Refugee designers and artists share their journeys on

Refugees have to make difficult decisions when fleeing their homes. But while they can only carry so much, they bring countless gifts to their new communities: hopes and dreams, experiences and talents, traditions and family stories, resilience and determination. 

For World Refugee Day 2022 (June 20), the International Rescue Committee partnered with Instagram’s @design account to tell the stories of three designers and artists who, having fled their homes as refugees, brought more than they carried with them. Explore their work below.

Nima Javan – from Iran to the United Kingdom

My art is a visual way for my own animal characters to describe our world. I think that anyone can find meaning from my characters.

 – Nima Javan (@nimajavan.art on Instagram)

Born in Iran, where he studied graphic design and painting, Nima arrived in the United Kingdom in 2019 as an asylum seeker. Working from his London flat, Nima brings a contemporary aesthetic to the traditional Persian art that inspires him. He’s been using his art to tell stories of shared experiences among refugees, and he dreams of creating large-scale sculptures of his animal characters for public display.

Watch Nima’s video on @design to learn more about his work and see how it comes to life: 

Kadijatu Grace Ahene – from Sierra Leone to the United States

Kadijatu Grace Ahene sits in front of a garden

Photo: Rosem Morton

Everybody has a song, but everybody’s is just a little bit different. So if you and I are able to identify who we are and what our power is, then we have succeeded.

 – Kadijatu Grace Ahene (@dijastouch_ on Instagram)

Born in Sierra Leone, Kadijatu struggled with depression as an asylum seeker building a new life in Arizona. She couldn’t find her story in the culture around her. One night, she prayed. 

“Believe it or not,” Kadijatu recalls, “I dreamt of making shoes.”  She bought a cheap pair of sneakers and pulled them apart to learn how to make them herself.  Today she uses African prints to create custom-designed shoes and other items.

Learn more about Kadijatu’s work and how she uses her brand Dija’s Touch to give back to her community:

 Diala Brisly – from Syria to France

Diala stands with her hands on her hips in a room with children who are painting

Art is a way to communicate. With art, we learn more about our personality.

 – Diala Brisly (@dialabrisly on Instagram)

When civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, artist and animator Diala Brisly’s work shifted into political art and journalism. Forced to flee her home in 2013, Diala began running art workshops and creating murals in refugee camps in Turkey and Lebanon before seeking asylum in France. 

This summer, Diala is publishing a graphic novel. She is also working on a children’s book about PTSD and hosts art therapy workshops for kids. 

Explore Diala’s work and find out the creative advice she gives her students: 

5 ways you can welcome refugees

We stand for a world that recognizes, welcomes and supports all refugees, on World Refugee Day (June 20) and every day.

Explore how you can help welcome refugees on World Refugee Day 2022 and beyond.