There are many paths to arrive at the same destination. Although our team is accustomed to roughing it and sleeping just about anywhere along the journey of life, one week ago we climbed aboard a large ferry and were escorted to a cabin with beds and hot showers. A unique experience for us all, and a perfect opportunity to rest up on the overnight cruz to the island of Lesbos, Greece, before a huge amount of work. The refugees, on the other hand, reached the same island in a very different fashion; they were smuggled in the darkness and cold through rough waters on small boats that could barely float. Although our journeys and stories are very different, art draws us altogether and celebrates our unity more than our differences. A blank wall is an invitation to co-create with others, where our pain and our love are all welcome to express themselves.
Upon arrival we found our way through the streets of graffiti and cobble-stone to the Multicultural Support Center. The name of our project is The Mosaics of Love; not only is the center named Mosaik, but also their courtyard has a gorgeous stone mosaic on the ground, created back in the eighteen-hundreds. Needless to say, our vision and work synchronized beautiful. We began breaking tiles and drawing out the design before we even unpacked the car. An inspired group of refugee girls, between the ages of fifteen and twenty, showed up every day with dedication and persistence, created in freezing temperatures until the completion of this stunning collaboration. Other refugees and Greeks added their touch of love here and there as well. The refugees currently live in, and traveled each day from, Moria Detention Center, where they are held during the elongated processing period. Many call their camp Mordor, from Lord of the Rings… Participants came from Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Greece and the United States.
While in a tiny tavern, listening to live classical Greek music, I spoke with a social worker who shared that after 12 years of living on the island he was ready to see more of the world, but since in the last year he feels that the world travels to him with the influx of refugees and humanitarian workers. He feels that that the island has come alive. What a beautiful perspective to choose. Not everyone feels so optimistic about the current state of Lesbos. Tension rises between the Greeks and the refugees. Tourism is down and a few incidents of robbery and violence have been used as an excuse to judge all refugees. The refugees are in a state of transition, yet cannot leave at will and feel trapped, which adds to the tension as well. The Mosaik team expressed the importance of the intercultural mural as one of the efforts to promote tolerance, compassion, and kindness between the refugees, who are fleeing the violence in their countries, and the Greeks that are watching their peaceful island-life change before their eyes.
Together with refugees and Greeks we decided to make mosaic dolphins and butterflies as symbols of happiness. Also, we depicted a mosaic boy and a girl who are touching fingers, with hands sculpting the heart for unity and love. After three days of mixing mortar, laying tile and wiping the figures clean in the freezing cold, we shifted to the painting element of this mural. The participants painted the island, the water and the colorful fish. A mother and daughter were painted, emerging out of the trees with the winds of change blowing through the hair. Their eyes reflect the soul within all humanity, nature and life itself. It took a team effort to pull this off and every member, from multiple walks of life, added their intention into the wall! Many of the refugees shared stories of escaping heavy gun fire and bombs… and this mural depicts their wishes of peace, love and freedom we wish for everyone in the world!
What a amazing Christmas present!!! A special thanks to the island of Lesvos, the people, the light, the beautiful villages, the ancient Olive trees, the hot baths of marble… and THANKS to Costas, who hosted us at his home for the week, the entire staff of Mosaik Support Center who were incredibly supportive, the art therapy NGO AMAKA who invited us and worked so hard to make this all possible, Daphnie Kalafati, Antonio De La Roca, Niovi Stavropoulou AND ALL THE GREEKS AND REFUGEES WHO WORKED WITH PASSION TO PROMOTE PEACE IN THE WORLD! Photos by Daphnie Kalafati