Wednesday, April 27, 2011


In days when immigration is more than ever a big issue around Mediterranean Europe, it is worth mentioning Henk Wildschut and his excellent photographic work about illegal immigrants who managed to enter the EU (find a review of his book Shelter on Conscientious).

A friend once told me how we always tend to think that people escaping their countries and facing such long and exhausting journeys must be desperate, running away from some living hell compared to which anything else would be better, any 24-hour trip through a dark sea packed on a small boat would be preferable. And he made me realise that this way we ignore what is probably the main thing about the choice of those migrants: their courage, their dignity and their strength to refuse their present condition, doing anything possible to start a new life, pretending more from their existence to the point of risking all to get the chance to be in a different place, and to live in a different way.

The people and the shelters shown in Wildschut's photographs maintain their courage and their dignity somehow, that strength that you need to preserve some kind of everyday life for yourself no matter where you are: a bed, a roof, a mirror to check your face, a fire for a meal. The fine line between feeling lost and holding on to what you really want, the strength to imagine what you still don't have, believing you will get it one day.

Other artists I have mentioned in the past had makeshift shelters at the centre of their works, so this is a good chance to take another look to Inabitanti by Tancredi Mangano and to A Place to Stay by Alessandro Imbriaco.

All images © Henk Wildschut

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