Afghan-Canadian refugee artist designs World Refugee Day Twitter emoji
#UNHCR; #UNRefugeeAgency; #Twitter; #EmojiDesign
NEW YORK — UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and Twitter have teamed up with a refugee to design an emoji honoring the millions of people forced to flee war and persecution.
UNHCR and Twitter commissioned Afghan-Canadian artist Hangama Amiri to create the emoji for World Refugee Day, celebrated each year on 20 June. It is the first time the emoji has been designed by a refugee. The design features a blue heart cupped between two hands to symbolize protection and solidarity. It goes live today and will be activated on any tweet that uses the hashtags #WorldRefugeeDay, #WithRefugees, and #RefugeeDay, in any of 12 languages, through 23 June.
“Twitter is pleased to continue our partnership with UNHCR with the creation of this emoji honouring those who are forced to flee war and persecution,” said Twitter’s Director of Public Policy, Government and Philanthropy for Middle East and North Africa, George Salama. “We are especially proud that this year for the first time, the emoji has been designed by a refugee, Afghan-Canadian artist Hangama Amiri. We hope that Hangama’s story will inspire others and the emoji will help to raise awareness and demonstrate solidarity with the refugee community worldwide.”
Hangama Amiri was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan and displaced multiple times as a child due to the conflict raging in her native Afghanistan. As a young refugee, Amiri said drawing helped her feel safe and make sense of things around her.
While living in Tajikistan, she received a scholarship after winning an art competition held by UNHCR. In 2005, she and her family were resettled in Nova Scotia, Canada. She recently completed a graduate degree at the Yale School of Art in the United States. Her colorful textile work explores issues related to feminism, geopolitics, and memory and has been exhibited across Europe, Canada, and the United States.
“I decided to come up with an idea around hope, togetherness and love,” Amiri said. “As a refugee, the love around me was the only thing I held on to.” She created a tangible version of the digital emoji by sewing together scraps of colourful fabric, a technique she uses frequently in her artwork.