Chinese artist Ai Weiwei brought music to Syrian migrants in a muddy Greek refugee camp with the temporary installation of a white grand piano. A contemporary artist and political dissident in his native China, Ai Weiwei has been visiting the Idomeni refugee camp on the Greek-Macedonian border where he has spoken out against the wretched conditions.
After four days of rain, the makeshift Greek refugee camp has become a muddy field, but it did not deter Ai Weiwei, who helped to carry the white grand piano over the muck. Ai Weiwei was also one of several people who held a plastic sheet over the head of migrant Nour Al Khzam as she played. Formerly of the Syrian city of Deirez Zor, Nour Al Khzam had given up playing the instrument three years ago because of Syria’s civil war. She played for about 20 minutes.
Nour Al Khzam is one of about 12,000 people currently living in the Greek refugee camp, along with several thousands more who are camped in the adjacent fields. She is waiting to rejoin her husband and young son, who have been living in Germany for a year and a half. Nour hopes to resume her piano studies in Germany once she is reunited with her family. Ai Weiwei spoke to the Associated Press.
“This is our attempt to create an opportunity for this lady.”
Ai Weiwei arrived at the settlement near the tiny village of Idomeni on Wednesday and described his impressions of the makeshift Greek refugee camp to Reuters.
“It’s just in the rain, in the cold, and women, children, all the people waiting for some bread, or some dry clothes, and this is a very sad situation and people have no hope because the door is closed, totally shut off…I think this is a huge, big violation of human rights, right in front of us.”
Ai Weiwei’s attempts to draw the world’s attention to Syrian refugee camps comes at a time when Greece is struggling with a huge backlog of asylum seekers. The Syrian migrants were hoping to pass through Greece into the so-called “Balkans corridor” through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) into western Europe. The FYROM, however, closed its borders to refugees Wednesday along with other Balkan states in light of the migrant crisis. Since then, according to The Greek Reporter, tens of thousands of migrants have become trapped within Greek borders and in Greek refugee camps, putting a strain on already-limited resources and creating a situation described as “nightmarish.”
Ai Weiwei’s current visit to the Greek refugee camp and the grand piano event are the latest in a series of art projects that Ai hopes will lead to greater recognition of the plight of the Syrian migrants currently languishing in such camps.
“We want to reveal a new image of them, to relay possibility, art and imagination. This is the image that needs to be relayed to the world.”
The grand piano performance in the mud and the rain of a Greek refugee camp is not the first time Ai Weiwei has created politically-charged art projects inspired by the migrant crisis. In February, Ai Weiwei used the life jackets found discarded by migrants who had arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos in an art installation that was hung on the columns of the Konzerthaus in Berlin, as reported by the Inquisitr. Earlier this year, Ai Weiwei protested a decision of the Danish government that allows for the confiscation of valuables from those seeking asylum by closing down a show of his in Copenhagen.
Ai Weiwei has run afoul of authorities in his native China in the past for his outspoken views, including a brief imprisonment in 2011.
[Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]