Eskander Turki: London street art depicts NI athletes’ race for freedom from oppression

Three immersive works of art have been unveiled on London’s South Bank, depicting an Ethiopian refugee’s journey to safety in the UK.

he three-dimensional pieces depict the story of Eskander Turki, who is now a member of the Northern Ireland athletics team.

The street art, created by the duo known as 3D Joe & Max, tells how Mr Turki, who fled his home in Ethiopia, sought refuge in the UK and found healing while running.

Mr Turki said: “Ten years ago I couldn’t imagine the life I have today.

“The support and community I have found in the UK, through Migrant Help and in my run, has helped me heal from the trauma of my past.

“I was forced to flee my home and leave my family behind in Ethiopia, fearing for my life and seeking safety.

“Now my racing has saved me in so many other ways. I have found new hope for my future – starting a family with my wife Amina, following a new career path and racing for Team Ireland North.”

There are three works of art, depicting the three stages of Mr Turki’s journey, as part of a campaign by Migrant Help to mark Refugee Week 2022.

The immersive style invites viewers to literally step into the frame, allowing people to place themselves in the different chapters of Mr. Turki’s story.

The first piece depicts him fleeing violence and persecution in Ethiopia, the second shows his journey across the Mediterranean by canoe, and the third depicts him seeking asylum and settling in Northern Ireland, where he embarks on running.

Mr Turki left Ethiopia in 2011 after being imprisoned and tortured for four months for taking part in a student protest while studying electrical engineering at university.

His mother sold her possessions to raise money so he could flee to Sudan, fearing he would end up like his father and brother, who were both killed by the army.

However, what followed was a decade of abuse in which he was enslaved on a Sudanese construction site, imprisoned by smugglers in Libya, escaped across the Mediterranean in a dinghy , and was assaulted and left homeless in Italy.

He finally settled in Belfast in April 2019, and it was there that a doctor suggested he take up running to manage his trauma. He did and went on to earn a place in the Northern Ireland and Ulster Athletics team earlier this year.

Mr Turki has already won a silver medal at the British Inter-County Cross Country Championships.

In August he will make his track debut at the Northern Ireland Championships and the Antrim Coast Half Marathon as part of the elite peloton, which will see him compete against some of the best runners in the world including Sir Mo Farah.

Joe Hill of 3D Joe & Max said: “When I heard Eskander’s story I was blown away. The journey he has been on is unfathomable for those of us who haven’t not faced such danger.

“Through the anamorphic artworks I have created, my aim has been to convey the emotion of the moments depicted, moments that many refugees experience in their own way – be it fear, hope or solitude.

“The scenes I create are never whole until people interact with them, and the purpose of these pieces is to allow audiences to see themselves in Eskander’s experiences, to really connect with what he lived and celebrate the life he built.”

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