Eskander Turki: London’s Street Art Shows NI Athletes’ Race to Liberation from Oppression

Three compelling works of art have been unveiled on London’s Southbank, depicting an Ethiopian refugee’s journey to safety in the UK.

The three-dimensional pieces depict the story of Eskander Turki, who is now a member of the Northern Ireland athletics team.

Created by the duo known as 3D Joe & Max, the street art tells how Mr Turki, fleeing his home in Ethiopia, took refuge in the UK and found healing by running.

Mr Turki said: “Ten years ago I couldn’t imagine the life I have now.

“The support and community I’ve found in the UK, through Migrant Help and through my run, has helped me heal from the trauma of my past.

“I was forced to flee my home and leave my family behind in Ethiopia, fearing for my life and seeking safety.

“Now my running has saved me in many more ways. I have found new hope for my future – starting a family with my wife Amina, pursuing a new career path and racing for the Northern Ireland team.”

There are three artworks, representing the three phases of Mr. Turki’s journey, as part of a Migrant Help campaign to mark Refugee Week 2022.

The immersive style invites viewers to literally step into the frame, allowing people to place themselves in the different chapters of Mr Turki’s story.

The first piece shows him fleeing violence and persecution in Ethiopia, the second shows his journey across the Mediterranean in a dinghy, and the third shows him applying for asylum and settling in Northern Ireland, where he started long-distance running. .

Mr Turki left Ethiopia in 2011 after being imprisoned and tortured for four months for participating in a student protest while studying electrical engineering at university.

His mother sold her belongings to raise money so he could flee to Sudan, fearing he would end up like his father and brother, who were both killed by the military.

What followed, however, was a decade of abuse in which he was enslaved on a Sudanese construction site, imprisoned by people smugglers in Libya, escaped across the Mediterranean in a dinghy, attacked and left homeless in Italy.

He finally settled in Belfast in April 2019, and it was there that a doctor suggested that he take up running as a way to work through his trauma. He did and earned a place on the Northern Ireland and Ulster athletics team earlier this year.

Mr Turki has already won a silver medal in the British Inter Counties Cross Country Championships.

In August he will make his track debut in the Northern Ireland Championships and in the Antrim Coast Half Marathon as part of the elite field, where he will compete against some of the world’s best runners, including Sir Mo Farah.

Joe Hill, of 3D Joe & Max, said: “When I heard Eskander’s story I was stunned. The journey he has taken is unfathomable to those of us who have not faced such danger.

“With the anamorphic artworks I’ve created, my goal has been to convey the emotion of the depicted moments, moments that many refugees experience in their own way – be it fear, hope or loneliness.

“However, the scenes I create are never complete until people interact with them, and the purpose of these pieces is to allow the audience to see themselves in Eskander’s experiences, to really connect with what he’s been through and the life he’s been through. has built to celebrate.”

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