In the autumn of 2015, at the height of the Syrian migrant crisis I received a call from Maria, a Greek friend on the Island of Skopelos where we have a home, asking me to meet her for a coffee. I was unaware that she had been volunteering at the Idomeni informal refugee camp on the Macedonian border, a consequence of Europe starting to close it borders to refugees. Visibly distressed she recounted what she had witnessed, not only the conditions in which the refugees were living in, but that the people she met could so easily be her. Doctors, teachers, artisans – all ordinary people like you and I.
With the start of the winter rains and freezing weather, the conditions were increasingly getting worse for the displaced families. Maria, a solicitor from Thessaloniki, along with many other caring citizens had made the regular journeys to the frontier with home cooked meals, clothing and any other items that would help. She was asking all her friends to contribute in any way, no matter how small the gesture.
The daily looped television images documenting the migrant’s journey had become almost mind numbing and somehow desensitised the personal trauma and massive humanitarian crisis. Having had such a direct personal recounting of the crises, I became far more aware of the plight of these refugees. Seeing the harrowing image of Alan Kurdi, the three year old Kurdish Syrian child, whose body was washed ashore in Turkey in the September of 2015 became etched into my mind.
On one of my walks along the beautiful beaches on Skopelos I came across a child’s shoe that had been washed ashore. This started an internal dialogue, which was the catalyst for what has become “The Lost Souls Project”.
Where was this child now? Where did this child come from? Was this child still alive?
I continued collecting shoes from the beaches on Skopelos over the next two years. Some shoes were relatively intact, but most were left with only the sole remaining. Some were merely fragments, some twisted beyond recognition, some baked and cracked by the sun, some battered and beaten by the sea. Each shoe had its own personality and identity. That there was always only one shoe spoke so powerfully of displacement and separation. These became visual metaphors for me, seeing each as a portrait of the person that had once worn them. A remaining scrap of their identity.
The thought of having to leave your home and your life with the only the clothes on your back and all you could carry is inconceivable.
The sense of displacement and loss, unfathomable.
In a world driven by media and breaking news stories, the migrant crisis has become old news. It has become a political football of responsibility being played out in the corridors of governments and humanitarian agencies. Statistics turning people into numbers.
It is human nature to forget. As we are bombarded with so much new information on a daily basis, it is my wish for The Lost Souls Project to keep the dialogue alive. The plight of refugees the world over is ongoing. They are faced with the daunting challenge of building new lives in unfamiliar environments, carrying their memories of lost homes, families and countries with them. The possibility of returning to the lives they once had, a dream that may never be realised.
With the world in which we live increasingly divided by religious, cultural, ethnic, ideological, and political beliefs, it is my hope that we can all in our own way respect our shared sense of humanity and embrace what makes us different, as ultimately we are all the same.
Procession – Installation.
Nickel plated brass on Corian
Size variable dependent on layout
L 45 cm W 18 cm H 145 cm