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My grandfather was a refugee from Hungary who went on to live in Belgium and had refugee status for almost 30 years. He had survived terrible deprivations, amongst them several years in a Russian gulag (forced labour camp). The effects of his experiences on his personality left a profound impact on me: he never locked his house, should anyone need shelter. He invited every street vendor into his home, and said that when everything is taken away, only kindness and love is left to share with others.
I remember hearing about Ai Wei Wei’s landscape of “Sunflower seeds” when it was exhibited at the Tate Modern in London in 2010, and wondering how such a simple concept – a tiny sunflower seed – could be the catalyst for a large scale installation that would be so powerful and influential. Londoners were captivated at the intricacy of the 100 million handcrafted porcelain “seeds”, weighing a total of over 150 tons and spread over 10cm deep at the gallery.
#SharedPasts is a storytelling project, the result of a collaboration between Justice Centre Hong Kong and photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani. In May 2015, Justice Centre interviewed 16 individuals: refugees currently seeking protection in Hong Kong as well as descendants of refugees. Each interviewee was photographed by Xyza in a location they chose to reflect their story and their message. Their individual stories share a similar theme; a common narrative of resilience and survival in the face of persecution and conflict.
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