Dimensions and materials: oil on linen, 20x30cm, paintings displayed on the walls by hinges, at the back of each painting the stories of the tents can be read
Meditating on how an everyday object like a tent can turn into a significant mean of shelter in displacement. These paintings depict tents, used by migrants and refugees in 2015. To complement the paintings, I collected personal stories (from local and international volunteers and organisations) of these tents, mostly donated by European citizens. Tents’ stories are in the order of tent paintings displayed above.
Tent 1: Quechua AIR SECONDS XL 2 INFLATABLE TENT
Owner: photographer, 35, Switzerland
He started an organization to support refugee children on the Balkan-Route. In no time he managed to mobilize enormous amounts of money to buy huge amounts of donations such as baby-bottles, clothes, family-tents and much more. This tent arrived in Croatia in November, after the official Refugee Camp was opened and tents were no longer needed there. So he drove on the Slovenian border, disappointed of the lack of need of support, and had to watch his tent being burned as firewood in the freezing cold night where people had no shelters. After this experience the fortunate man decided to donate further only in Germany and Austria directly and support Organizations in the Balkans financially, if they look professional enough.
Tent 2: Quechua ARPENAZ 3+ TENT
Owner: Event manager and DJ, 34, Switzerland
She was part of the organizing team who collected 40tons of donations in September 2015, which were brought to Hegyeshalom, Hungary at the beginning of October. But the Hungarian border was closed and the donations no longer needed at this border. The tent was stored on the Austrian side of the border among hundreds of others. Forgotten until further logistical measurements could be taken by the Austrian activists who took care of the huge amount of donations, the tent finally found its way to Zagreb, from where it was then further carried to Rigonce, at the Croatian-Slovenian border to serve as a make-shift shelter for families who were otherwise sleeping outside.
Tent 3: Quechua QUICKHIKER III HIKING TENT
Owner unknown, 28, A regular to Festival No 6 Art and Music Festival, Portmeirion, Wales
He just had an amazing 4 days of festival vibe at Festival No 6. He was about to pack things up, when came across Dr Zigs Bubble Company collecting tents and other donations for Syrian refugees. He decided to donate his beloved festival-goer tent to help refugees seeking shelter. His tent was then shipped by Bubbles Not Bombs to Lesvos, Greece where it hosted some families in September 2015.
Tent 4: Quechua ARPENAZ 3 FRESH TENT
Owner unknown, Sweden
The tent arrived with a 6-ton truck from Sweden to Röszke. It was in storage in Szeged, because MigSzol Szeged had to move from one warehouse to another, when the Hungarian-Serbian border was closed. A few weeks later in October it was transported to the Croatian-Slovenian border and set up on an open field in Rigonce, which functioned for a few days as a transit zone, where people on the move had to wait 3 to 4 hours after crossing the border. They were “cattled-in” by metal fences, with police and military, including several tanks, lined up to guard them, till they could continue their way to the camps nearby that were overfilled. There were not many tents in Rigonce, because the few that were set up were burnt to keep people warm. This tent was used in one of these toxic-smelling campfires, when all the blankets brought by UNHCR were too soaked through and wet to keep the waiting families warm. When the Rigonce field, simply dubbed “hell” by many of the volunteers, was closed end of October, the remains of the campfires were cleaned by helpers and activists working there.
Tent 5: Quechua – QUICKHIKER II HIKING TENT
Miss Van, artist, 43, Barcelona, Spain
She recently donated her gyclee print to SolidARTy.org for being auctioned and help the refugee crisis in Eastern Europe. SolidARTy.org used the auction’s bid to buy this tent to be shipped to refugee camp in Latakia, near Turkish-Syrian border, where thousands of people (including many women, children and elderly) were stranded. Now the tent ensures at least some shelter from the cold for the “forgotten people”.
Tent 6: Quechua 2 SECONDS EASY I TENT
Owner: Unemployed with PhD degree in biology, 29, Greece
She had participated in several protests at the land border between Turkey and Greece to open borders and allow safe passage, and she bought the tent especially to give it away. She chose a model that seemed sturdy enough to last under difficult conditions and brought it to the Moira camp on the island of Lesvos, when volunteering there. It was used by many families well into the winter months, as it is big enough to house 4 to 5 people or even 6 if some of them are small children. After a long period of use, it was in such a bad condition that in January 2016 it had to be thrown away, but couldn’t be replaced, because there are less donations reaching Moria.
Tent 7: Quechua – ARPENAZ 2 TENT
Owner: Fashion store owner, 34, Austria
Donations were collected in the store from friends and family. She had used this tent during vacations on the Croatian and Italian sea sides in the past 3 years. She usually camped illegally on the beach, because she didn’t like to spend money on overpriced campgrounds. It was getting old and leaky, so she was not sorry to give it away, but worried that it will not give good enough protection. On 9 September the tent was transported from Vienna to Röszke by the SOS Röszke Emergency Help group. It was used on the Serbian-Hungarian border till the borders closed on 15 September. Then it was stored in the warehouse of MigSzol Szeged in an industrial sub-urban area of Szeged, till it was transported to other locations on the Balkan Route. Current location unknown.