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After Susan Sarandon, Ai Weiwei has also given his support to the refugees in Lesbos

02 January 2016 / 15:01:34  GRReporter
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A tragic humanitarian crisis that goes beyond everything experienced by himself so far in terms of human rights violations and humiliation of human dignity. This is how the world famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei qualified the crisis in Mytilini.

At a press conference on the first day of the New Year – not by chance, the day was chosen for its symbolism – Ai Weiwei spoke emotionally about Greece, which "opened its arms to accept the refugees. Not to reject them. But to save their lives. I feel very proud of it. Because here we have a country that protects the universal human values."


"The flow of refugees never stops," said the Chinese artist. "It is not something new. But at this point, in Greece, it has acquired historic dimensions. The pressure is greater than ever. But in the 21st century we cannot allow this to happen," he added. "Everybody has to understand what is really going on, and try and help Greece". At the same time, "everyone must try to help the refugees to have a future."

"That's why I'm here. Because I have experienced such a dramatic situation," Ai Weiwei emphasised. His trip to Mytilene has been carefully prepared, and what he experienced here urged him to open a permanent studio on the island, in which students from China and Germany will work together this year.

Ai Weiwei praised the volunteers and organisations, which have come to the island from all over the world. But he also highlighted the lack of good organisation and limited finances provided by the Greek state to deal with the situation.


He described the view expressed by many people in Greece and in Europe – that the refugees had to be prevented from entering Europe – as "short-sighted". "The attempts to stop the refugees are short-sighted. On the contrary, everybody must help Greece. Greece alone cannot stop the refugees, it can only help them," said Ai Weiwei, adding: "I subscribe to what Greece is doing. But it needs help from Europe. First and foremost, it is a world problem, and only afterwards a European one". The Chinese slammed those politicians who "while understanding the problem, prefer to use a language, which expresses a lot of negative feelings. The humanitarian crisis should be solved."

As an artist, Ai Weiwei has been trying to inform as many people as possible about what is happening on Lesbos. He wants to use all forms of art, all social networks. He believes that as an artist he must be committed to raising public awareness of the Lesbos predicament. "I make efforts as a human being, as a citizen, as an artist. With my work I stand behind the primary human values."

The Chinese artist and humanist recounted how, on New Year's eve, together with his team, they handed out solar lamps to refugee children who were crying while attempting to sleep in the darkness of the tents. "The tents had no lighting. We decided to offer some light in the darkness. We started handing out lamps to these children. They kept them shining in the darkness. Children understand everything," said Ai Weiwei, and added, "this is what art is about. It is the light that shines in the darkness."

Talking about the memorial, which he intends to donate to Mytilene city, Ai Weiwei noted that "the monuments are necessary to remind us of people. This is not a monument of the dead, but a monument that will honour the great efforts people have made." It will honour the efforts of the children, women and old men who "sacrificed everything for an uncertain future. These are people who are coming in extremely harsh conditions to save their lives," said the Chinese artist.


Tags: Ai Weiwei China an artist humanist Lesbos Mytilene refugees
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