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#OrangeVest raises New Yorkers' awareness of the refugee problem in Greece

29 November 2015 / 19:11:32  GRReporter
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In recent weeks, New Yorkers in some of the crowded places of the city have witnessed a strange sight: a young girl, sometimes on her own, sometimes accompanied by people of different nationalities, walking the city's streets clad in a lifejacket. This is the 26-year-old Greek Georgia Laleh who in her special way is trying to remind the American public of the growing refugee drama in Europe, and especially in her native Greece.

Georgia has been living permanently in New York the last year as she does a masters' degree at the School of Visual Art with a scholarship from the Vassilis and Eliza Goulandris Foundation. Having followed with avid interest developments around Syrian refugees in Europe and Greece, Georgia felt the need to help in her own way in dealing with the refugee problem.

"It all started in summer, while I was watching American media coverage of refugee flows on some Greek islands. My feelings were mixed. I was shocked by the severe, inhumane conditions for refugees trying to escape the war, and at the same time I was touched by the bravery, courage and sacrifice of islanders who tried to help and save so many lives. I felt ashamed because the distance and my academic commitments did not allow me to go back to Greece and offer some help to my compatriots in such difficult circumstances. This is how the idea for an art initiative was born, and it naturally came under the title #OrangeVest, i.e. orange lifejacket," says Georgia before Sunday's Ethnos.


A tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of the campaign

Initially, Georgia Laleh started acting on her idea alone, but was subsequently joined by other people of different nationalities who are doing the rounds along with her. "I started #OrangeVest as a one-woman show wearing black to commemorate those who have died and are still dying in the Mediterranean and Aegean. I would also wear an orange lifejacket on top of my clothes as this was the item that best symbolized the refugees, as well as their hope for survival and good life. So I started in the Metropolitan Museum of Art walking the distance from the Syrian to the Greek art wing. Later on, I went to Times Square, and what dominates there is the pursuit of consumerism, advertisements and fake super heroes who can no longer save the world. These were the places where I wanted to show the harsh reality across the pond", explains Georgia.

The response


Orange lifejackets on the rocks against the New York's skyline as part of the #OrangeVest art initiative

"After these two walks, an increasing number of people wished to walk along with me and thus express their solidarity with the idea that the refugee problem affects all of us. Five people took part in the #OrangeVest action in High Line Square replacing old railroad tracks. 16 people from all over the world – Greece, America, the Arab countries, China, Korea, Kenya, Mexico and Thailand – walked across Brooklyn Bridge, which in 1883 connected the poor refugee and immigrant slums of Brooklyn with the rich Manhattan," adds Georgia.

Tags: Orange Vest art initiative actions New York refugee problem Greek woman
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