A pained faces peers out through the window of the Surman detention centre, desperate for food, hands squeeze through the small opening in the cell door in the Garabili detention centre, desperate for water, food, cigarettes – and release, a man grabs at the metal fencing and barbed wire which defines his living space in a Syrian refugee camp, while, as a complete contrast, the rich heritage of poetry and calligraphy is celebrated in works in ornate luxurious gilded frames. Three different exhibitions show three different views of the Middle East, set underneath the industrial roof of the Saatchi Gallery which also shows the successful versatility of the gallery spaces, with one gallery awash with light; another in darkness with spotlights highlighting the richness of the calligraphy and graphics.
Winner of the Carmignac Photojournalism Award, the Mexican photographer Narciso Contreras has recorded the humanitarian crisis in Libya of human trafficking in which illegal migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are at the mercy of militias who exploit them for financial gain. Held in detention centres, they are subjected to inhumane conditions including overcrowding, lack of sanitation and vicious beatings. And, they are the lucky ones – many died along the way.
Photographer Edward Jonkler has a similar theme with his series “The Lost Men of Syria” recording men in refugee camps, once the breadwinners in their families, now reduced to seeking handouts, living in a world of hopelessness, violence and depression.
Entirely different are the beautiful works of Emirati poet and artist Her Royal Highness Sheikha Khawla Bint Ahmed Khalifa Al Suwaidi featuring a range of Andalusian – Arab calligraphy inspired by her poetry, combining works with humane values and ethics of humility, mercy, kindness, altruism, forgiveness, giving, tolerance, good manners, love and peace.