell will ring and you will change partners. The floor is open for conversation. Did they find Pineapple Lumps and Vegemite revolting or delightful? How do they feel about the changing label of ‘refugee’ today? Or just feel free to sit and discuss the big questions of life. This is a fun, easy, accessible way to ask and get answered some of your questions from some of New Zealand’s newest citizens. Participants are asked to bring from home a printed out photo of one precious object that they would bring with them in a backpack if they had to flee their home, potentially forever (besides a passport or funds).

2:15 Human Library Session
(As above) Please arrive by 2:15 sharp to participate.

1:00pm Human Library Session

This is a special session, by any measure, and one of the exhibit’s quiet highlights. When we first trialled this concept in Dunedin a year or so ago, it was surprisingly fun and even quite poignant for both former refugees and members of the public. Come by 1:00pm sharp and simply sit down with a refuge to chat together, one-on-one or in small groups. After a short while, a bell will ring and you will change partners. The floor is open for conversation. Did they find Pineapple Lumps and Vegemite revolting or delightful? How do they feel about the changing label of ‘refugee’ today? Or just feel free to sit and discuss the big questions of life. This is a fun, easy, accessible way to ask and get answered some of your questions from some of New Zealand’s newest citizens. Participants are asked to bring from home a printed out photo of one precious object that they would bring with them in a backpack if they had to flee their home, potentially forever (besides a passport or funds).

2:15pm Human Library Session
(As above) Please arrive by 2:15 sharp to participate.

Alistair Guthrie,  Photographer

For over three decades Alistair Guthrie has been chronicling New Zealand through the pointed beauty of his lens. His award-winning art, design, advertising and editorial work has been featured by major advertising agencies throughout Australasia, and is often seen in Metro, North & South, The Listener and Ideologue, among many others.

His lush portraiture work, featured in this project, has captured this country’s best and brightest, ranging from politicians and thinkers (Helen Clark, Dame Ann Salmon), captains of high tech (Bill Gates, Steve Balmer), sportsmen (Richie McCaw, Daniel Carter, Colin Mead), to musicians (Lorde, Tim Finn, Dave Dobbyn), and artists and entertainers (Dick Frizzell, Reese Darby, The Topp Twins), to name just a few.

He has been a featured artist at John Leach Gallery, now Gow Langsford, and most recently was given a fifty-page retrospective of his career in F11 photography magazine. He has also been the recipient of the prestigious Brian Blake Memorial prize.

“To have something to offer, to contribute to humanity, to start a discussion, to open eyes, all of which are more difficult in this saturated medium, would be a fine thing.”

His work can be seen on his website at: http://www.alistairguthrie.com

Tracey Barnett, Producer

Tracey Barnett has been a contributing columnist and commentator for The New Zealand Herald, The Sunday Star Times, Radio Live, TVNZ and TV3, among others.

She is the author of The Quiet War on Asylum, a concise introduction to asylum issues in New Zealand and Australia, published by Bridget Williams Books.

She is also the creator of the asylum awareness campaign, WagePeaceNZ, an educational initiative to raise awareness about refugee issues in New Zealand. She has argued extensively in the media against detention of asylum arrivals, particularly offshore, and has worked to see more refugees welcomed against today’s contentious political backdrop, having created the ‘Welcome #500Now: Refugees Enrich Us’ initiative.

She has sat on the board of the Asylum Seeker Support Trust, is currently on the Refugee Council of New Zealand and is the 2017 winner of the Loxley Peace Prize.

Transplanted: Refugee Portraits of New Zealand
National Portrait Gallery, Wellington
October 27 – November 5th

Do you have a community group or school group that would like to visit the exhibition and check out the portraits and the ‘Human Library’? Would your community group like to hold its next meeting (daytime or evening) at the gallery to hear speakers on the issues?   Call to schedule your group or volunteer.

Ideas, energy, volunteers and funds are most welcome.
Contact Tracey Barnett

For those inspired to Give-A-Little, donations most welcome at:
Give-A-Little: ‘Transplanted: Refugee Portraits of New Zealand’


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