Today the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi accepted a sculpture series gifted to UNHCR by Australian former refugee Kim-Anh Nguyen.

Boat People’s Horizon is a series of 12 porcelain paper clay boats, each one representing a story of maritime migration, displayed in front of a seascape wall piece. The artwork has been exhibited across Australia, and will now be permanently housed by UNHCR in Geneva, representing human movement across the years.

Ms Nguyen, who fled Vietnam with her family as a child before making her home in Sydney, presented her striking sculpture to Mr Grandi at the UN headquarters in Geneva. The presentation was attended by Australia for UNHCR National Director Naomi Steer and Australia for UNHCR Board Chair John W.H. Denton.

Ms Nguyen said the idea for Boat People’s Horizon evolved when she was working on a collection of vase-like sculptures called the Spinifex Series, which was about migration of the Indigenous people of Australia.

“I changed from the vase form, and began to make a different vessel – a boat. Then with the boat form, the story of me being a boat person started to come through,” she said. “I began to research other boats that had arrived in Australia, and they become part of the series.”

“I’m honoured UNHCR accepted my offer. I’m ecstatic to have this artwork in the place where the story would be viewed and understood,” Ms Nguyen said.

Ms Steer said: “It was an honour to be present as this stunning piece of artwork was presented to UNHCR. It tells a powerful story, and it is especially meaningful that Kim-Anh, a former refugee, saw the place for her sculpture to be with UNHCR.”

Ms Steer added that the Vietnamese diaspora community in Australia has long been proactive in its support for Australia for UNHCR. In 2016, the Australian Vietnamese community raised $550,000 dollars for Australia for UNHCR’s appeal to support Syrian refugees. The fundraising was largely mobilised by Carina Hoang, a former unaccompanied child refugee from Vietnam, who now lives in Perth.

Ms Nguyen has been a strong supporter of UNHCR over the years, donating funds from an open studio event in 2014 to Australia for UNHCR.

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