Born in Tawela, South Kurdistan (Iraq) Jasim Ghafur worked as an art teacher in Kurdistan before leaving the country, and moving to the UK as a political refugee in 2000. He then studied Fine Art at the University of Derby and did a MA in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. A founding member of Travelling Light, Long Journey Home, the Socialist Artist Association (Kurdistan) and BlankAtlas, Jasim has exhibited nationally and internationally.
The Kurdish born visual artist now works and lives in United Kingdom. As a Kurdish artist, he aims to explore contemporary and modern visual art and develop an independent, visual language that enables him to communicate his views, feeling and insights to wider audiences through his art.
– An excerpt from Frequency
In this video Jasim explores his memories in exile and the experiences that led him to leave Kurdistan.
One of the techniques Jasim employs is inserting himself into archived photographs, aiming to bridge the gap between our rational understanding of human suffering and the hope for a better world. The visual objects and symbols he uses communicate his inner responses to the phenomena of displacement, journey and wars that he has encountered.
There have been many waves of emigration from Iraq since the end of the 1970s. These emigrations have taken place for various reasons: the war with Iran from 1980 to 1988 and the Gulf War in 1991 following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the occupation of Iraq by the US the UK and their allies from 2003 – 2011 and subsequent sectarian violence.
A climate of constant insecurity has led to massive population displacement. IOM estimates that there are some 1.9 million Iraqis displaced internally, and over 2 million in neighbouring states, particularly Syria and Jordan.
Kurds from Iraq have a long history of persecution which has led to emigration outside the country. Saddam Hussein launched a plan to destroy Kurdish villages in 1988, attacking many villages, notably Halabja which caused thousands of casualties and 60,000 refugees. There was another wave of Kurdish emigration after a failed uprising in 1991.
In May 1997, Tony Blair’s Labour Government came to power on the back of a campaign promoting ‘New Labour, New Life for Britain’. The refugee housing and destitution crisis led to a Labour review of the asylum system, resulting in the publication of a 1998 White Paper ‘Fairer, Faster and Firmer – A Modern Approach to Immigration and Asylum’. The Labour Government spoke of ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice’ but continued with a rhetoric of distinguishing ‘genuine’ refugees from ‘bogus’ asylum seekers. This paper formed the basis of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1999; this strengthened existing procedures, alongside introducing major innovations in the separation of asylum seeker support from mainstream welfare provision. The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) was created to administer the new system.