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"We left our mums under the trees"


The week’s disturbing events, both reported and unreported in France and in the camp, including the death of four of the residents was very much in our minds as we set up for the days ahead and featured in the group’s conversation, paying tribute to those who have died fleeing their homes in fear of their lives.

The space we usually occupy in MdM was having a new floor laid, which meant that we were welcomed in to share the MdM part of the tent that they had decorated with wild flowers from around the camp.

The art work created was a mixture of animation, drawing and plasticine models: the theme of cooking and the sharing of food was the subject of one film – a snake approaches a cook and safety is won through a bash on it’s head; another film shows a cricket match being played in the beautiful mountains in Afghanistan; a Sudanese man made a plasticine musical pipe and also made a dog which he animated, wagging it’s tail and begging. The artwork was of good memories from home.

On Friday there was very much a sense of lost-ness, loss and of leaving people behind. A man from Syria came into the space on both days able to engage with the objects on the table, positioning a block of paper houses and a pair of armatures that were “strong enough to push over the house”, perhaps a quiet display of strength despite the turmoil he was in.

A man from Afghanistan made a tableaux of a French policeman gassing and beating a Sudanese and Afghan man which he then animated, and this scene although brutal showed the camaraderie in the camp between the two men who tried to help one another. This takes on an added poignancy in the context of reported violence and conflict between these two nationalities.

We were approached by two proud tribal Sudanese men who showed us scenes on their phone of celebration, culture, fun and physical prowess in Sudan that had been re-enacted within the Calais refugee camp, extending their invitation to other tribes from their homeland. We viewed a film of a large group of men who were dancing and reading poetry, describing the pain of leaving their families and in particular their mothers behind, wearing the t-shirts that they had decorated in the Art Refuge UK space a few weeks ago.

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