”If someone was in a bad or sad mood at the reception centre, she or he would break a glass. I collected the shards in a box and started to use them to make works of art. Each shard contains an emotion, either sadness or happiness,” says Raman Hussain.
He is doing his pedagogical studies at the School of Education and works as an immigration worker and art instructor at the Mänttä-Vilppula reception centre. As an immigration worker his job description is to “organise the life of the refugees who are seeking asylum”.
Raman Hussain has graduated as an arts teacher in Kirkuk, Iraq, and he has lived in Finland since 2003.
”I have to be in contact with relatives in Iraq every day because there is war and bombings in Kirkuk. In Finland, I have a wife and a daughter who is a first grader and all the rest of my family is in Kirkuk. Last year we went to visit relatives in Iraq as our daughter needs to see her grandmother sometimes. The visit was happy and sad. I was unable to walk the streets because I no longer knew where it was safe. There are a million people living in Kirkuk and they cannot all just leave,” says Raman Hussain.
Baghdad which is south from Kirkuk and has six million inhabitants is called a city of widows in Iraq. Hussain wants his daughter to have a peaceful life and hopes that one day it will be possible also in Iraq.
An immigration worker, an art instructor, a student, a wife, a daughter – how does he find the time to do the magnificent mosaic works?
”I steal time from here and there. Sometimes I can use the arts workshop at the Mänttä reception centre, sometimes I work at home. My latest works are all glass mosaic.”
Raman Hussein’s works are rife with symbolism: an eye and an arm, fish and letters. “The eye and the arm mean protection, the letters I have used to spell e.g. the word ‘peace’ and the fish means hope.” Hussain’s works often also depict kulabal, the traditional coat from Iraq with bulky shoulders.
”With my art, I want to give you Finns something you haven’t known before,” laughs Raman and talks about the large work of art in the lobby of the School of Education: “The whole show is about the meeting of the west and the east made out of shards of glass that symbolise the joys and sorrows of the people at the reception centre. When I first came to Finland, I left behind the hot sun of Iraq. It is here on the right. But the Finnish sun was shy and it is depicted here on the left.”
The delightful exhibition of Raman Hussain’s older and more recent works depicting the meeting of the east and the west will be opened in the lobby and Café of the School of Education on Thursday 12 September at 15-17.
Text: Taina Repo
Photograph: Jonne Renvall