There is a French law called “la trêve hivernale” which translates as 'the winter truce'. This is supposed to ensure by law, that no one can be evicted from their accommodation from November throughout the winter months. However for those who are homeless including migrants and refugees who are living in tents or makeshift shelters this does not count.
The days are getting shorter, dark falls from 5.00pm and the sun emerges just after 8.00am. The days are colder and wetter. One might hope this means a truce from the consistent violations that are daily occurrences for the refugees here in Calais. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case.
The determination and reliance of our friend is nothing more than admirable -struggling with health issues and an asylum claim, they still manage to be able to have a wide knowledge of current world policies, discussions in the small room travelled around the world reflecting on global concerns, ranging from Zimbabwe to Korea. A new batch of Art Refuge postcards leant on the wall including an image of the large map in action, an image taken at the food distribution. The image resonated throughout the discussion as a reminder of the impact of global politics and how this directly impacts on people's personal lives with the displacement and disorientation so many refugees that we work with experience.
Under the Medecins du Monde gazebo the art therapy space is slowly growing, another table and a few chairs added. On the map tablecloth different dwellings emerged. The tables filled quickly with some complex and sophisticated houses, a group of unaccompanied minors, including a ten year old boy, built frantically - the small yellow truck delivering bricks here and there. A couple of pictures were carefully drawn.
Meanwhile literally just behind the space a police sweep of the area was happening, people forced to move their belongings, tents, sleeping bags, clothes and shoes. A few people desperately trying to get some much needed rest were moved on. Our small space now gave sanctuary to people's belongings, tents, bags and personal items.
The map stood out on the side of the van drawing viewers - it continued to fascinate refugees, workers and volunteers, all equally interested in tracing and placing their personal journeys to Calais.
The map attracted people from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Algeria, Sudan, France and the UK. People tracked their journeys, marking their routes with a pen. The map was constantly transformed with lines and routes added. It allowed for a small time an equal interest of journeys, some more painful than others, some nearer and some further. It gave short respite from the unavoidable power dynamic of those able to freely travel to those who clearly cannot, all being able to look together at this shared work of art.
The safe house
A lovely afternoon spent around the table with residents and friends from far and wide. A village was made with landscape added, elements from previous weeks were rediscovered and reused. A reminder in these difficult circumstances that there is a capacity to work together and be creative. The shared art piece - a communal effort.