This work is being shown in conjunction with a FAWCO Project in The Hague
HOPE BEYOND DISPLACEMENT 2018
Right now there are 67 countries around the world involved in a war. There are 672 militia-guerrilla and terrorist-separatist-anarchic groups involved. What are the differences in countries involved in war and those who aren’t? This project speaks to the similarities between the people seeking refuge and the inhabitants of the hosting countries around the world. The fact is, that but for the grace of god, anyone could end up in the situation of being a forced refugee. Whether it is climate change or regime change or a continuing war that spreads, your luck can change in a heartbeat and with it your safety and security. Doesn’t everyone deserves to live with dignity and without fear? And what does it mean, when this question isn’t just seen as rhetorical? I started this project because of an image I saw in the newspaper. It showed a rubber raft overfilled with people seeking refuge, drifting at sea. I just could not get it out of my head. I asked myself, why did this particular image leave such a strong impression? And as I stripped away at the content and found myself analyzing it, slowly abandoning the knowledge of where these people had come from and what their fate would be when/if they got to where they were headed, I realized, that I had been drawn into it because the picture was beautiful. The different skin colors, different ages, different shapes, and colorful clothing made up a vibrant, incredibly memorable image. I was brought back to their story and I realized how many emotions must have come to the surface during their trip and how many must have been suppressed for the good of the group. Along with the psychological ups and downs there were also the physical ups and downs, for the water must have caused a constant balancing act.
It also struck me that from a distance, this image reminded me of a water park rafting ride. Which is when I started making the associations of the world I know and the world people in need of refuge do. Chimamanda Adichie talks about reducing people to one story and then repeating it over and over again until that is all that they are. Refugees are no longer the sum of their experiences, family life, education, travel, etc., but just displaced people that have become one of the world’s biggest problems. They are a financial burden on their hosting countries and are perceived to threaten the comfortable lifestyles of those already working and surviving there. Worse than that, they make us feel guilty. (How dare they!) No matter how often humanity says “never again,” it seems history just keeps repeating itself. My project is contrasting images of people seeking refuge who have calculated their risks to leave their homes on perilous journeys against the calculated risks people make in their everyday life. People on vacation often pay a premium price for an adventure. They want to encounter something or somewhere different and new, willing to pay for a controlled experience. People seeking refuge pay a premium price for the “privilege” of risking their lives to get to a place of greater safety. It is disconcerting how similar an image appears of people river rafting for fun, to people surviving a journey over the ocean in a rubber raft, though the two experiences vastly different. The two images reflect the idea that the people seeking refuge are not just survivors, they are people that had a home, had a job, most likely took
vacations, laughed and played. They are people that are the sum of their experiences and their experiences are much more than being displaced. In both cases one calculates the financial burden and the time involved and decides if the desired outcome is worth the risk and the money. We make the decision to do something based on known factors with the hope that the outcome will enrich our lives. When decisions are made for reasons of safety vs. self-actualization the “known” is usually incredibly limited and the enrichment is purely surviving. Perceiving displaced people as being unique as opposed to different would be a start in changing attitudes. If we understood just how similar we are despite home countries, skin color and religion maybe we would do a better job at helping those in need.