I went to the central library’s children’s section in Copenhagen to look for animal picture books, and I found a nice book about wild chimpanzees. While turning the pages of the book my eyes caught a photograph taken of a chimpanzee mum holding her baby. I was very surprised to see all the emotions in their eyes, especially the baby which seemingly was trying to catch the mums attention. I decided simultaneously that the photo would be the best subject of my drawing. I had bought a new Derwent graphic set and that was the best way to try them. There were so much details and shades in the photo, the more I looked at it the more it made me more excited to draw it.
During that time, in spring 2000, I was living in Avnstrup, the biggest camp for asylum seekers in Sjælland and I had recently moved to a small room with two single beds in a shared house. On my first arrival to Avnstrup in November 1999, they put me in a big room with three bunk beds. Avnstrup was the second camp I was relocated to after staying for about a month in the first receiving camp. Since then I had shared rooms with all sorts of women like my situation. When I realised that cases would take from two years up to unknown time, as there were many people in the camps whose cases were refused for more than 8 years, I needed some privacy.
While awaiting during that unstable impending situation, I needed at least physical stability, a framework and daily routine. In the early few days in Avnstrup I observed that people were sent randomly with very short or even no notice to the many other camps in the remote islands in Denmark. Thinking that I might be relocated again to other isolated areas added further to my already existing anxiety. I have been on move, with risk and unknowingness across countries and borders for more than 6 moths since I left Kurdistan. I simply needed to settle down in one piece in one place while my case was being processed. I was told that if I volunteered with the Danish Red Cross, which was managing the camps, they might let me to stay and most probably give me a smaller room with less beds. Being busy was the best way to keep me going while not knowing what the future would hold. I made a routine for myself; going to language classes, self-teaching with audio books and dictionaries, helping at the reception with petty cash, teaching English to residents in the evenings, and joining the camp’s newsletter group.
The camp was a big military base, with the capacity of 800 people, which after the 2nd world war was used as a hospital for people with mental health problems and/or tuberculosis patients. It was located in the middle of nowhere in a forest some miles away from nearest civilisation which you only could be driven to and was hard to reach on foot. I was often wandering around in the forest, taking different paths trying to enjoy the beauty of the different shades of greens the trees and plants were wearing. When I look back, strangely I never felt scared to be alone in the forest. That is maybe because firstly, I didn’t hear of any incidents that had happened and no one warned us not to walk into the forest. Secondly, purely because I had no any other alternative. Either I had to stay in my room and let memories eat me up, or I simply drift in the vast forest deep in the woods in the surge to feel life whilst everything else was set on standby. The beauty of the landscapes, the delicacy of spring sunrays together with the merged transparent colours stunned my heart and soul. The sceneries were a physical affirmation manifesting that life was full of exquisiteness, though not for me at that moment. I felt I was outside of life looking at it.