Friday, 14 October 2016

Jack Quashie

Jack Quashie, Trafalgar Square. Photo, Paul Jones

It is with great concern and grief that we hear Jack Quashie will soon be deported from the UK. We have never written a blog about one person before. But then we have never had a member of our group, a person who has made such a positive impact on so many others, receive a date for his deportion from the UK.

I come from near Ghana. The reason people leave is because they don't have any choice. It is better to die trying to get away than being shot because you didn't go. I walked for 10 days across desert. Went up to Tunis, then across to Italy. I made my way across Europe. Then I got a boat across to Britain, a little pump-up boat with an outboard motor. I took me two years, a long walk. A lot of people who made this sort of journey did not survive.

When you are walking on sand, you cannot lie down and go to sleep. Even if you are tired, you cannot sleep. The sand moves like waves on water, if you lie down and sleep it will bury you. When people died we did not dig graves for them, we left them on the sand and it covered them. Sometimes the skeletons come back up again. And then they sink under the sand once more. I try not to think about it.

Jack Quashie, 2016

It has been our honour to meet Jack and get to know him over the last year. We worked with Jack during arts and health projects at The Booth Centre and Jack has been a vital member of two projects designed to raise awareness of the issues faced by homeless people.

For The Homeless Library project,  he used Left Luggage to store his rucksack in Manchester, got on a train and spoke at The Houses of Parliament, addressing the Under Secretary of State Marcus Jones and Ann Coffey MP, discussing the emotional impacts of being a refugee and of homelessness. He returned to Manchester, collected his rucksack and slept rough that night.

Jack stitching a page for the Homeless Library

To a hushed audience he read his personal testimony to an audience at The Southbank.

For our international project Sing me to Sleep, currently on exhibition in Vilnius at the National Gallery of Lithuania, Jack contributed hugely to a group quilt, designing, stitching more than any other person; he was focal point in soundtrack that was made. It was his drum playing that rang through the courtyard at the National Gallery of Lithuania, in Vilnius.

At all times Jack has been an articulate and sympathetic ambassador for people who are refugees and who are dealing with homelessness. We believe that his deportation is a serious loss to those under-represented communities.

The doctor tells me there is nothing to worry about, but your life changes in every way after a war. You are refugee. You become a flying bird with nowhere to go. Because I have left my home  country, I am still homeless. Even though I’ve got a flat I am still homeless.

With art I have a voice, now I can make things. Doing the art, giving me a chance to speak, you make me feel important. Going to the Houses of Parliament and speaking I felt very good. It’s what I’ve got now, it’s all I own.

Jack always has shown a positive, happy, humble, outlook during the days we spent together; he was consistently helpful, considerate and tolerant in sometimes stressful situations.

Jack Quashie is a gentleman, we wish you well.

Jack Quashie, Photo Paul Jones.