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Tolerance and a Wire Car

CALAIS – MAY 2-3, 2019

CONTEXT There have been no improvements in living conditions in Calais, even with the recent UN report, and some young people spoke to us about services being further depleted. There are possibly fewer numbers of refugees in the area but a lot of new arrivals to the day centre so an accurate estimate of numbers is difficult.

We reintroduced cyanotype again this week and this time for a large project based in London on the theme of Tolerance. Tolerance, endurance and resilience are words that have a deep resonance in this border landscape and we witnessed subtle variations on all three across the two days.

The sun managed to push its way through each day which allowed for our activity of printing to take place on both afternoons.

THURSDAY DAY CENTRE There was a bustling atmosphere, with people continuing to drift in across the afternoon. We had brought a wire car with us from Soweto which had come into our possession by happenstance, and in Calais brought huge delight and moments of joy to a number of the men across nationalities. One by one they commented on the fact that their car that they had had when they were children was much smaller, while this larger car seemed to fit their own change in scale. This seem to allow for positive lived memory and experience. Two men – one from Eritrea, the other Ethiopian – wanted to be filmed on their own phones, pushing the car along the courtyard paths. It also provided wonderful three dimensional form when placed on calico and exposed to the sun.

DISTRIBUTION We joined Medecins du Monde early afternoon to a mixed atmosphere. There were many new arrivals from West Africa, with renewed interest in the map and a lot of challenging questions asked by young men stuck in this ongoing situation of powerlessness. One or two young men openly showed their frustrations by drinking cans of alcohol in full view. A strong police presence added a menacing air. The new temporary site for the ambulance and the map’s position within this very edge of town space are still needing to be explored. The map did however hold people’s attention and there were moments of joint looking at specific points, such as where Europe meets Africa.

FRIDAY At the Secours Catholique team meeting there was a lot of discussion about exhibitions, advocacy and culture. The right for people to pray during Ramadan was discussed, as well as tolerating different faiths and each of their needs.

DAY CENTRE When we opened up discussion about the idea of tolerance we found that the word itself is difficult to translate – the word in english seeming to hold a lot of different meanings.

In parallel with the printmaking, a lean-to space was prepared at the back of the courtyard ready for prayer during Ramadan. Paint colours were limited and compromises made, somehow reflecting both the will to push through an idea and yet the powerlessness to have control of anything in this environment. This was in turn reflected in our attempts to capture with people the UV light coming through the clouds and then, somewhat miraculously, the sun did break through and prints were made.

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