In August 2013, we took our inspired:arts project to Carers Support Merton where our professional artist Phoebe Davies worked with 13 young carers. They investigated personal identity and self-expression through photography, performance and writing. Each participant composed a photograph with their individual response to what identity means to them, which was exhibited at the end of the project.
Aamilah (15) cares for her younger brother, who is 11 and is diagnosed as having autism and behavioural difficulties. As he can be very demanding (particularly with regard to attention) and can display very challenging behaviour, Aamilah’s caring responsibilities have often impacted on her ability to engage freely in personal interests and socialise with her school friends. Aamilah joined Carers Support Merton in 2009, having recently relocated (along with her mother and brother) from Newcastle to London. This transition was incredibly difficult for the family, requiring them to build completely new support networks. After the project, she told us:
“I enjoyed creating an alter ego. Before the project, I’ve always been interested in psychology and alter egos come under abnormal psychology so I thought that was really interesting. I also enjoyed creating the mind maps about our identity.
“I feel more confident about talking about my identity, which is something I would normally shy away from doing because it’s personal to me. It has been quite hard because you make yourself vulnerable. You talk about things that are personal to you, which is a big deal. I’m sort of looking forward to sharing my work [at the exhibition] but I’m nervous about people seeing the work. I really like the rest of the group’s work!
“It’s been interesting working with an artist. I have enjoyed working with someone who knows what they are talking about, someone professional. I have met other artists before and they were so full of themselves but Phoebe is really down to earth, which is a good thing. You can talk to her. It’s been good working with other people because I don’t usually, I usually prefer to work by myself because I have a strong idea of what I want to do and I’m a bit of a control freak! But it has been good to work collaboratively; it’s been beneficial having to adapt to work with others. I have enjoyed working with everyone here because we get on. I like the idea of young carers coming together (for projects like this)!”
“Religion is the foundation for my life; it has helped me through so many dark times and always kept me between the lines of both right and wrong. I owe so much to my religion for guiding through what could be considered a difficult and unsettling adolescence. My photo displays what is known the Muslim world as the Shahada, which is the declaration of belief in the oneness of God and acceptance of Muhammad as God’s Prophet. It translates from Arabic as: “I bear witness that there is no deity worthy to be worshiped but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.”
Aamilah’s name has been changed to protect anonymity.
This story is from 2013.