The ‘Engaging Pictures’ project aimed to improve participants’ skills and confidence in promoting a better dialogue around migration through developing their strategic messaging around migration and producing images and words which communicate positive messages to create better understanding amongst communities.
During 2013, Migrant Voice brought together a group of migrants and individuals from the host community, who were interested in building more inclusive communities. Participants were trained and supported in strategic messaging, understanding public attitude, and creative communication by a number of media and communication experts on an in kind basis. The project’s photographer produced exhibition quality images for the project, telling the stories of 10 migrants to Scotland and their contribution to life there.
The final exhibition had images displayed as printed photos, with accompanying texts to celebrate Migrants’ contribution to Scotland. The project culminated with three exhibitions of the photos and text with facilitated workshops for the public, including an exhibition at the Scottish Parliament, Glasgow Caledonian University, Govanhill Community Trust and at the Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Arts.
By bringing participants from migrant and host communities together and exhibiting in various locations, the project created a space for dialogue, and real engagement over an issue well recognised for its sensitivity and tensions.
The project was funded by Big Lottery, Awards for All Scotland.
Hing Fung Teh – Tai Chi Instructor, Kirkintilloch
I was born in Malaysia, of Chinese ancestry. I came to the UK in 1973 as an accountancy student studying for ACCA in Birmingham Polytechnic. I felt a lot of excitement and had many expectations on my arrival to this foreign country, especially of seeing real snow. On one of my many trips around the country I met my future husband, Leong, in Glasgow. We have been married for 37 years now and have two grown up children, Han and Ying. We have lived in Kirkintilloch for the last 28 years. In the late 1980’s Linda, a lady in Kirkintilloch, became my first ‘student’ by chance. She fell in love with this slow, gentle exercise which she saw abroad during her holidays. Soon I had a few more ‘students’ who were friends and who wanted to learn this Chinese exercise too. That is how I started my Tai Chi teaching journey. I was first introduced to Tai Chi when I was 12 and my Dad had a stroke. A relative came to our home to teach him and the whole family joined in. I was not a very healthy child and not at all sporty. But after I started learning Tai Chi, my health improved tremendously and I still continue my learning from teachers from the East. For me, Tai Chi is not only very enjoyable and interesting but is also very beneficial to my mind and body. Through my years of teaching I am pleased that the students have benefited physically, improving their health, balance and confidence as well as reducing stress and high blood pressure along the way. There is usually a very relaxed atmosphere in class and we often have a good laugh too. I have taught many different groups of students: from children in primary and secondary schools, middle aged adults, retired people (my oldest student is now 91 years old), a deaf and blind group, nursing home day care clients and other health groups. I feel very privileged and honoured to meet so many interesting and amazing people. Through teaching Tai Chi and Qigong to Scottish students, I impart to them what I know of Chinese social, cultural and historical stories which relate to the names of the movements we do as well as Tai Chi philosophy. I am very pleased that most of my students are interested in the Chinese way of life, our culture and philosophy. Through exchanging our different stories, we learn of each others’ culture. And more than this, over time, as I do not have all of my family here, many of my students have become my friends and part of my Scottish family. Deep inside us, we are all the same and I am very honoured to be accepted by most Scots I meet. I consider myself an East/West Chinese person and have learned to adopt the Scottish humour and friendliness in my everyday life. Overall, I consider myself lucky to live happily in this beautiful and peaceful country. Geoff Palmer – Professor of Grain Science and Historian, Penicuik
I left Jamaica in 1955 when I was 14 years old. My mother had 8 or 9 sisters; I can never remember how many they are. They all lived in the same house, managed by my grandaunt. One day in 1948 I was told that my mother was going to London and I was to live with my aunts. In 1955, my mother sent for me. The idea of going to London on my own at 14 years worried me a little bit, but I had to go because my mother wanted me to come to live with her. So my aunts got my passport, a ticket to travel, a suit, and a small suitcase, which I still have. Before I left for the plane, my grandaunt wrapped me in newspaper because she said London was cold. That the trip by plane and ship took nearly two weeks was not considered by her… The day after I arrived in London, my mother woke me up early and told me to get ready. Fortunately for me, as we were leaving, there was a man at the door asking my mother where she was taking me, and she said “to work”. The man told her, “You can go to work but he can’t, because he’s not 15”. I had to go to school. I was 14 years and 11 months – one month changed my life. My mother was very upset because she had found me a job in a grocery shop. It had cost her £86 to bring me to London and it took her seven years to save that money. In 1958 Professor Chapman gave me a job as a junior technician at Queen Elizabeth’s College in London. One day he called me into his office and said “I don’t think you’re as stupid as you try to make out. I think you should go to university.” So I went to Leicester University in 1961 to do an Honours degree in Botany. The beginning of my career was a matter of chance and circumstances. What I’ve learnt in life is that no matter how able you are, it is the people you meet that determine what you achieve in the end. What people need is a cup of kindness. Burns was speaking metaphorically in Auld Lang Syne. Whisky in Scottish culture is just like Russian vodka, or American bourbon, or French wine. When somebody asks you to take a drink with them that is an act of kindness… this drink of kindness does not have to be