Art over war

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ART -

CHI­NESE dis­si­dent artist Ai Wei wei setup a white grand pi­ano in a muddy, rain- drenched refugee camp on the Greek-Mace­do­nian bor­der last Satur­day, al­low­ing a young Syr­ian woman to tin­kle the ivories for the first­time in years.

Per­form­ing in the pour­ing rain un­der a plas­tic sheet held up by Ai and oth­ers, 24- year- old N our Alkhzam, who is hop­ing to reach her hus­band in Ger­many, played for 20 min­utes in a field atthe Idomeni bor­der camp, where 12,000 mi­grants and refugees are stuck in grim con­di­tions.

“This is our at­temptto cre­ate an op­por­tu­nity for this lady,” Ai said atthe end of the im­promptu per­for­mance.

“She has been vic­timised by th­ese wars. She has not had the chance to touch a pi­ano in three years. She and her hus­band have been sep­a­rated for one- and- a- half years.”

He added that watch­ing her play was “very touch­ing”.

“It tells the world that art will over­come the war,” he told re­porters.

The stunt was the lat­est in a se­ries of projects by Ai to shine a spot­light on the peo­ple caugh­tup in Europe’ s worst mi­grant cri­sis since WWII.

“We want to re­veal a new im­age of them, to re­lay pos­si­bil­ity, ar­tand imag­i­na­tion. This is the im­age that needs to be re­layed to the world,” he said.

Greek au­thor­i­ties es­ti­mate that 12,000 peo­ple are stuck atthe camp at Idomeni, but thou­sands more are camped out in fields nearby, wait­ing in vain for the bor­der to re­open so they can con­tinue their jour­ney north. Mace­do­nia and sev­eral other coun­tries on the mi­grant trail have sealed their bor­ders over re­cent weeks, leav­ing the Greek govern­mentt o strug­gle with a huge bot­tle­neck of peo­ple stuck on its ter­ri­tory and forced to camp in in­creas­ing squalor.

Ai, a thorn in the side of China’s Com­mu­nist au­thor­i­ties, has re­peat­edly spo­ken out in sup­port of refugees and de­nounced Euro­pean politi­cians’ han­dling of the cri­sis.

Last­month, he draped thou­sands of life­jack­ets dis­carded by mi­grants ar­riv­ing in Greece around the col­umns of Ber­lin’s Konz­erthaus con­cert hall.

And in Jan­uary, the artist closed down an ex­hi­bi­tion of his work in Copen­hagen in protest af­ter law­mak­ers passed a con­tro­ver­sial bill al­low­ing au­thor­i­ties to seize valu­ables from asy­lum seek­ers.

Chi­nese con­tem­po­rary artist Ai Wei­wei ( right) pro­tects him­self and oth­ers from the rain, as nour Al Khizam ( cen­tre) from the city Deirez Zor, syria, plays the pi­ano dur­ing a per­for­mance at a refugee camp, at the bor­der of Greece and Mace­do­nia.

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