Art Stands with Refugee Women 2019

At a time of heightened consideration for women’s rights, drawing attention to refugee women and girls is all the more fundamental.  To celebrate the strength, the economic empowerment and the social participation of refugee women and girls, the 2019 edition of the “Art Stands with Refugees” project is entirely dedicated to their cause. The event took place on 12 June 2019 in Basel.

There are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world today. It is an intolerable number which demonstrates a colossal failure of politics. We must find ways to offer refugees a home, a new life. What is the meaning of humanity if we fail? Art and culture offer society essential spaces of freedom that have unfortunately become too rare nowadays. Let us welcome them here, among us, in these spaces. Perhaps the world will follow us?

Alfredo Jaar, artist

More than half of the world’s refugees are women and girls. They can be targeted for the same reasons as men, but they also face specific forms of persecution, such as gender-based violence. Refugee women and girls often demonstrate extraordinary resilience and courage in surmounting these obstacles and rebuilding their lives. As women’s rights as a whole are being claimed more forcefully, it seems essential to raise public awareness about the cause of refugee women and girls as well.

In order to communicate this message, UNHCR has joined forces with a range of prestigious artists who either support the rights of forcibly displaced people or who have themselves experienced exile. Alfredo Jaar conceived the project “Where should birds fly after the last sky?” inspired by a poem by the writer Mahmoud Darwish. Eleven artists were invited to contribute to a series of artistic posters to be exhibited in Basel during the fair until 20 June 2019, which marks World Refugee Day.

The artistic posters series on exhibition in Basel from 7 to 20 June

Where should birds fly after the last sky?
– A project dedicated to refugee women

Download our map of the exhibition and the flyer dedicated to the project – both available at official Art Basel’s info points.

Discover all the original artworks auctioned until 20 June 2019 to benefit UNHCR activities through the Made 51 project on the Live Auctioneers platform.


While some artists created a specific artwork for the project, others provided a pre-existing work illustrating the contemporary drama of forced displacement. An original work signed by the artists was also auctioned to benefit UNHCR activities through the Made 51 project, which supports the economic inclusion of refugee women in the handicrafts sector.

Participating artists include Alfredo Jaar, Tania Bruguera, Bouchra Khalili, Miriam Cahn and François Burland, the refugee artists Hayv Kahraman, Allam Fakhour and Natalia Sierra Poveda (with the support of the Zurich University of the Arts) as well as photographers Emmanuel Jambo, Helena Christensen and Reza.

This initiative aims both to celebrate the creative potential and resilience of refugees and to recognize the commitment of artists and institutions that have used their influence to amplify the voices of refugees. The title of the event, “Art Stands with Refugee Women”, recognizes this crucial role and invites the public to show solidarity with women and families forced to flee, as well as encourages cultural institutions to open their doors to refugees.

Video: What can art do for refugees?