On the 23rd of June 2018, The Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru, in partnership with The Royal Cambrian Academy and The Welfare Ystradgynlais presented the all-day event ‘Celebrating Refugees’. The programme was moving and diverse, including short films by Syrians living in Ystradgynlais and a tour of Josef Herman’s archive. We were especially privileged to witness and film this interview, where art historian Paul Joyner was in conversation with artist Karel Lek, who at nearly 90 recounted the story of how he and his Jewish family fled the Nazis before arriving in north Wales. He gives a now rare insight into what it was like to be a wartime refugee here, before going on to describe his experiences as an artist. Lek has for many decades documented everyday life in Bangor and beyond with extraordinary empathy, and the conversation is interrupted now and again where he creates a live charcoal drawing to illustrate a character or anecdote (and also for a flying re-enactment…).
Watch the film below for a powerful and often humorous expression of ‘Welsh internationalism’. With thanks to The Welfare, Ystradgynlais for their hospitality, and to The Josef Herman Foundation and The Royal Cambrian Academy for organising the event.
Here are the drawings created in the course of the conversation. Artwork © Karel Lek, and images by Hywel Edwards.
Paul Joyner in conversation with Karel Lek at The Welfare, Ystradgynlais
You can find out more about what’s on at The Welfare, Ystradgynlais here www.thewelfare.co.uk, and the work of The Royal Cambrian Academy and The Josef Herman Foundation here http://rcaconwy.org/ and here http://josefhermanfoundation.org/
If you liked this you may also like:
Frances Williams evokes contrasting atmospheres in two Bangor cafés across the road from each other, and how this kindles ideas about Welshness, womanhood, culture and resistance, drawing on Raymond Williams, Pierre Bourdieu and memories of her grandmother’s mischievousness.
Catrin Ashton on the impact of an unusual gift to celebrate the birth of her daughter: a 1970s pamphlet by Marxists who led an international campaign for stay-at-home mothers to receive a wage. She argues that mothers in lower-income families have been let down by both capitalism and socialism, and details why the pamphlet is more relevant than ever for contemporary Wales.
By Daniel G. Williams. This is the twenty-seventh contribution to our Welsh Keywords series – inspired by Raymond Williams’ Keywords – which offers contemporary perspectives on contested meanings of words in Welsh and how these shifting meanings continue to shape our society.
Mary-Ann Constantine traces how representations of Wales’s castles have revealed painfully contested ideas about Welsh history, from eighteenth-century watercolours to 2017’s infamous ‘Iron Ring’. She argues that ultimately what is at stake is ownership of both the past and the land, highlighting the enduring power of the Crown Estate in Wales.