Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has set up a studio on the Greek island of Lesbos to highlight the plight of refugees.
The island has been the main point of entry into the EU for hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past year and the studio would produce several projects with themes related to the refugee crisis from him and his students, Ai told reporters.
“As an artist, I have to relate to humanity’s struggles... I never separate these situations from my art,” he said. The artist is as well-known for his clashes with the Chinese authorities as for his work.
Ai praised the people of Lesbos for having a “very good understanding” of the refugees’ plight,their needs and for being “very helpful and very tolerant”, but emphasised they had limited resources to deal with the issue.
He praised the impressive work of several foreign non-governmental organisations, notably in the Netherlands, Norway and Spain. He added that there was a lack of awareness of the situation in Europe and the rest of the world and a willingness to act.
“The border is not in Lesbos, it really [is] in our minds and in our hearts ,” Ai said.
Ai told Associated Press he expected to visit Lesbos several times over the next year, or even beyond, if the crisis persisted beyond 2016. He said about six to 10 of his students in China and Germany would be working at the studio.