A CELEBRATION of traditional arts and crafts created by Syrian people living in North Ayrshire was officially launched on Monday, September 2, as the Heritage Centre in Saltcoats opened its doors to a new exhibition.

The artwork on show illustrates the culture of refugees living in North Ayrshire and helps to tell their stories through a rich, colourful and vibrant mix of photographs, traditional crafts, traditional costume and paintings.

Working with local artist Lucy Russell, young art workers from Vertex Visions – a peer-mentoring art group – and a small team of volunteers, eight Syrian families from across North Ayrshire worked on the project, producing pieces which highlight the difficult and complex journey taken from Syria to Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey before arriving in the safety of Scotland – a journey which can take several years and mean separation from family and friends.

Other pieces portray the refugees’ memories of home, as well as new memories they have made since their arrival in North Ayrshire.

Artist Lucy Russell, of Vertex Visions, said: “I was approached by Jill McColl and Lesley Forsyth of North Ayrshire Council’s Information and Culture team to put together an exhibition of Syrian art.

“I already knew a lot of the Syrian families involved through teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages, and they were keen to take part in the project.

“They all worked really hard and we had great fun. Although there is a language barrier, a project like this does break down those barriers and you do have a lot of communication, both visual and active.

“We have an opportunity to welcome refugees with kindness, compassion and consideration, and I’m hoping the exhibition gives a small insight into Syrian culture and history and gives it a more human element.”

North Ayrshire Provost Ian Clarkson said: “It was wonderful to see some of the art from the Syrian families and young people go on display at the Heritage Centre.”