The mission statement for l’Atelier des Artistes en Exil – the Agency of Artists in Exile – contains a particularly powerful phrase: ‘being a refugee is not a profession.’ People in exile are not defined by their exile. When people leave their homes to flee instability, war or persecution, they do not leave their humanity behind, nor their experiences or their skills. When artists leave their homes, they remain artists.
A grassroots initiative right in the heart of Paris, l’Atelier supports artists that have been exiled from homelands as distant as Syria, Venezuela, DR Congo or Kazakhstan. The shape that this support takes is wide-ranging and invaluable, whether it is providing one-on-one advice regarding funding applications or CVs; facilitating workshops, training courses or meetings with industry professionals; or just as simple as giving a space in which to work in peace. Volunteers at l’Atelier offer everything from French tuition, legal advice and acting lessons.
Although the organisation has only run since 2017, the blossoms of their work are many and beautiful. Just a handful of l’Atelier’s 200-plus artists showcase at its annual festival, Visions d’Exil, but still their outputs span the worlds of theatre, dance, calligraphy, films, comedy, storytelling, graphic and performance arts, literature and music, all exploring the lived realities of exile from many different perspectives.