Installation view, "Stitched Stories", the MAC, Belfast, Norther Ireland, UK.

Weaving the Present, Shaping the Future

2023 - Socially engaged project and exhibition. The MAC, Belfast, UK

To shed light on the living conditions faced by individuals in the asylum system in Northern Ireland, the MAC Belfast hosted an exclusive performative dinner and socially engaged artistic intervention titled "Weaving the Present, Shaping the Future" created by artist Khaled Barakeh in collaboration with PPR Participation and the Practice of Rights and the Anaka Women's Collective as part of the Mactiviate project "At The Table". The project featured several artistic elements: a curated dinner, AI image-generated photographic works, a socially engaged workshop that resulted in eleven photographs, and a fashion show.

The event was a unique opportunity to examine and discuss the issues faced by people in the asylum system who seek safety in Northern Ireland and highlight the resilience and skills of artists, creatives, designers, teachers, accountants, scientists, mothers, daughters, and brothers who risked their lives for safety. All collaborators involved in the event have fled conflict zones and now live in temporary accommodation run by a private company below basic standards (Mears Group). They receive £9.11 per week to live on, and none have the right to work. They receive secondhand clothes that don't fit their bodies, culture, or personality.

Reverse Hierarchy


The artist used stamps from his artwork Self Portrait as a Power Structure to simulate racial profiling. All guests of colour were stamped and allowed to enter at the entrance without waiting, while others were subjected to queueing, delaying, questioning, and identity checks.

Photos by Photo by Melissa Gordon

Around the Table – Conversations that Matter

Curated dinner

The event was a curated dinner that opened channels among people seeking asylum and stakeholders while having a dinner cooked by professional chefs caught in the asylum-seeking system. The guests were divided into groups to discuss commitments to the PPR campaign and what could be done together and to come back with feedback to all guests. The feedback was moderated by Paul Gosling, author, researcher, lecturer, and broadcaster. Speakers included the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Chief Commissioner Alyson Kilpatrick, Rt Hon. Lord Mayor Cllr Ryan Murphy, the MAC Chief Executive Anne McReynolds, and engineer and activist Tawassul Mohammed.

Chosen sentences from the gathered stories of asylum seekers covered the tablecloth to spark significant discussions. A factsheet outlining the Asylum System was crafted, serving a dual purpose as functional food napkins. To turn them into financial value, the artist signed these napkins as a limited edition to push people to keep them as a reminder.

Photos by Photo by Melissa Gordon

Stitched Stories

Socially engaged workshop, 11 photography works (each 136x90 cm), and a fashion show

In partnership with Participation and the Practice of Rights and Anaka Women's Collective, Barakeh cooperated with eleven asylum seekers artists and three local fashion designers in a six-week workshop. Together, they transformed their given secondhand clothes, personalizing them to reflect their individual styles and utilizing them as a powerful medium for self-expression.

Another set of clothing was flattened and stitched together to construct a long passage, which participants used as a catwalk to present their custom-designed outfits to protest their conditions in a fashion show format.

Participants are Ahmed Osama (Sudan), Anfaal Almughallis (Yemen), Asraa al-Tmimi (Yemen), Hind Adnan Ali (Iraq), Mahsa Jahangirpour (Iran), Melav Rahim (Kurdistan), Omima Hasabelrsoul Ahmed (Sudan), Omaia Mortada Abdalla (Sudan), Raha Shafiei (Iran), Saba Barhoum (Syria), Salwa Alsharabi (Yemen) — workshop coordinator Kira Topalian.

A Missing Camera

32 AI-generated photographic works, each 21x30 cm

'A Missing Camera' is a photographic work generated using AI technology, inspired by collected lived experiences and testimonies of individuals caught in the asylum-seeking system in Northern Ireland.

The project ventures into uncharted territory, where momentous moments of people's narratives are analyzed and transformed into visual testimonies. These moments, where a camera was missing to be captured, become an act of reclamation, where the absence of a camera during these pivotal moments paradoxically becomes the catalyst for their artistic representation. The missing camera metaphorically embodies the gaps in documentation and presentation.

In a world grappling with the implications of image faking and manipulation, 'A Missing Camera' invites contemplation on the potential of AI technology as a vehicle for amplifying marginalized narratives and challenges preconceived notions of truth and authenticity, where actual reality is way far more surreal than any fictionalized reality. 'A Missing Camera' transcends the realm of traditional communication and storytelling, forging a new form of visual expression that empowers and elevates the voices of those historically silenced, surpassing cultural, linguistic, and geographical boundaries.

Selected Artworks