Art on Migration Politics

Murtaza Ali Jafari  Knots  (2012) Courtesy the artist

Murtaza Ali Jafari
Knots (2012)
Courtesy the artist




Indian writer Arundhati Roy once wrote that we should not leave it to the experts to explicate our contemporary world of capitalist globalization. By ‘experts’ she meant politicians, bureaucrats, the media. She claimed that that job has to be carried out by artists; that they are able to unpack the complex causes, workings, and effects of capitalist globalization to us ordinary people – who feel its effects directly in our lives and on our bodies – in such a way that we can understand them and take action.

Our globe is currently facing a series of catastrophic crises that the international community has been unable to tackle: climate change, unequal wealth distribution, extremism, terrorism, and mass migration to name some of them.

In such a world on fire, the primary responsibility of public institutions – political, social, and cultural – is to provide platforms where these crises can be unpacked and discussed across boundaries of differences, so that civil society – majority as well as minority communities – are included in the discussions on how to address them. So that we can collectively begin to discuss how to solve them.

Our state, public, and private art institutions should find the courage to open up their programs and collections for artists and cultural producers, who have taken it on them to unpack our contemporary crises from the perspective of those who are hit the hardest by them. In other words, we need museums and art galleries to make room for artworks that deconstruct white privilege and structural racism so that the community members, who feel marginalized and silenced, are heard and taken into account.

In short, we need our art institutions to generate shared spaces – spaces that we inhabit and develop together across boundaries of privilege and inequality. CAMP is an attempt to provide such a platform.

In CAMP, we believe that art engaging migration politics is able to express life experiences of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers and place their testimonies within a larger political and historical perspective. Migration engaged art mirrors not only the precariousness of migrants and refugees, but also shows the social richness, creativity, dignity, and strategies of resistance by which these groups of people survive in a world that does not want them and fight back.

Art on migration politics sheds light on what affects us all, yet the migrant and the refugee the most: home, close relations, and personal safety. In the end, it also contributes to a lived critique of the political systems that uphold discriminating borders, global economic inequality, and non-sustainable exploitation of our nature.

"The migrant is not on the margin of modern experience –
he is absolutely central to it."

John Berger, A Seventh Man, 1975/2010

"Migration and revolution are acts of human agency that demand more. Both emerge from discontent with authoritarianism, corruption, blocked aspirations, obstructed possibilities, and social inequalities, and the loss of a sense of agency that accompanies these conditions."

Louise Cainkar, “Global Arab World Migrations and Diasporas,”
in The Arab Studies Journal, 2013