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Journeys Festival International brings digital artworks to a global audience!

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

Journeys Festival International 2020 was an international online programme that brought together artists from across the world through three weeks of digital creativity, virtual artworks and world-class cultural experiences.

Running from 28th September to 18th October, the festival kicked off with a conversation between Somali-British activist and writer, Magid Magid, the co-founder of Refugee Media Centre and silversmith, Steve Ali, and academic and writer, Maya Goodfellow, who explored the current global situation for migrants, and the political landscape and mainstream media rhetoric surrounding refugees and those seeking sanctuary in the UK, reminding us of the importance of compassion, empathy and understanding.  

Throughout the festival, we joined Magid Magid In Conversation with European-based guests involved in human rights, activism and politics including founder and acclaimed young leader Yasmine Ouirhrane, Syrian visual artist Rasha Deeb and comedian Mo Omar. Their perspectives taught us the importance of speaking out about the issues that we're passionate about with confidence and creativity.

The festival featured 10 brand-new commissions that explored global cultures and refugee experiences from different perspectives across the world. These included three new audio pieces by leading refugee theatre group, Phosphoros Theatre, Sun Up, Rain Falls, River Rises in partnership with High Tide’s Suba Das. The soundscapes featured compositions by Danish composer Mira Siegel, and beautiful illustrations by Midlands-based illustration duo Pickle Illustration. The work encouraged audiences to step outside their homes to be transported to Sudan, Afghanistan and Eritrea. 

Maral Mamaghanizadeh’s captivating film, If You Want To Be Alive...Read My Lips, gave us a unique insight into her experience of being a Deaf artist. The black-and-white colour palette heightened the beauty of her bone china jewellery intended to be worn over the ears. The piece demonstrated the difficulties of engaging politically when you do not have access to sound, with the audience encouraged to rely on reading Maral’s lips, bringing them a step closer to understanding her perspective.

Manchester artist, Parham Ghalamdar, worked with innovative Limina Immersive to create Graffiti, Art and Protest in Iran, a beautiful virtual reality exploration of a painted water tunnel in Iran with music by Iranian hip-hop artist, Maydar. This immersion into Ghalamdar’s memories prompted a deeper appreciation of the differing attitudes to graffiti in the country. Where the illegal art may have peacefully transformed the brutal and oppressive environment into a vibrant hidden gem, instead graffiti is seen as a rebellion against the state. While Bedos Mavambu and Pablo Melchor of Another Story Collective invited audiences on an intergalactic journey in their work, DOWN UP SIDE, a voyage through space that traced Bedos’ journey from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the planet Mancunia through spoken word poetry, soundscapes and 3D illustrations. The level of detail and blend of colours was truly a visual feast alongside the compelling personal story. 

Another duo, Beshuar Hassan, a traditional Kurdish musician from Iraq, and Brant Tilds, a Jazz trumpet player from Detroit, shared their own journey in Between Two Rivers. The pair formed a deep bond through music, their podcast offers an interesting insight into how the Coronavirus pandemic altered their usual way of working together as well as showcasing the importance of mutual support as artists work in unusual circumstances. 

Iman Tajik’s performative photographs for This is Now Not for Me also responded to the Coronavirus pandemic. For those previously unfamiliar with experiencing restricted movement, this was a chance to use their new perspective when reflecting on the sense of claustrophobia and barriers created by white tape across the Tajik’s striking images. Comparatively, there was a sense of freedom in internationally-renowned artist Mohammad Barrangi’s Wonderland. The exhibition uses Persian calligraphy and illustration with modern printmaking techniques to transport viewers into a world of epic adventure and stories while depicting his own story of life as an Iranian refugee seeking asylum in the UK. The preview of Mohammad Barrangi’s works is due to be followed by a large-scale exhibition in Leicester in 2021. Similarly, this year’s festival shared a teaser of Bloodland Embrace, an animation that didn’t fail to move viewers with its depiction of the isolation caused by seeking refuge, alongside a soundtrack shifting from idyllic to eerie. The award winning interactive arts studio, Invisible Flock, will collaborate with Majid Adin and three young European animators to present the final animation of pan-European friendship and collaboration in 2021. 

In a time when many of us feel cut off from each other and the world, we hope the festival’s shared experiences of learning something new or gaining an insight into other worlds like Tehran or Eritrea, gave you a joyous moment of connection.

If you’re quick, you can still enjoy some of this year's content on our Watch Again page and to help us bring you more work from incredible artists and partners, you can make a donation by text.

Text the word Journeys to:

70470 to donate £5

70490 to donate £10

70085 to donate £20

Thank you to everyone who joined us for Journeys Festival International 2020 and we look forward to welcoming you again soon!


Journeys Festival International is supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Graffiti, Art and Protest in Iran, Bloodland Embrace and In Conversation with Magid Magid plus Sun Up, Rain Falls, River Rises were supported with funding from Creative Europe.

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