After 24 hours on Lesvos Island our permission was pulled and our paint was lost somewhere in a cloud of UN containers. So, we were left with only one option, head to the local hardware store and search for a blank space to make our mark…
The concept behind our latest project in our #MoreThanMurals series was to bring Ben Eine’s vibrant statements to the core of the on-going refugee crisis to inspire hope for those at the center. Touching down in Mytilini means sharing the streets with 20,000 locals who have welcomed more than 170,000 refugees over the last two years. The local community’s empathy has resulted in a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Their compassionate reaction to those who fled war and poverty to arrive in rafts at the gates of Europe is nothing short of inspiring. Refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond are cared for in various camps around Lesvos Island. These camps are now their humble homes for the foreseeable future.
Our project kicked off to a rough start with plans going to pieces after recent unrest causing everyone to be a little cautious and scattered. Our paint was on the missing list and our permission was pulled so we gathered what we could in a local hardware store and looked for inspiration. Ben Eine’s undeniable ability to capture an atmosphere in a single statement was witnessed by volunteers and refugees alike. He began to paint the outline of ‘FREEDOM’ as onlookers shouted ‘Liberté’ with enthusiasm. They shared stories of their experience of the camp and how their dream of freedom was within reach. Their appreciation and admiration for Ben Eine’s work was evident as crowds gathered to gaze at the artwork.
'FREEDOM' - Ben Eine
Ben Eine pushed us to search for more spots so he could paint ‘THE DREAM’ to capture peoples pursuit for a better life. This was going to be the final piece of the project but we didn't want to leave without giving others the chance to make their mark as well. So, we handed over the paint to the children and volunteers of Kara Tepe Camp to take control. They put their own twist on Ben Eine’s iconic ‘LOVE’ piece in a newly developed common area of the camp. Needless to say, structure and style went out the window while bombing and tagging became the standard. Children were standing on chairs to write their names while others left the wall and painted each other. For a short time, everything was forgotton and kids were just being kids.
'LOVE' - Painted by the refugees and volunteers of Kara Tepe Camp
'THE DREAM' - Ben Eine
We left with an undeniable respect for the people of Greece and the team of volunteers who work tirelessly to help anyone who lands looking for support. Aid and attention is dwindling so spread the word and donate what you can to UNHCR or Doctors Without Boarders. Alternatively, grab a piece of artwork from SolidArty.org where 100% of the funds go directly to initiatives and organisations helping refugees. Thanks to UNHCR, 4 My People and Montana for their help in pulling together this project.