‘Today the situation in Italy is changing in the direction of an even stricter control of refugees and migrants. The main restrictions concern the possibilities of obtaining a visa as well as the militarization of the borders and the Italian territory. The ‘way of oblivion’ is the specific shape assumed by exclusionary practices in the Italian context. Refugees are like ghosts in the Italian public space and discourse; their fate seems to be entrapped between their representation as an anonymous mass that threatens the Italian borders, and their oblivion as individual subjects and citizens.’
—-Enrica Capussotti and Lilliana Ellena, Feminist Review, 73, 2003
Lost by Ramzi Harrabi
This piece is by Tunisian artist and musician Ramzi Harrabi. I have meditated on this piece and it has grabbed me and moved me in a vulnerable place.
I see the boats going along their voyage, moving away from its point of relative safety and towards what will almost certainly be a perilous journey with many promises at the outset, but really, no guarantees.
The ocean is a brilliant blue, seemingly peaceful and benign when viewed from solid ground , but is really treacherous , as one is tossed about its waves . Allow yourself, for just one moment, to imagine this: men , women, children, the elderly, board a rickety boat or a rubber dinghy. The “captain” of the boat decides to remove the provisions—small amounts of food and water meant to sustain those taking the journey, in order to squeeze more people on the boat. This means more money for the trafficker, who charges what would amount to outright extortion in any other setting—human cargo.
Harrabi uses various shades of red and orange— perhaps the the licking and persistent flames of hell—representative of the trials and tribulations the journey is rife with. The yellow sun is interspersed and hard to shield yourself from as you bounce upon the ocean. The night, when it comes, is even more sinister.
Witness the lost boat(s) upon Harrabi’s canvas, perhaps representing the many that never arrive at their destination. How many has the Mediterranean claimed this year? Last year? Five years before? The nameless , faceless “ghosts,” who, are already vulnerable take the chance of a lifetime. This is the ultimate gamble, where the currency with which they pay, is often their life.
There will always be the boats. People are on the move. The men who profit from human misery, preying on hopes and dreams. Those who never arrive. Those that do and remain “clandestine” like ghosts, moving uneasily and with heavy hearts in the new place they’ve found themselves, far from those who love them.
Harrabi applies heart, mind and soul and tells an entire story on canvas. We can find so much there if we, both literally and figuratively, just open our eyes and , for once, are willing to see, and not, thoughtlessly, just look away.