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Author- Susannah Tantemsapya FRS

On 25th March 2019, Bangkok 1899 hosted RSA: Chef’s Table on Urban Refugees in partnership with Na Cafe, Scholars of Sustenance (SOS), International Rescue Committee (IRC) and AAT (Asylum Access Thailand).

Na Projects collaborated with two refugee families (from Pakistan and Afghanistan) based in Bangkok to cook a delicious family meal for 21 guests consisting of RSA Fellows, UN colleagues, various NGO workers and individuals who have expressed interest and sensitivity to the topic.

Participants from the RSA included: Lauren Orso, Adanna Shallowe, Robyn Lui, David Anthony Russell, Chris Oestereich; and non-RSA Fellow: Tien Phan. The guests not only enjoyed this unique meal, but also engaged in a roundtable discussion with these urban refugees. This highlighted three major themes for Bangkok 1899: Sustainability, Cultural Diplomacy and Society. In addition, the event accomplished its goal in providing financial support to the the families, as well as building awareness of the global challenges for migrants and refugees.

Most urban refugees in Thailand live a precarious existence: unable to work and provide for their families, send their children to school they are often financially stressed, dependent on ad-hoc charity to survive and at risk of exploitation, arrest and indefinite detention. Many have physical and psychological health problems resulting from the trauma that they have experienced in their home countries, compounded by their difficult living situations in Bangkok. Even if refugees obtain refugee status, their chances of being resettled outside of Thailand are low, and they face serious ongoing protection problems while they remain in Thailand. AAT is working to change this by advocating for refugees’ right to work, referring refugees to available resources and services in Bangkok and supporting them in their social and economic integration into Thailand.

Bangkok 1899 is a new cultural and civic hub established by Creative Migration in February 2019. It has major support from The Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Motor Company Fund (Ford Fund) with active support provided by the RSA. Its program consists of an international artist residency program, public garden, creative social impact cafe and locally/globally themed events. In addition, the space acts as a living model of sustainability by implementing certain practices and technology such as Zero Waste. Creative Migration is an international arts organization based in Bangkok and Los Angeles. Founded by FRSA Susannah Tantemsapya, its mission to advance cultural diplomacy through the three pillars of art, public engagement and sustainability.

Tiffany Singh, originally from New Zealand, currently has a Bangkok 1899 residency. Her work centers around arts, education and well-being and she is exploring the challenges faced by women artists. Her research on traditional practices dissect how contemporary female artists are reworking craft: inclusive of weaving, dyeing, paper cutting, traditional medicine and tattoo work.

By establishing a curatorial framework, she will exhibit new work at the conclusion of the residency for Bangkok 1899’s Grand Opening in early September. Afterwards, Tiffany is relocating to London and is keen to join the Fellowship, adding her vibrant presence to the RSA community!

Source- https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2019/06/the-launch-of-bangkok-1899

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