- Boa Mistura, a public square in a refugee camp in Ritsona
We've been fans of the Spanish art collective Boa Mistura for years. These creatives adopt colourful, targeted interventions, often using the technique of anamorphosis to decorate marginalised and tough places and at the same time, they drive social change using the beauty of art as the starting point.
Boa Mistura's latest work completed a few days ago, is the perfect kick-off for this week featuring the opening of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, called FREESPACE. If you look at the words of Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale, “But space, free space, public space can also reveal the presence or absence of architecture, if we understand architecture to be thinking applied to the space where we live, that we inhabit.”, you can see how emblematic the work of these Spanish artists in Ritsona, a refugee camp located about 70 km from Athens truly is.
The Ritsona refugee camp is home to 800 refugees who have escaped war in a number of countries. Refugee camps are supposed to provide a temporary solution to accommodate people while the war continues. Unfortunately, many refugees are being forced to stay in these temporary facilities for a lot longer than expected. Some of them have been living in the Ritsona camp for more than two years, an existence filled with anguish and uncertainty, and others have been living even longer in places like Jordan or Lebanon, for instance.
In light of this trend, Boa Mistura believes the time has come to rethink refugee camps, to stop seeing them as a kind of “no-man's land” and give them infrastructures to rebuild their identity and also to give the refugees some dignity.
So, the Spanish collective worked with Maidan Tent to create the first public space in a refugee camp. Cultivating the culture of the Ritsona refugees, the vast majority of whom came from Syria and Iraq, in the creation of the square, the artists were inspired by girihs, the geometric forms of Islamic art to strengthen the sense of belonging to a place that the camp inhabitants were torn away from, but which they carry with them as part of their identity.
Of course, what we really hope is that Ritsona will soon be abandoned because the refugees who fled there to escape their war-torn countries have gone home. Until then, this colourful square, created together with the inhabitants, belongs to all the refugees who live there. It is part of their identity. The identity of their past, of their uncertain present and of their future.
Project: Boa Mistura with Maidan Tent
Location: Ritsona, Greece
Images: courtesy of Boa Mistura
With the help of PPG who supplied the paint and MPG who provided the funds to buy the materials