Francis Alÿs to work with refugees in Iraq and meet Isil’s victims



Francis Alÿs, The Green Line (2004). Photo: © Francis Alÿs

The artist Francis Alÿs intends to visit refugee camps in Iraq and work with people forced to flee their homes by Isil. The Ruya Foundation, a non-governmental organisation based in Baghdad, has invited the Belgian-born, Mexico City-based artist to visit; its co-founder and chairwoman, Tamara Chalabi, says that he may travel there before the end of the year.

The foundation is working to help some of the thousands of Iraqi refugees, including the Kurdish-speaking Yazidis, who are now living in places such as Camp Shariya in the north of the country, where they wait endlessly for relief—like “waiting for Godot”, Chalabi says.

Support from Ai Weiwei 

The foundation is already working with artists such as Baghdad-based Salam Atta Sabri, as well as Ai Weiwei. Earlier this year, the Chinese artist chose drawings made by refugees with materials provided by the foundation, which hopes to open a space for art therapy in a camp.


Ruya visited Camp Shariya, Camp Baharka and Mar Elia Camp and collected 546 submissions, including drawings, poetry and prose, by Iraqi refugees

The works selected by Ai were on display in the Iraqi pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and they also feature in the book Traces of Survival. “[Ai] wanted to visit but did not have his passport [at the time],” Chalabi says. Instead, two members of the artist’s studio travelled to Iraq to meet refugees and to record their testimonies.

Ai continues to support the foundation’s charitable work; the artist recently donated Hanging Man in Porcelain (2009, edition 87 of 100), formed by a piece of wire bent in the profile of Marcel Duchamp, to help raise funds.

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