Today, we're marking World Refugee Day with the launch of I Am An Immigrant, a podcast series which examines the work of refugee and immigrant creators in Scotland and features artists from across the Festival’s Refuge Programme. We're also announcing a selection of free, online talks, featuring author Chitra Ramaswamy, playwright Tariq Jordan, and actor and author Antonythasan Jesuthasan (Dheepan), which explore aspects of internationalism and the migrant experience.
Refuge is a season of contemporary theatre, dance, visual art, film and conversation created in collaboration with Scottish Refugee Council to explore themes of refugeehood, migration, identity and inclusion. Seventy-five years after Rudolf Bing, himself a refugee, co-founded the Edinburgh International Festival, this season invites 85 artists from over 15 countries to reflect upon the profound impact that migration has had on arts and culture in Scotland and around the world.
I Am an Immigrant is a weekly podcast presented by ice&fire Theatre and hosted by Christine Bacon. In the first episode, released today, the Zimbabwean writer, performer and curator mandla rae discusses the immigrant experience and the theatre work, as british as a watermelon, which weaves together poetry and storytelling to explore themes of belonging, trauma, and forgiveness.
A further four episodes will be released weekly throughout June and July, including conversations with Malaysian dancer Mavin Khoo about the themes of climate refugeehood reflected in Akram Khan Company’s Jungle Book reimagined; New Zealand soprano Madison Nonoa who performs with International Festival regulars Malcolm Martineau and Steven Osborne; dancer Akeim Toussaint Buck, whose show Windows of Displacement reflects on the politics of migration both historically and in the present day; and Palestinian-born artist Leena Nammari, whose visual art installation It Will Live, inspired by a house in Ramallah that she has photographed for 35 years, will be displayed to the public across the length of the Studio. The first episode of I Am An Immigrant with mandla rae is available here.
The Festival’s digital programme of talks, which are part of At Home in partnership with abrdn, include discussions with a variety of artists and academics. In the two parts of Rethinking Internationalism, Dr Idil Akinci-Perez chairs a panel of artists from across the world, including performers Ahilan Karunaharan and Antonythasan Jesuthasan, to discuss what internationalism means to them. Am I Welcome?, with Scottish Refugee Council and Farah Saleh, discusses hospitality, as people seeking protection and mobility face increasing risk and criminalisation. 75 Years Later, with documentary photographer Mark Neville and Rwandan artist and activist Kiki Katese, takes an in-depth look back at the Festival’s history and examines the importance of the arts in times of crisis. Climate Change and Displacement, with Professor Liz Grant and writer Tariq Jordan, explores how we can re-evaluate our relationship with the environment and better understand our place in it.
The five online talks reflect Refuge’s exploration of the cultural richness and diversity of the UK’s artistic community alongside programmed shows like Detention Dialogues, a series of verbatim scripts featuring the voices of refugees from around the world; A Wee Journey, which invites audiences to embark on a choreographed musical celebration of diversity and a reflection on the experiences of many migrants living in Scotland and around the world; a musical meditation on musical censorship and cultural expression by Iranian and Kurdish refugees Zozan Yasar and Aref Ghorbani in Vocal; and Amber, an immersive show that documents the 23-mile walk from Dungavel Detention Centre to the Home Office in Glasgow. The Festival and Scottish Refugee Council will co-host a gathering of up to 30 artists, activists and practitioners in a bid to develop a meaningful manifesto for care-taking and hospitality in the arts and social practice for and with displaced artists and communities, which will be released later this year.
Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive from Scottish Refugee Council said: “Scottish Refugee Council is honoured to collaborate with the Edinburgh International Festival and mark this very special anniversary year. This has been a year of terrible stories. War in Ukraine, unrest in Afghanistan, families stranded and separated by bureaucracy, Rwandan detention centres and people left with no option but to risk their lives on dangerous journeys in a desperate bid to reach a place of safety. In this relentless fight for human rights and freedoms, we must not forget to reflect on hard won triumphs as well. Had Rudolf Bing not sought and been granted refugee protection here 75 years ago, this world-class festival may not exist. The cultural fabric of Scotland would be very different. We are in awe of his legacy, and of the exceptional artists performing as part of Refuge.”
Fergus Linehan, our Festival Director, said: “The Edinburgh International Festival is proud to provide a platform led by refugee and migrant creators this year. Refuge welcomes almost 90 artists from over 15 countries to perform in what is a special year for the Festival. 2022 marks our 75th anniversary, since it was co-founded in 1947 by Rudolf Bing, a refugee of the Second World War and we would like to pay tribute to his legacy, as his wish to unite people from different cultures through the arts is just as relevant to today as it was 75 years ago. We hope that you will join us in welcoming these artists to Edinburgh in August and enjoy the world class performances on offer.”