Murugiah brings compassion to life with his Refugee Week 2023 installation

Award-winning artist Murugiah has bought his distinctive, colourful style to the Southbank with a new window installation that visually interprets the theme of compassion.

Created by Murugiah in partnership with the non-government organisation Choose Love, Counterpoints Arts and Students Rebuild, the installation was made as part of Refugee Week 2023, a UK-wide programme which celebrates the contribution of refugees in the country and promotes better understanding of why people seek sanctuary.

"This installation is an adaptation of the campaign artwork I was commissioned to make for Refugee Week 2023, which runs from the 19th to the 25th of June," Murugiah tells Creative Boom. "It is on display in the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, until the 6th of July."

Developed in collaboration with a group of young asylum seekers from Compass Collective, Murugiah's artwork emerged from a series of workshops where together they discussed what compassion meant to them. These ideas were then teased out and interpreted visually.

"The most prominent idea that was brought to the forefront was a hug," Murugiah explains. "It symbolises closeness and compassion in the best way. There were lots of drawings of hands reaching out to one another and doors being opened.

"I contributed eyes to suggest the idea of 'I see you', as in: I see you for who you are as a human being. I then re-drew all of these ideas and themes using my bright, bold and colourful South Asian-infused style into a cohesive campaign artwork and then adapted it into a window installation."

Although he is not a refugee himself, the project held special significance for Murugiah as he is the son of Sri Lankan immigrants. "I do know what its like to be othered, to be made to feel different and to deal with racism and animosity for the colour of my skin, so I shared a lot of similarities with the group of young asylum seekers who I worked on the project with," he reveals.

"I also agreed with my commissioners who said, 'In the context of ongoing global crisis and the increasingly dangerous anti-migration rhetoric and policies, this artwork will intend to invite us to see how interconnected our world really is'."

Through his Refugee Week 2023 artwork and installation, Murugiah hopes that audiences experience compassion, take it with them wherever they go, and use it in their daily lives. "I also hope that members of the public who don't already do so start to show compassion for all refugees," he concludes.


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