alcoholic. But how many migrants have been asked to join in such a drink? If somebody is not prepared to eat or drink with you, then you’re not part of the system. I think you get that relationship of kindness in a society if somebody sees you as equal. In 1707 there were hardly any Scots in Jamaica, by 1800 there were about 300,000 slaves in Jamaica, and about 10,000 Scots, mainly men. Three quarters of the surnames in the Jamaican telephone book are Scottish, so many Jamaicans have some Scottish blood or history in them, whether they like it or not. So as I tell many Scots, your ancestors were not in Jamaica doing missionary service alone! Many Scottish people are fascinated by this history, because their historians never told them. Why should historians hide the truth? It is the truth that sets people free to be fair to all. I retired in 2005 as Professor of Grain Science in the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at the Heriot Watt University. I am proud that many of my students have made successful careers in the malting, brewing and distilling industries worldwide. I still do experiments at home in my kitchen! However, I now spend most of my time on the boards of various charitable organisations and give lectures to the community on Scottish/Jamaican/Caribbean history. This history is outlined in my book, The Enlightenment Abolished. Marta Zurakowska – Historic Buildings Materials Scientist, Paisley
I was brought up in Suwalki, the coldest place in Poland, situated near the borders with Russia and Lithuania. I studied Geology at the Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznan and later worked at the Poznan University of Technology as an academic teacher and consultant in Geotechnics and Engineering Geology. In 2006, my husband Bartek and I decided to move to Scotland. We now live in Paisley together with our two daughters, Ola (ten) and Natalia (three and a half). The beginnings weren’t easy. Although I had a good command of English, when I arrived I couldn’t understand anybody. It seemed to me that people spoke with a Scandinavian accent. I felt quite lost. But those difficulties with understanding Glaswegians didn’t put me off. I was a frequent visitor in libraries where I was reading books about Glasgow, and where I had opportunities to talk with people who didn’t speak with such a strong Scottish accent. One day I went with my little daughter to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and, all of a sudden, we were surrounded by officials and cameras, and announced 2 millionth visitors. It was pure madness. We were featured in the BBC and in all newspapers. Since then we just loved Glasgow. Just three months after my arrival I found a job at the University of Glasgow working in the Geology Department. When I was finishing this contract I was awarded with a stipend to do a PHD at the University of Paisley, now the University of West of Scotland. I was chosen to do a PhD and conduct research on sandstone decay causes and patterns. Glasgow has plenty of beautiful buildings, but sometimes they’re not very well maintained. Doing my PhD I’ve been looking at the causes of stone decay, and I came to the conclusion that most of the problems are caused by the lack of maintenance. I think that it is possible for building owners to stop immediate problems without a lot of money just by cleaning the gutters and pipes. If people stop water leaks over the facades it’ll stop the deterioration as water won’t penetrate the stone. The results of my research will be applicable to inform future repairs and conservation works on buildings and urban regeneration programmes. I am really excited that I am specialised in natural building materials analysis. My passion for ecological buildings together with the skills gained during my PhD studies come in really handy nowadays when the world needs low carbon buildings! I am proud that I am able to help prevent deterioration of sandstone buildings that are such important part of the Scottish heritage! Robyn Marsack – Director of the Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh
I was born and grew up in New Zealand, in Wellington. I was born in 1953, and left in 1973. Passing the half way mark, when you realise that you’ve been longer in the country you’ve come to than in the country you were born in, is a very significant moment. Then you have those big questions such as what do you call ‘home’. I still refer to Wellington as home. But, of course, home is where my family is, and my family is here, so what you call home is a loaded decision, I think, and it can vary depending on whom you’re speaking to. When I went to England, I was predisposed to love what I found there because I had read English literature for as long as I could recall. My head was full of descriptions of English landscapes, English art, English buildings, English history. I came to study English literature, and when I was about to leave Oxford, I met the person who later became my husband, who is Scottish, so it was a very fortunate crossover. In 1999, I saw the advertisement for the position of Director of the Scottish Poetry Library and I thought, ‘That’s an extraordinary job. I won’t have a chance for it, but I’ll try.’ And then I was appointed! I’ve been there ever since. I’m very privileged to be right at the heart of literature, and Scottish creativity in that sphere. I feel passionately that I need to be an advocate for Scottish literature and Scottish poetry. A poem – for example at weddings or funerals – can say things for us that we can’t articulate for ourselves but that we recognise. It’s immensely consoling to recognise our own emotions or ourselves; we immediately feel that we’re less isolated, less peculiar, less stupid because our emotions have been shared and expressed by somebody else. We hate the idea of people who are no longer very mobile, and whose mental faculties are diminishing just sitting in chairs, left alone for most of the day or watching television that they don’t understand. The sessions the Scottish Poetry Library offers to care homes are a combination of storytelling and reminiscence and poetry. People have a lot of poetry buried in their minds. They can still recite a bit of Burns, they can recite a bit of Wordsworth. If your mind is going and I say to you “What’s your name?”, it may be a horrible moment before you remember what it is. But if I say “Here’s a poem by Wordsworth about daffodils and I’ll read it for you,” they’ll say, “Oh, I remember that my mother grew daffodils,” or, “I remember that we learnt that poem when I was 7.” Migrants are always going to be in a difficult position because when times are hard, as they are now, then people look for other people to blame, or say that the country is not big enough to contain them. I was very heartened by the example of the Glasgow Girls who banded together and went to Parliament and said you can’t deport our friend who’s an asylum seeker. When my daughter was in a primary school, which was in a very ethnically mixed area, I was struck by the fact that she never identified somebody by their skin colour, which would not have been the case when I was a child. My mother would ask “Who is your friend?” and I’d say, “She’s an Indian girl called so and so.” I don’t think they do that now, and that seems to me a hugely positive change. Mahdi Bahrami – Football Coach, Glasgow
