In 2022, The Refugee Buddy Project opened the doors of The Dove Café at 19 Bexhill Road. Ever since, it has been serving delicious coffee and an everchanging menu of wholesome foods. The café is a cosy, sunlit, people-oriented space – one that thrives on a culture of welcome and belonging, not just for those with lived refugee and migrant experience, but for everyone in Hastings. This photo-documentary series made by Nour El-Din, captures the hospitality of the volunteers – many of whom are participants of the charity and for whom this space was created – the lovingly prepared dishes, and the warmth of a growing community of patrons that look to the café for nourishment of body and soul.
Nour El-Din is 27 and was born in Homs, Syria. Through his photography, he aspires to capture beautiful places and to convey people’s stories, voices, and feelings. Having precariously travelled to Jordan with his family, they finally arrived in Britain after 5 years of waiting and are thankful for the love and support they have found in the communities of Hastings and St Leonards.
Nour was also part of the group show ‘And they were you’ at Electro Studios Project Space in June, for refugee week 2023. A very interesting and professional show with thought provoking themes and images, underpinned by celebrating the beauty of community.
Under the mentorship of Colin Booth, Nour created a portrait series ‘West St Leonards International’ documenting local business owners at work, creating a lively snapshot of the community from the surrounding area of The Dove Café in West St Leonards. It’s an area I lived in until recently and I enjoyed seeing the shop keepers and pub landlords I knew well, captured in their element by Nour.
Chiara Fabbro a documentary photographer who focuses on stories about human rights and migration presented ‘Scars and Solidarity’ a series of photographs of the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina. People who having survived the war in the 1990s are now supporting those who have been displaced by conflict. The images were beautifully made, making use of dark shadows and lighter moments, young men bathing in a river and a shop keeper displaying his collection of foreign bank notes in the shop from where he helps those who need support.
A new audio-visual work ‘We Saw Dolphins’ was commissioned from Internationally renowned photographer and filmmaker Chloe Dewe Mathews, who considers daily life in the coastal community where she lives, in the context of migration. The artist surveys the shoreline through the lens of a roving telescope, a round window, observing boats and people relaxing on the beach. The audio features a description of a small boat landing, the narrator being reminded of her own childhood arrival. At one point the newly arrived people, volunteers, the police and lifeboat crew sit down and enjoy fish and chips together, a far cry from the rhetoric of national debate.
There was an award-winning film by Lou Gerring and Cheryl White, ‘In Which Loneliness Suffers a Loss’ which cleverly played out a story of connection for a migrant woman through the eyes of Hastings’ CCTV cameras.
In the Landing Gallery ‘Stitch for Change’ presented a patchwork story telling project hosted to bring together buddies, newly arrived people seeking refuge or migrants and friends. 26 women came together to sew and connect through sharing their stories. The resulting stitched panels were at once heart wrenching and heartwarming.
Whilst Refugee week has ended, Nour El-Din’s photo-documentary series ‘Portraits of The Dove Café’ continues at Hastings Museum until 17 September. ‘Portraits of The Dove Café’ is Hastings Museums contribution to Refugee Week 2023.
Article by Tracy Jones : @tracyjones_studio
All images © the artists, main image: Portraits of The Dove Café – Helen © Nour El-Din 2023
Hastings Museum & Art Gallery: hmag.org.uk
Electro Studios Project Space: electrostudiosprojectspace.co.uk | @electro_studios_project_space
The Dove Cafe: The Dove Cafe Facebook
The Refugee Buddy Project: therefugeebuddyproject.org
Nour El-Din: @mm7719m
Chiara Fabbro: chiarafabbro.carrd.co | @chi.fabb
Chloe Dewe Mathews: chloedewemathews.com | @chloedewemathews