The artist formerly known as... - Refugee Council
June 13, 2007

The artist formerly known as…

An artist from Leeds is following in the footsteps of the rock star formerly known as Prince by changing his name to a “squiggle”. The artist is an immigrant who has fled persecution in East Africa. He produces beautiful large images using a biro pen. He is also an accomplished playwright, whose work has been broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds.

He has changed his identity into a squiggle representing a body with its hands, feet and head removed. Because of his immigration status he has been unable to build a public profile due to his concerns about being targeted by the Government of his country should he return to East Africa. He fled after his writing led to him being persecuted over a period of years by the Government there. He was repeatedly arrested and imprisoned without trial. Patrons who watched his plays were continually harassed and on one occasion he was severely tortured by members of the security forces. An attempt to arrest and charge him with sedition led to his escape to London. He is now residing in Leeds. His latest work will be exhibited at Leeds Metropolitan University, Civic Quarter from Monday 18 June.

The artist says:

“I have changed my name to this symbol because it represents my current situation. No head to generate productive thoughts, no hands to create beauty, and no legs to walk away from this situation.”

“It is a crippling situation, to have to leave everything you’ve known and owned behind and start afresh. It is even worse when a faceless individual at the Home Office decides whether or not I should live or die. Particularly when this individual has never had an automatic weapon pointed at their head by a ruthless policeman.”

“Should I receive an indefinite leave to remain from the Home Office then I would strive to write and make films for a living, or even support myself through my art.”

Charlotte Cooke, Refugee Council Head of Operations (Yorkshire and Humberside) said:

“The artist joins Lucien Freud, Camille Pissarro, Marc Chagall, Joseph Conrad, Isabel Allende, Victor Hugo and many more artists and writers who have had to seek refuge in a foreign land and of course went on to greatly enrich the cultures in which they found sanctuary.”

“His symbol, his new identity, is representative of the situation facing many people who come to the UK after fleeing persecution, denied the opportunity to contribute to our society and our economy.”

The artist is available for interviews. His face cannot be shown, or his name published, as this could endanger his safety.

See also:

  • His latest work will be exhibited at Leeds Metropolitan University,Upper Concourse, Civic Quarter, Calverley Street, Leeds, LS1 3HE
  • The exhibition will be launched at 6pm, Monday 18 June, Leeds Met University
  • The exhibition is supported by The Refugee Council and Leeds Metropolitan University