UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has announced the winners of its first-ever Youth with Refugees Art Contest.
More than 2,000 participants from 100 countries submitted drawings and comic strips. One in four participants were themselves refugees or asylum-seekers.
Launched in April 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the contest encouraged young people aged 12-25 to reflect creatively on the theme: “everyone counts in the fight against the virus, including refugees.”
The seven winning drawings have been turned into animations by Japanese studio SPEED INC. UNHCR is also awarding five regional prizes, five prizes for cartoons and 20 special mentions. The list of winners, alongside their testimonies and artwork can be found here.
“As countries went into COVID-19 lockdown, young people asked us how to help UNHCR while staying at home,” said Pauline Eluère, who leads the initiative for UNHCR. “We launched the contest to inspire them to use their creativity for a good cause. And we figured that a great way to bring their messages to life would be to animate some of their artwork.”
All winners are receiving a box of pencils offered by Caran d’Ache, the world renowned Swiss manufacturer of pens, pencils and writing accessories, a partner of UNHCR for the art contest. “Caran d’Ache is proud to be supporting UNHCR’s art contest,” said Catherine Bagnoud, the company’s Head of communication & digital. “When art is dedicated to serving a cause that is close to our heart, we make our mission to support it.”
Alongside their drawings, the participants shared powerful reflections and messages of solidarity.
“This quarantine has taught me to be more grateful for everything I have,” said Ivanna, 16, from Peru, a regional winner of the contest. “I think many of us complain because we are locked up or we miss our friends but we don’t think about others. Let us remember that we are not the only ones in the world and must support each other.”
Nesime, a 16-year-old Aghan refugee girl who was one of the global winners of the contest said, “It is true that the coronavirus is now a part of our lives, but we should not be worried. We should fight together to defeat the coronavirus. I now live in Greece. People have an image of me in their minds, but I am who I am.”
The winners were selected by a jury of influencers, artists, animation experts, refugees and partners. This included several UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors and high-profile supporters such as Japanese musician MIYAVI, Syrian refugee pilot Maya Ghazal, British actor Douglas Booth, American actress Kat Graham and British actress Gugu Mbatha Raw.
Also serving on the jury were Geoffrey Wexler, Chief, International, at Studio Ponoc; Roland Kelts, journalist and author of Japanamerica; Nina Cosford, artist and Caran d’Ache ambassador; and O’Plérou, Ivorian emoji designer. Several members of UNHCR’s Global Youth Advisory Council also served on the jury, namely: refugees Foni Joyce Vuni, from South Sudan; Arash Bordbar, from Iran; and Faridah Luanda, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as Ismael Gamboa-Ocampo, an internally displaced person in Colombia.
“The drawings conveyed a message of resilience,” said Foni Joyce Vuni. : “I loved that it showed that we (refugees) have something to give. Skills, love, time, care. Sometimes, it’s not about the major things but about the effort we make in caring for each other.”
Kat Graham added: “I was inspired by the drawings. When unity, strength and compassion are shown in the most creative ways, it confirms that we are all in this together.”
UNHCR seeks to inspire younger generations to be more inclusive of people forced to flee violence and persecution. We do so through a range of initiatives that encourage young people to learn, be creative, debate, volunteer and shape solutions.