Since November 17, 2023, the UK art landscape has witnessed the beauty of art from a different perspective.
Apart from showcasing colour and enthralling techniques, this time, the arts are passing across a salient message in a strategic advocacy for African women suffering sexual exploitation and other abuses abroad.
The advocacy is through an art exhibition titled, ‘Send Them Home – Stop Human Trafficking’.
The new exhibition, which launched in London on November 17th, exposes the trafficking of African women for sexual exploitation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The women featured in the exhibition are some of the thousands of vulnerable women who arrive in Dubai every year from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and across Africa after being sold false promises of working in well-paid jobs in the UAE.
However, when they arrive, many are tricked into forced sex work and their passports are often confiscated by their traffickers. To regain their travel documents, and especially their freedom, the women are told that they must pay their employers huge sums by engaging in sex work.
The exhibition is an immersive journey into the dark and complex world of human trafficking, providing visitors with an opportunity to hear real testimonies from survivors and activists from Africa and around the world.
It is organised by Send Them Home, a campaign group helping to repatriate Nigerian and other African women trafficked to the UAE for forced sex work, and Hope Education Project, a pilot education programme in Ghana tackling human trafficking at its source.
Angus Thomas, founder, Send Them Home and Hope Education Project, said that the exhibition provides a platform for these important stories to be heard.
“Like many vulnerable women the world over, they were cruelly manipulated and exploited – with officials seemingly allowing human trafficking to flourish and sex workers to operate openly in the UAE’s lavish international hotels. Yet in the face of deception, adversity, and abuse, these women have shown incredible strength and bravery. Shining a light on the dark underground world of human trafficking through this immersive exhibition empowers visitors with the knowledge of the survivors’ experiences to recognise and, one day I hope, eradicate human trafficking for good,” Thomas explained.
Send Them Home is currently working with the Nigerian National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to repatriate three women trafficked to the UAE for forced sex work. One of them has just returned to Nigeria, whilst two others are waiting in a safe location in Dubai for their emergency travel documents to be processed and are expected to leave the UAE in the coming weeks.
Speaking on the import of the exhibition, Fatima Waziri-Azi, a professor and director general, NAPTIP, said that it is timely because human trafficking does not just rob one soul of freedom, but it steals hope from families, shatters friendships, and stains the very fabric of humanity.
“Since 2018, we have had 146 trafficking victims emanating from the UAE, including potential victims intercepted from airports. The highest number we have seen was in 2022 when we coordinated 63 rescues and repatriations.
“We are working with Send Them Home to rescue more women from the UAE. Next week, we expect to receive three more survivors of human trafficking forced into sex work to be safely returned to Nigeria,” the NAPTIP boss said.
However, the free-entry exhibition runs until December 20,202 at #59 Greek Street in Soho, London, UK, from 11 am to 9 pm, offering art lovers, women advocates and the UK audience, an enthralling festive show.