Drawing Time is a visual story of one family’s journey from war-torn Darfur in Western Sudan, conflict in Libya, and a refugee camp in Egypt, before resettlement in Hull.
The family recreates their traumatic experience of fleeing across borders in cars, in the backs of trucks, and surviving a refugee boat crossing across the Mediterranean Sea, through a series of hand-painted cloth panels. These panels decorate the walls of a reconstructed refugee tent, similar to the one the family of six inhabited for four years at the United Nations (UN) Salloum refugee camp in Egypt.
Arafa, a single mother whose husband was presumed dead, encouraged her children Omar, Gaida, Mayas, Ethar, Akram and Waeeil to endure the cramped living conditions of the tent through their love of art. She organised art workshops and competitions, acquiring basic materials, pens and crayons from the aid agencies at the camp. The family had always drawn and sketched together for fun and for pleasure. Now art became a way to deal with memories of war and an uncertain future. The boys drew Japanese and Korean- style comic strips and cartoons, creating alter egos based on their favourite superheroes. The girls sketched portraits, mandalas, fashion designs, and wrote poems and stories.
Art helped occupy the long days, weeks and months “waiting waiting, waiting”. Soon the walls of the Dirars’ tent became a visual gallery of coping with a life in limbo.
A record 68.5 million men, women and children worldwide were driven from their homes in 2017 due to war, violence and persecution. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Annual Report for World Refugee Day, June 20, 2018.