The Portable Studio in action

ART REFUGE UK IN NORTHERN FRANCE – WEEK 10 DUNKIRK AND CALAIS REFUGEE CAMPS

This week the @ArtRefugeUK team consisted of: Anna Kalin, Fawzia Afifi, Jess Linton. On Thursday we visited Dunkirk camp, to strengthen links with the @MedicinsDuMonde team working there. We weaved our way through the woods, observing a number of slashed and abandoned single layered tents amongst other discarded items, namely clothing, single boots and shoes that couldn’t endure the mud. We met a young Kurdish Iraqi who advised us that he had arrived a week before and was desperate to find somewhere to shower. We talked about the lack of infrastructure and equipment that people had here, and as we continued on our way observed very few people with cooking facilities. One woman balanced a stove on two planks of wood to keep it out the mud and wet. Only a couple of families we passed had dry sheltered spaces where people could sit together around a fire to keep warm or to socialise. There was a noticeable number of young children here, who were colouring sheets of paper whilst waiting under the Medicins Du Monde gazebo for their clinic. A local woman came in with lollies and a Medicins Du Monde volunteer brought out coloured balloons from her pocket. We contributed felt pen designs on some of the balloons and string to hold them tight. We came together with what we had and created a potential space for much needed spontaneity and play.

On Friday afternoon we confronted our own displacement and gained greater understanding of Medicins Du Monde’s new situation as they work in the camp without their clinic and secure base. We were very aware of the absence of this physical place and it was important to find and spend time with some of the individuals that we had worked with over the previous weeks. One man offered his own tent for us to work in, a number of others showed us to their homes so that we would know where we could find them and let them know about where we were working. We found ourselves handing out some of our small journals to people and the young Syrian who had built his home in the sand with us a fortnight ago was keen to give us a gift to take with us too. We seemed to be building bridges between one another in order to reassure that we would still find a way to come together despite losing our shared ‘home’- the psyhosocial tent and the clinic as we had known it.

Much has changed and at a fast pace. By the end of the afternoon we had come together and moved around the camp as a growing group, being led by one individual after another. Our continued presence and readiness to respond to, and move with, an ever shifting landscape was visibly appreciated.

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