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Africa’s next top model as an escape

Africa’s next top model as an escape

Photographer:Fotograaf: Chiara Janssen

Tricks of the Trade

Three months in Ghana, 45 interviews. For her master’s thesis in Globalisation and Development Studies at FASoS, Chiara Janssen (24) researched the meaning of ‘home’ to Liberian women in the refugee camp Burubudam.

“Before going to Ghana I started wondering how someone who has been living in a refugee camp for over twenty years perceives of ‘home’. Can refugees really feel at home? Do they manage to create a home when the threat of having to leave is always lurking? After speaking to many Liberian women, I found that there was something contradictory going on. None of them would say they felt at home in Burubudam. But on the other hand, home had very different meanings among these women. It could mean shelter, but also family and relationships. One of my interviewees explained the meaning of home as a connection between the people she was living with, all of them having the ultimate goal of living peacefully together. Naturally, the refugees would engage in certain home-making practices. Doing things to turn their house into a home as far as possible. Later on in my research it turned out that these practices were also a coping mechanism. Something to help them deal with the harsh realities these women found themselves in. As one of my respondents said: ‘Choice is not on my side. This house is what I have right now; I have to make the best of it’.”

“What turned out to be very important to many refugees was the television. Some of them even chose to purchase a TV, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to buy food for a few days. Watching television really can be a way to break free from reality. So I followed their example. On weekends, whenever I wasn't doing research, I’d either try to travel around the country (which was not very safe), or engage in what became one of my favourite activities: Watching Africa’s next top model on the tiny TV in my hotel room. At least that would take away some of the frustration of researching the refugees’ lives and homes, but not really being able to do something in return.”

Iris Fraikin

In this series, students talk about their inspiring (research) projects

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