Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei poses as drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi

'The image is haunting and represents the whole immigration crisis'

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has staged a photo in which he poses as the drowned Syrian refugee toddler whose picture sparked an international outcry last year.

The image emulates the photo of the lifeless three-year-old boy Aylan Kurdi, who was washed up on the shores of Turkey last September.

The picture came to symbolise the tragic plight of the refugee crisis.

Since then, European countries have increasingly turned their backs on those fleeing war-torn countries.

Having already accepted more than a million migrants, Germany has announced plans to tighten its asylum rules. The Nordic countries have also markedly changed their stances with Finland and Sweden confirming they will start to deport thousands of people. Denmark has also been heavily criticised for passing a law that allows it to confiscate refugees' cash and valuables if necessary.

In the attempt to raise awareness about the crisis, Ai set up the shoot with India Today.

The political artist is on the Greek island of Lesbos working on an art project on the refugee crisis. 

Ai and his team “actively helped in staging this photograph for us,” explained Rohit Chawla, a photographer at India Today.

Chawla added: “I am sure it wasn’t very comfortable to lie down on the pebbles like that. But the soft evening light fell on his face when he lay down”.

The image has been exhibited at the India Art Fair as part of an exhibition titled “The Artists” this weekend. 

Sandy Angus, the co-owner of India Art Fair, said: “It is an iconic image because it is very political, human and involves an incredibly important artist like Ai Weiwei.

“The image is haunting and represents the whole immigration crisis and the hopelessness of the people who have tried to escape their pasts for a better future.”

Gayatri Jayaraman, the magazine senior editor who interviewed him, also spoke fondly of Weiwei.

 “He is such a great artist, but to me he also appeared to be a Mahatma Gandhi-like figure. He is very warm and humble, but his very presence there in that situation as tired, cold, wet refugees arrived was colossal. And very political.”

The photo will be featured in the art activist’s interview with India Today next week.

Comments