What It Means to Be a Refugee

By Kate McDonald

Ifrah Mansour is a multimedia artist and teacher living in Minneapolis. Much of her work centers around the Somali refugee experience. She recently read her poem “I Am a Refugee” at Twin Cities World Refugee Day, where these portraits were taken.

She spoke with me about the story behind her work.

Rewire: Can you describe your own experience as a refugee?    

Ifrah Mansour: I was a child when my family and I fled the civil war in Somalia. No one should ever have to go through what a refugee experiences. 

Rewire: Why did you decide to write this poem? 

IM: I wanted to respond to the global refugee politics that is often harsh and dehumanizing. I just wanted to write a poem that listed all the blessings and the lessons refugees teach us.   

I really hope that regardless of race, religion and circumstance that we learn to see all humans as individuals who should have equal rights to find a safe home and the pursuit of happiness. The refugee experience is diverse and unique for every individual. When a person is forced out of their home, all they know is… fear, hunger and danger.

Rewire: Is this poem based on your personal experience? 

IM: This poem was inspired by the new refugees that I work with and the diverse individuals I see on (the transit system). There is a mixture of hope and perseverance. There is this unapologetic strength of, “We’ve survived civil wars, famines and tyrants. We’ll get through this as well.”

Rewire: What was challenging about writing this poem?   

IM: I wanted to capture the resilient spirit of refugees around the world, but I also wanted to be honest about our current harsh politics toward refugees. 

Rewire: What do you hope for the refugees of the world? 

IM: I really wish for every refugee to find a safe home, peace and belonging somewhere. Isn’t that what we all want?

More from Rewire:

GirlForward Helps Young Refugees Transition to a New Life

One Refugee’s Long-Distance Love Story

Upwardly Global Connects Refugees With Careers

Growing Up Hmong American: One Woman’s Path

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