The Algeciras School of Art held its “Idas y venidas” (“Comings and goings”) exhibition this November which showcased different works by photography students which tell the stories of migrants to Spain.
“There are good people and there are bad people; where they come from makes no difference”. This simple phase could be found beneath portraits of two women: Different in age, appearance and origin, but whose features seem to convey the same story – a tale of humans who were not bound to the constraints of their circumstances as they fled their homeland in search of a better future.
This was just one example of the large-print photos that were on display at the “Idas y venidas” (“Comings and goings”) exhibition this November. The event had been organised by “Un Barrio de Todos” (“Everyone’s Neighbourhood”) project which is run by the Fundación Márgenes y Vínculos in collaboration with students from the Algeciras School of Art.
The exhibition, which ended on the 30th of November, aimed to be a “graphic portrayal of the immigration phenomenon through the eyes of specific individuals; both Spanish and foreign, who were part of this migration”, and consisted of 15 images.
According to the Fundación Márgenes y Vínculos, the images, which were taken by six students in their second year of higher-level professional training in photography whose mission was to “put a face to the life stories of those Spaniards who were emigrants at one point in their lives, but also of immigrants in their new home… The same happens with the photos of those people that we consider immigrants here, but who are also emigrants in their country of origin.”
Both Sides of the Same Coin
In short, the exhibition was held to remind people that “being an emigrant or an immigrant are two sides of the same coin, yesterday and today.” Tales of overcoming hardship, courage and loneliness from those who have arrived and those who are making the journey – stories conveyed by the photos which adorn the walls of the school of art which make you “feel like a small child away from home”, and remind us of the value of hospitality, tolerance and solidarity for your fellow human.
“Since you do not know anyone or even the language they speak, you’re alone. Counting on people to help you is important” – is written under black and white photos of Francisca (who migrated to Spain in 1969) and Yassin (who did so in 2018). “We arrived here and it was all very strange. I had to adapt, I had no other choice” says the placard underneath portraits of Teresa (who arrived in 1965) and Rachida (who came in 2014). “It can happen to anyone from anywhere, and the ‘stars’ of this migratory odyssey, and who these days can often by found in the headlines on the news. Morocco, Nigeria, Spain … Ever the same story, and always different”.
“These are individuals, with their own stories, feelings and dreams, who are the protagonists of this migratory phenomenon”, Un Barrio de Todos reminds us. People with faces, names and surnames, whose lives that can be changed for better or for worse … and not simply a chart or a number in some set statistics.
Repressing Speech that “Hinders Coexistence”
“Comings and goings” successfully conveys that “migration is a global process which can be experienced by all societies in the world, which is at the origin and development of all those societies”. The exhibition also promoted the idea that “the often-widespread separatist view, which distinguishes between ‘us’ and ‘them’, generates a discourse that makes coexistence difficult.”
In order to get an idea of what they mean, all you need to do is look into the eyes of the faces featured at the exhibition, which have been strategically placed on an empty side of the gallery. You will find sentences which appear underneath portraits of a man called Edo, who migrated in 2008, and Julia, who did so in 1940. “They have not rejected me or thrown stones, but it does show that social distancing has always existed when it comes to another people from different cultures.”
“Don’t worry, I am not an animal, I am a person like you”, appears under a photograph of “Favour”, who emigrated from Nigeria in 2001 and whose image was chosen to for the exhibition’s poster. The exhibition insists on reminding us that “we are all human beings with the same right to seek happiness and well-being”, and that “whether it be in the past or present, all migrations are the same and feature the same protagonist; human beings who are all searching for the same thing: to migration, survival and improvement”.