The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is celebrating Refugee Week this week with a number of events including tours and talks led by refugees from Rwanda, Burma, Iraq, Somalia, Darfur, and Uganda.
I came across a BBC article to get a better idea how it would be like to take a tour throughout the museum guided by a refugee. Unlike typical tours where the guide obviously emphasizes on the historic value of the artifacts, these people gave a more personal and touching story. For instance, Fayhaa Abdulwahab, an Iraqi refugee, described how “a white marble ram [reminded] her of Babylon [and that] Saddam Hussein inscribed his initials on the ancient Mesopotamian site to “ensure his immortality” and how the Americans later damaged the site by building a military base there.”* And Mary-Lyse, a refugee from Rwanda, was reminded of a “group of Rwandans who she had seen being chained up before being killed”* when coming across a line of glass figurines in the museum.
As a former volunteer at the Pacific Asia Museum, although I had the knowledge of all of the objects, there was no personal connection to them. These people were able express their personal stories and ultimately raise cultural awareness.
*Quoted from this BBC article