Object of the Moment: Child’s Life Jacket
In artist Suzanne Partridge’s dynamic new exhibition at the Peace Museum, Paper People, she aims to use emotive art and objects to hit home the severity of the current refugee crisis sweeping Europe. One such object is a small life jacket designed for a child refugee during the treacherous trips across the Aegan sea to European countries of refuge. The tiny size of the jacket is a chilling reminder of the age of many refugees making this journey, as is the cartoon of Mickey and Minnie Mouse emblazoned on the right hand side.
The actual effectiveness of these jackets is highly questionable. In the words of the artist: “The life jackets worn by people who cross the Aegean sea are not buoyancy aids. They are filled with a plastic packing material that acts like a sponge in the water sinking people faster.” She adds that “there are multiple horrors to endure as someone who seeks refuge, and this ‘Journey of Death’ is just one of them”.
Paper People opened at the Peace Museum in July, a month which began with dozens of migrants dying in Libya after a rubber boat they were travelling in sank in the Mediterranean sea. A local official is quoted by the BBC as saying that 63 migrants have gone missing whereas 41 people were rescued since the incident that took place just east of the capital Tripoli.
More than 1,000 people have died while sailing from Libya to Europe so far in 2018, a fact that makes Partridge’s exhibition all the more urgent and prescient. In her words: “Migration is a relentless humanitarian crisis that will not be solved by state violence. Nor will it be solved by a European policy which allows people to drown in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas”.