How Transforming Into A Refugee Drives Creativity

Jul 13, 2017Encouragement, Inspiration, Writing

I have spend just over two weeks as an artist in residence in Bajesdorp and the village keeps throwing up surprises.

Not everyone here is an artist, but that does not mean they don’t do other inspiring things.

I have learned that several members of the community are actively helping people through the refugee crisis. Disturbingly, there is more than one refugee crisis going on.

The village is situated next to accommodation for Syrian refugees. Right now it is very close to home.

I blogged about this last week.

A Refugee

I feel a little bit of a refugee myself.

Being an artist in residence is a new and very different way to experience life.

It is good. I have gained more focus in the work. There are new distractions but the old ones which hampered me are no more.

I have stopped setting an alarm, yet I wake up like clockwork at the same time every morning. In the village I have the peace and tranquility to start my day fresh.


Where I lived before, there was the constant pressure of day to day life. Getting children off to school, organising my day around other people, appointments, schedules and so much more. It never seemed to end.

My creativity suffered.

I had to battle for the time to make my art. Now I only have to answer to myself. I get up, do a brain dump in a journal, shower and sit down to write in earnest. It’s great and it works.

It helps that other people are now joining me for my regular writing session.

It forces me to show up at the communal table in the centre of the village and do the work. It’s also good to know that I am offering others the opportunity to do the same. It helps me kickstart my daily writing.

That has always been the biggest hurdle—the beginning.

Once I am in the flow, there is no stopping me. I can sink into my fantasy world and shut everything else out.

Inspiring People

As I mentioned, in the past week I discovered the things people here are doing to help refugees.

One of the residents, Nico, is a supervisor on a volunteer ship which patrols the European sea border in the Mediterranean. The ship is operated by the organisation Sea Watch.

He is not the only one from the village who does this. They go on two week missions. With other volunteers they pick up stranded boats in the seas north of Libya. It is hard work. And it is distressing.

Below is GoPro footage shot by a Danish journalist on a recent voyage. This is the same ship Nico works on. That day they took over 500 people on board a ship rated to carry 150. They put their own lives in danger to bring people to safety. They are being criticised for their actions. But the criticisms are unfounded.

They do valuable work. The tide of refugees will continue. Without these volunteers more people will perish.

Why is it I see nothing about it in the news?

This flood of people continues unabated, yet it seems to be largely ignored. The crisis is far from over.

The surge of mass migration towards Europe ebbs and flows like the tide, but it does not stop.

People who are desperate for a better life. Usually people who are driven by survival. They don’t have a choice, they have to move. For many it is purely about self-preservation.

A Refuge

The most distressing thing for the refugees is not knowing what awaits them at the other end. They are taking enormous risks with no knowledge of the outcome.

I am here voluntarily. I don’t need to be here. It’s a choice.

My survival is not about life and death. However, in a way, it is a fight for survival as an artist. I, like the refugees, have no idea where I will end up or where my art will take me.

I only know one thing. I have to do it.

Thankfully, for the moment, I have found a refuge.


What do you think about this situation?


Leave a comment below or join the mailing list and let me know.

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