The plight of refugees escaping the crisis in their homeland of Syria has captured the hearts and minds of many people, including the famous Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. The artist, who has had many conflicts with authorities in China for his political activism, has used his initiative and invested time and money into setting up an art and design studio on the Greek island of Lesbos. The new studio’s mission is to highlight the plight of incoming refugees to the island, who’ve been flocking there in their thousands in the hope of making a new life in Europe.
Ai Weiwei and his students will focus on various projects at the studio, with themes linking art to the emerging refugee crisis. Ai spoke to reporters about his new venture, saying that as an artist he had a duty to relate to human struggles and he couldn’t separate such situations from his art.
Refugees continue to arrive in Lesbos by sea, but unfortunately some don’t survive the treacherous journey across dangerous waters in unsafe boats. Ai felt that Lesbos was a compassionate place for refugees, saying that the people of the island were very sympathetic to their plight, but he stressed that this small island had very limited resources to really help the refugees. Ai is using his art as a means of raising awareness to try to convey- upon Europe that they, together with the rest of the world, need to act urgently in this crisis. Whilst non-governmental humanitarian organisations from the Netherlands, Norway and Spain have put a lot of time, resources and effort into helping the refugees, there’s a lack of awareness in other countries as to the gravity of the situation. Ai aptly said that for the refugees, the border to be crossed was not so much into Lesbos, but into people’s hearts and minds.
Ai has shown his first hand experience of the refugees arriving in Lesbos, tweeting photos and videos of their desperate plight as they land ashore in rubber dinghies. He said that now his new studio’s up and running, he’d be a frequent visitor to Lesbos with his German and Chinese students throughout 2016 and beyond, if the refugee crisis continued. Ai has only just had his passport back from the Chinese government, after he had it confiscated for 4 years, following his outspoken political views back home.
Article by Spectrum Photographic – professional photographic & giclée printing