The Belonging Project
Belonging is a joint project between the Belfast Migrant Centre and London-based professional photographer Laurence Gibson. The goal of the Belonging Project is to encourage development of empathy towards migrants in Northern Ireland by telling the stories of individual migrants through a variety of channels. Our aim is to encourage the celebration of diversity while simultaneously highlighting the similarities we all share as human beings. Migrant peoples are not a cohesive group; they are individuals with distinct identities regardless of their country of origin, their skin colour, or the religion they practice. By emphasizing this fact, we hope that the local communities will identify with these migrants on a human-to-human level rather than through a ‘them and us’ mentality, and that the rest of the migrant community will benefit from increased awareness in the local community of the migrant experience.
The central part of the project will be a collection of portraits of migrant individuals, photographed with an object, or ‘memento,’ which they have brought from to Northern Ireland from their home. These will be displayed as a series of exhibitions across Northern Ireland in partnership with Libraries NI, each of which will be opened with a launch event. There will also be a website where the stories of the migrants will be available for perusal, as well as interviews with them, a short video about the project, and a general history of migration for contextual education.
In addition to these on-going components, we plan to hold two events to further encourage discussion and education about migration. The first will be a pair of workshops for local and Black and Minority Ethnic youth, which will provide education about migration and also the process for the creation of the project. The second will be a conference, or roundtable discussion, featuring speakers from the field discussing issues of migration and integration.