From October 2015 - Sept 2016 I volunteered as an artist in the 'Jungle' the unofficial refugee camp in Calais.
In March 2016 half of the Calais Jungle was demolished and 291 unaccompanied children lost their shelters. With the support of Good Chance Theatre and to raise awareness of the unaccompanied children myself and refugees cut out 291 child shapes from brown paper. Due to the chaos of the demolition I was unable to draw around each unaccompanied child so a template shape was used. The 291 paper cut outs were hung together outside on red tape between power lines. The work was titled “HUNG OUT TO DRY” and online it became known as the Paper People Project.
"Hung Out to Dry on Red Tape between Power Lines"
Calais Jungle. March 2016.
Majid Adin told me he loved the way the wind moved through the artwork making the paper people pull at their tethers. They were caught in one place and fighting to be free. A lull in the wind meant all would be calm again for a brief time, but as the wind picked up it would move through the artwork to the point where once again it would roar. The anticipation of the process was exhilarating. In a full wind the paper people looked like seaweed and sounded like fire and the inevitable beauty of it took your breath away. Majid repeated again how he had really loved that about the artwork. It reminded him of his migration journey and how he was aware that people had often moved on mass as if they themselves were blown by the wind, or as if they indeed were a great wind. The next day I arrived early in camp to see what had happened to the paper people.
Battered and frozen the paper children didnt last the night.
Out of the 291 children that lost their shelters, 129 of them went missing.
Despite the desperate circumstances people found themselves in when refugees made artwork in the Jungle I became aware of the human need to portray beautiful things. Art making, the depiction of beauty and the sharing of this process was an act of resilience. If we lived in unimaginably dire circumstances we too would want to remember what beauty looks and feels like because we would want to be reminded of who we are.