Ottawa

Prized possessions: ordinary objects tell refugees' stories

A worn soccer ball, a yellow skipping rope, a simple coffee cup: they're all part of a poignant exhibit on Thursday at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Oxfam exhibit on Thursday evening at Canadian Museum of Nature

This little skipping rope was given to an 11-year-old Syrian girl by a woman in Greece. (Caroline Leal)

A worn soccer ball, a yellow skipping rope with bumblebee handles, a simple coffee cup: ordinary items that tell the extraordinary stories of people who lost nearly everything else to war.

They're also part of poignant exhibit on Thursday evening at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Oxfam's award-winning Museum Without a Home showcases personal objects donated by refugees from around the world. 

"It's a unique exhibit because these are not necessarily works of art. These are everyday items," curator Amanda Gomm told CBC Radio's Ontario Morning. "But to the people who have donated them … these are very special objects."

Refugees fleeing conflict or persecution are often forced to leave their homes with nothing, so the belongings they're given once they find a safe haven can become precious possessions. 

Amanda Gomm is a curator of the award-winning Oxfam exhibit that showcases items refugees were given after fleeing conflict. (Caroline Leal)

Behind each object, a story

The exhibit began in Greece, where many refugees sought shelter after crossing the Mediterranean Sea in search of safety.

The skipping rope belonged to an 11-year-old Syrian girl, and was given to her by a kind Greek woman who owned a toy store.

Refugees used some of the items, such as this soccer ball, to help connect with people in their new home. (Caroline Leal)

The soccer ball, which is covered with children's signatures, belonged to a Syrian boy who sought refuge in the U.S., and who used the ball to help find make friends at his new school. 

"Behind each item is a simple story that brings to life the individual refugee and the people who helped them," Gomm said.

"[They show] the beauty of solidarity and the community felt by people who fled from crisis from all around the world."

Each item is accompanied by a note written by the person who donated it.

Museum Without a Home, billed as an evening of art, food and music, is on at the Canadian Museum of Nature on Thursday evening only, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

CBC Radio's Ontario Morning