What’s one thing thousands of people put in their hands, homes and workplaces on the daily? A hot cup of coffee. How can you spark a discussion with an entire city at once? Stamp a conversation starter on a coffee cup.
Customers across Melbourne are being introduced to an unexpected friend at coffee shops across the city this month — Layla is a symbol of struggle and courage, and here to spark discussion about Australia’s untold refugee stories. The concept is a simple one, designed and implemented by non-profit group Road to Refuge.
At first glance Layla is a sweet illustration on a coffee cup, but dive a little deeper (follow the link, explore the hashtag, or head to the exhibition) and you’ll discover that she has a story to tell and so do many of her friends. Sadly, Layla’s story reflects the impossible decision many asylum seekers face: do I leave my home and family behind in order to survive?
Director of Road to Refuge, Sam Butcher says, “We thought that by leveraging Melbourne’s love of coffee, we could bring stories of people from refugee backgrounds into the hands and minds of regular latte-drinking Melburnians in a non-invasive way — allowing them to engage as much or as little as they wish in this conversation. At the very least, we hoped to plant a seed about the issue.”
This year the cups also act as an invitation to the Stories About Hope exhibition by artist Renee Dixson and curated by Amber Hearn; an event to celebrate the dignity, identities, and strength of people from refugee backgrounds.
“Our coffee cups are kickstarters for deeper engagement with Australia’s treatment of refugees,” says project coordinator Alexandra Chlebowski. “We’re encouraging everyone who grabs our cups to come to our exhibition and see the untold stories of Australia’s refugee community from the people who live them.”
Sam goes on to explain how even something small can make a significant shift for an issue that’s much bigger.
“We’d like people to take the time to attend, or engage online, with Stories About Hope and see people from refugee backgrounds represented as they would like to be seen — not solely defined by their experience of seeking asylum, and not through the frame of victims. And we hope that they will take the time to listen and connect to these stories and the exhibition’s central message of hope.”
Feature image sourced from Market Lane Coffee @marketlane