Politics

This Guerilla Art Campaign Shows How Much We Owe to Refugees

An underground campaign is underway to raise awareness about refugees — by labeling all the things invented or produced by them.

 

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It's the brainchild of photographer Kien Quan and his creative partner Jillian Young. Their goal is to highlight the positive contributions that refugees have made in their adopted countries over the years — and how many of those things have ended up as everyday products, or have influenced world culture.

 

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The pair have been going around New York City putting the stickers on everything from hot sauce, to cars, to influential books and music — and they've put up about 200 labels so far.

The design of the stickers also tells its own story: The stickers are patterned after the flag used in the 2016 Olympics to represent stateless refugee athletes, the first time such a group has competed on the international stage.

Quan told ATTN: the project started from one of his "Facebook rants" — explaining how no one would be using sriracha hot sauce if it weren't for David Tran, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from the Vietnam War.

"Eventually, we started talking about other things made by refugees," he said, "And when we did some Googling to find out more, our minds were blown just by how many other things we ended up finding." 

Photo of Bob Marley album with "Made by Refugee" sticker

Quan says the project also has a personal meaning.

He says he was also inspired after reading about how much resistance there was in the U.S. to accept Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s. He wanted to use the project to respond to President Trump's first go at a controversial immigration ban (that policy, along with its updated version, have both been suspended, pending further legal review).

"My [immediate] family came here from Vietnam in the '90s," he told ATTN:, "But other members of my extended family came over because of the Vietnam War."

His creative partner Young studied for some time in Germany, where she saw the everyday plight of refugees from around the world who have resettled there.

Photo of The Diary of Anne Frank with a "Made by Refugee" sticker

So far, they've put up about 200 stickers throughout the city, and their artwork has appeared as far as Copenhagen, Denmark. Quan says no one has objected to them putting them on things in stores, and he adds they've mostly received positive feedback from people online.

The artists have made the template available for free online, so anyone can download them and make their own.

Featured Image:Instagram/@shawnytheg