Author: Shan Ross
A Scottish art student is designing a range of unique “welcome signature” doormats for refugees being housed in Scotland.
Zara Elmi, from Edinburgh, is inviting members of the public to bid for the doormats, which will bear a personalised written message from the buyer for someone arriving in their community.
The 22-year-old, who has just completed her honours degree in graphic design at the Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art in Dundee, says her aim is to make the venture such a success that “she could walk down any street in Scotland and see them everywhere”.
People will bid for the mats and upload handwritten message. A matching mat will be created and given to a refugee to let them know they are welcome. The mats can have welcome messages of any language. Mats produced in the university’s workshop will be auctioned to raise funds for the Scottish Refugee Council.
Ms Elmi, who showcased the mats at the annual degree show at the university, said there had been a choice of subjects for the show and she elected ‘celebrating community’ after feeling inspired by a hard-hitting exhibition at the Moco Museum in Amsterdam. “I was looking at an installation by Iranian artists Icy and Sot about refugees and migrants, with powerful imagery and barbed wire and knew straight away I wanted to do something which had a ‘spirit ’like that,” Ms Elmi said.
“People are aware of the bad things refugees go through to get to safety, but don’t know how to help once they are here.
“There is not an instant, accessible way to do something.
“To me, using my skills to produce the mats is a way of celebrating community – think of the culture shock of being forced out of your country.
“Then they can sometimes face terrible hostility from people going ‘this is my land, it’s just for me, not you’.
“But it should be a very Scottish and British thing to do to offer hospitality and support.
“Hopefully the mats will make people realise there is a small, everyday thing they can do.”
The key principle of the Scottish Government’s New Scots strategy for 2018-22 is that refugees and asylum seekers should be supported to integrate into communities from day one of arrival and not just once their leave to remain has been granted.
As of March, almost a fifth of the Syrian refugees who came to the UK as part of a special programme had settled in Scotland. That equates to about 2,562 refugees settling north of the Border since 2015.