San Pedro House of Culture hosts RefugiARTe Exhibition

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

The San Pedro House of Culture (SPHC), along with the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Belize held a #RefugiARTe Exhibition at the SPHC office on Friday, March 15th. The exhibition aims to raise awareness through art the plight of refugees and internationally displaced persons who are affected by violence, discrimination, and intolerance in the world. It also calls out for joint cooperative efforts to bring visibility and to respond to the needs of refugees to ensure protection and solutions for persons forced to flee their homes.
Before the #RefugiARTe exhibition, a short ceremony was held at 7PM. NICH Director Carla Rosado gave the opening address, stating that they are happy to partner with UNHCR in raising awareness of the refugee's situation in Belize as well as around the world. “We want to have these exhibits across the country to sensitize the public about how refugees affect us and to show them that we all might have a refugee background. We need to teach our people to be more compassionate towards their peers of a refugee background while teaching them to be grateful for the peaceful country they live in,” said Rosado.
Before saying a few words, Ingrid Fernandez from UNHCR shared a video showing the difference between immigrants and refugees, which is commonly confused in our society. The video highlighted that an immigrant is someone who chooses to resettle to another country, while a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country do to inhumane conditions. “They are many refugees across the country of Belize that are working to build a better nation. Thousands of people are fleeing from their countries in Central America looking for safety and protection in neighboring countries. Here in Belize, we have seen a rise primarily in Cayo and Toledo. We as UNHCR are mandated to assist and advocate for them,” said Fernandez. She then showed another video highlighting a small community in the Cayo District, Armenia Village that has been hosting refugees for centuries and is primarily composed of them.
SPHC’s Guillermo ‘Mito’ Paz delivered the Vote of Thanks address, highlighting that one way or another, we all come from a refugee background, especially Ambergris Caye.
Fernandez and Rosado then proceeded to the ribbon cutting activity, which officially opened the #RefugiARTe exhibition. The roots of the #RefugiARTe project developed after the world witnessed the horrific photos of the body of three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, lying dead on the beach in Turkey in 2015. This small child, still dressed in a red shirt and blue pants, had drowned as his family fled violence and war at home, desperately seeking safety and protection.

Artists around the world were some of the first to respond spontaneously to these images, utilizing their art to sensitize the public to the plight of refugees. The #RefugiARTe exhibition is a regional project that began developing in 2015 as well. More than 50 artists from a number of different countries in the region joined in the commemoration through artwork that reflects the difficult realities facing refugees, both regionally and globally. #RefugiARTe has been presented in numerous spaces throughout the Americas, including airports, museums, and cultural centers. In 2018, Belize was added to the countries where this important work is exhibited. UNHCR, a humanitarian agency established in 1950, is currently working to ensure the rights of more than 68 million forcibly displaced people, of whom almost half are children.

After the exhibition, attendees enjoyed delicious refreshments as well as to visiting with the directors. Organizers of the event would like to thank those that took the time out to attend. Everyone is invited to visit the SPHC and view the #RefugiARTe exhibition, as it will be on display until the end of this month. The SPHC opens Monday to Friday from 8AM to 5PM and is located on Angel Coral Street.

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