The Inflatable Refugee
In May 2016, Hawila carried a special passenger on the roof of her galley: the inflatable refugee, an art installation created by the Belgian art collective Schellekens & Peleman. The creators say the artwork is “a symbol of the dehumanisation of the refugee and the current refugee crisis happening in the world”.
Coinciding with the current migration crisis from East to West, Schellekens & Peleman have started work on The Inflatable Refugee. A large inflatable adult male figure that represents a seated refugee. The Inflatable Refugee gazes blankly into the distance. Has he arrived at a safe haven or will he be refused and be sent from whence he came? His sheer size allows him to look over and beyond us and keep watch on the horizon, not limited by borders or documents. It makes him inescapable, undeniably present. Do we see him as a human or as a problem? Is his presence an opportunity or a threat, devoid of human characteristics? Schellekens & Peleman proportionally enlarged the ‘Inflatable Refugee’ to match the extreme reactions his arrival in the Western world evoked. His size represents how we perceive him. Schellekens & Peleman have chosen to create this inflatable figure from the same material as the boats, used by human traffickers to cross the Mediterranean Sea, are made from. It’s too fragile to withstand the waves of the sea, making the passengers on these boats extremely vulnerable. MyArtGuide
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