To be honest, at first, I wasn’t a footballer, I was a hyperactive street fighter boy! I am an only child. My dad passed away when I was very young and my mum brought me up on her own. We weren’t a wealthy family but we had an easy and happy life. My background is in football and in Iran I played at three different levels of national youth team. I was very lucky to be sent to Glasgow because Glasgow is a city of football. I was looking to find a football club and a man whom I met in a shop told me that he’d introduce me to a semi-professional club. I went there and half an hour later they asked me to join in. Playing and coaching with the Shettleston Juniors FC was very useful for me, as a stranger it helped me to adapt to my new life. I am now very close with that community. Even at Christmas I wear the Santa Claus outfit, and the club invites people with additional needs from the local area and I give them presents. And that makes me happy. As a foreigner, on my first day playing football here I wanted to cry. Because I couldn’t talk to my teammates, I didn’t know the language. Everybody was shouting at me, and I thought that maybe they didn’t like me. But they liked me. They wanted me. They needed me in the game. But the language was a problem. When I went to college, I had one good thing – I wasn’t too shy to speak. I didn’t think that people would laugh at my accent or because I didn’t know how to say something. When I finished my intermediate English level my teachers pushed me to enrol into the Football course at The North of Glasgow College, and I’m happy there. I work there. I am a college football coach now, so that’s totally changed my life. Usually we work in the rough areas. We go there to bring football and other activities to avoid drugs, alcohol and fight. You see, in my job I tell the kids you can’t stop the violence by violence. If the kid shouts and you shout back at him maybe he’ll do something worse than that. I’ve seen a boy who was 19 years old and nobody’s ever cuddled him. He wasn’t a happy person. But in football he could make at least 20 friends. Kids have a lot of energy, they don’t want to stay in front of the TV and eat chips, and get bigger and bigger. They come and play, and they use their energy, they go back home and they don’t fight. They go to bed. When kids are happy – my job is done. I’m not from Glasgow but I’m a part of Glasgow. I came here, these people, this government, this country saved my life, and I’ve been respected here. I help the kids and it is the best way I can be useful to this country, because I have to be! And I love my job, and I love my life! I don’t want to be a saint, I want to be a simple man. I can’t save the world, no. But if every year I can save only one young life from the alcohol and drugs, my job is done.
Ms Mushaka, Fieldwork Development Officer with Poverty Alliance, Glasgow
I was born in Uganda, married in Zimbabwe and came to the UK in 2001. Back in Africa I worked at senior levels as a community development worker and as a consultant for disability and development NGOs. For over 10 years I worked on highlighting the plight of people living with disabilities in Uganda. I am now a naturalised British citizen, and have been working with Poverty Alliance for more than five years as a Fieldwork Development Officer. When I first came to Scotland, I was not allowed to work, but chose to engage in volunteer work with a range of organisations including Glasgow Women’s Library, Scottish Refugee Council, Integrating Toryglen Community, Karibu Scotland, and Oxfam. In the process I gained a lot of experience in engaging service providers and policy makers in the Scottish and UK Parliaments. Once you’ve recovered from whatever made you leave your country, you want to be part of the new country you live in. I had worked all my life, I really didn’t want to stay at home, that’s not me at all. However, I was stuck in the asylum process for seven years before I was allowed to work due to the government’s policy of not allowing asylum seekers to work, a policy which still stands today. It was not easy to find full time employment having been out of the labour market for seven years. As a single mother, child care was one of the initial challenges. I was able to overcome these through the support I received from Bridges Programmes Equipped for the Future training course. I work with community groups raising awareness about poverty issues and social exclusion, making sure that people are aware of government policies that may have an impact on their lives. I also work with service providers around user involvement in projects. Scottish people are very generous, friendly and welcoming. However, our main obstacle to belonging is the negative coverage of migration in parts of the media, which feeds on the stereotypes. Challenging media portrayal of migrants has to be an on-going part of our work. I would like to support a political system that acknowledges the contribution I’m making to this country because I’m a citizen. And I want to feel and behave like a citizen of this country, including exercising my right to vote. I am still not sure that everybody who sees me on the street think I’m Scottish, let alone British? Many still label me as a migrant, as a refugee, as an asylum seeker, or sometimes even as an overstayer from Africa. That’s what many see. They don’t see a human being, a woman with skills, qualifications, and experience to contribute like anybody else. So gaining a real sense of belonging is another journey that we still have to work on.