Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015,Ai Weiwei. Photo: Mstyslav Chernov.
BY KAZADLESBOS, GREECE – As more refugees pour into Europe, the call for the humane treatment of people seeking asylum from war and political persecution has grown.
Like many concerned people, artists have started lending their voices to the cruel treatment of refugees. First, it was Banksy who, with his mural of Apple finder Steve Jobs on a wall in the Calais migrant camp in northern France, drew attention to the sufferings of refugees. Dressed in his trademark blue jeans, black polo neck sweater, and round glasses, Jobs has a black bin bag thrown over one shoulder and an original Apple computer in the other hand.
Banksy’s painting of Apple founder Steve Jobs brings attention to the importance of migration to Western nations. The son of an immigrant from Syria, Jobs led a company that has become the most valuable company in the world. From iPad, to iPhone, iPod, iWatch and Apple computers, Apple has continued to change the world as we know it .
As the call for the humane treatment of people seeking asylum in Europe and other continues, another artist has joined in the effort to bring attention to the plight of refugees who are living in appalling condition in refugee camps.
The Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei has sent up a studio on the Geek island of Lesbos. The objective is to create artworks highlighting the plight of refugees that have been living in deplorable conditions for months. As an artist, Ai believes it is his responsibility to bring attention to this crisis and the situation of the people who are suffering.
The island of Lesbos is the main entry point for hundreds and thousands of refugees escaping from Syria and other places to Europe. Many of the desperate refugees traveled in rubber dinghy and inflated boats from the nearby Turkey to Lesbos. More than 700 people have drowned in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece in the effort to get to the promised land. The death of a child, whose image sent shock wave across the globe, has come to represent the human cost of the migrant flight.
An artist and activist, Ai is well-known for his clash with the Chinese government for his work that are very critical of the Chinese authority. He was arrested many times for shedding light on an authoritarian and oppressive regime.
Since the refugee crisis began, anti-immigrants have been very vocal in their resistance to all people seeking asylum. Donald Trump has been vociferous in condemning the idea of allowing refugees and asylum seekers into the United States. According to him, refugees are not allowed in the United States. But Trump is not alone in calling for denying refugees and asylum seekers entry into the United States. He has been joined by other politicians who were unreserved in their disdain for immigrants and refugees.
In the last one year more than 1 million migrants and refugees have journeyed to Europe from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. In the effort to flee violence, many of them have drowned. Those that have survived the perilous journey continue to live in squalor. In Lesbos, Greece and Calais in France, the story is the same.
Non-governmental organizations from Netherlands, Norway and Spain have been doing so much to bring some comfort to the refugees at Lesbos who are stuck in purgatory. As the refugee crisis continues to grow, the need for assistance has also increased.
Ai’s renewed effort will add to the call for the humane treatment of refugees. Besides using the studio in Lesbos, Ai will also be using the his studio in Germany and London to create projects that will memorialize those who have died in the search for a safe land. The 58-year-old will be working along his students.
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