Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) on Friday announced plans to create a memorial on the Greek island of Lesbos of the plight of refugees, many of whom have lost their lives trying to reach Europe.
“A lot of people have lost their lives under the waves... We need a memorial,” Ai told reporters after a news conference on the project.
“I already set up a studio in Lesbos. Next year we are going to be involved with different projects,” Ai said, adding that his workshops in China and Germany, as well as a number of his students, would be involved.
“This is a very historical moment from any perspective. As an artist I want to be more involved, I want to [create] artworks in relation to the crisis and also create some kind of consciousness about the situation,” he said.
The artist earlier this week paid a visit to refugees and migrants flocking to the Greek island of Lesbos, posting photographs and videos on Twitter that bore witness to their plight.
He posted a video on Monday last week showing the arrival of a rubber dinghy carrying desperate people to the island’s shores from nearby Turkey.
“It’s very important to come and be part of it,” Ai said on Friday.
The 58-year-old also retweeted photographs, including one of him posing with Norwegian humanitarian workers from the group Drop in the Ocean. Another shows him on a beach holding a child’s life vest, an object that has come to symbolize the human cost of the migrant flight, with more than 700 people having drowned in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece last year.
The outspoken critic of the Chinese regime has made ample use of his passport since he got it back in July last year, four years after it was confiscated.
During a visit to London in September, the artist said he was “very proud” of the “civilized” welcome that Germany — where his son lives — has accorded to refugees.
More than 1 million migrants and refugees reached Europe last year, mainly fleeing violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, from which four in five traveled via the Greek islands.
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