Artistic genius against the backdrop of a harsh reality is how one might describe the lifestyle of self-taught Congolese fashion designer, Jérôme Baku — who also happens to be an asylum seeker in Paris, France after fleeing his homeland in 2018 away from persecution for his political opinions.
He shares his stance, "I didn't come here with an empty head, I had something in me, the profession, and that's what I try to pass on to people who know nothing and to teach them something. Style, appearance, it's important. Here they can choose. I tell them you mustn't show that you're undocumented, because it will isolate you. You have to walk proudly, so you don't get discriminated against."
Groomed at the Fine Arts School in the capital Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Baku is actually a sculptor by trade but has since drawn inspiration from the Workshop for Artists in Exile to manually create fabulous clothing for other refugees. His attitude is positive in spite of all the hardship he has already faced in his life, "I want to give them back their dignity. I want to change the way we see immigrants."
Mohammad Haroun, a migrant from Pakistan expresses how the clothing and designs make him feel, "It's great that it's beautiful and especially that we're here with him to participate, to learn from him. That we can also try it, that we can develop a skill. If we learn, then we can get a job."
Jérémy Barthez, the head of the Humanitarian Stopover believes that Baku’s creative endeavours are good for the migrant community, "It is also a reason for people arriving in France to see those other people who are in the same situation - administrative - that they manage to get by, manage to develop their passion, their activity, to make it their profession.
His asylum case still in limbo, Baku remains resilient