Platforma 5 – Why Folkestone? by Aida Silvestri
An exhibition of new portraits by Aida Silvestri
The Brewery Tap 53 Tontine St, Folkestone CT20 1JR
Opening event on the 16th of October at 7pm
Text by Aida Silvestri:
Why Folkestone? A question that newcomers to Folkestone are asked frequently. This project aims to create a new photographic narrative of a town that is changing demographically. It also aims to start difficult conversations around the idea of home, belonging and the implications of migration and the local communities in Folkestone.
It hopes to push boundaries by bringing together different groups of people who generally don’t have much, if any, association with each other in a gallery space to promote integration, acceptance and coexisting. This project will encourage diverse groups of people to take part in different activities and enable their voices to be heard.
Commissioned as part of the 5th Platforma Festival, produced by Counterpoints Arts.
The work will be exhibited alongside Aida’s previous project Even This Will Pass, work depicting the journeys and experiences of Eritrean refugees into the United Kingdom.
“Even This Will Pass”
This body of work depicts the journeys and experiences of Eritrean refugees into the United Kingdom. Those who emigrated from Eritrea did so illegally for various reasons.
Inspired by the story of a childhood friend, I investigated further only to learn that there were many more like her who didn’t want to share their experiences, for fear of consequences or further suffering in their lives.
A dictator has governed Eritrea, a small country located in the Horn of Africa, for the last 22 years. This regime, also known as the “North Korea of Africa,” keeps its population under a strong surveillance. There is no freedom of speech, or of religion, and only a few are allowed to leave the country legally. If caught escaping Eritreans are automatically tagged as criminals with their family paying the consequences either by imprisonment or a monetary fine. Eritreans, especially those aged 18 to 45 are forced to serve a prolonged or indefinite National Service under harsh conditions, and in some cases are sent to the frontline inexperienced. Due to the above restrictions and harsh punishments most, especially the young, flee the country illegally. The journeys are sometimes dreadful, and worse than what they were facing in Eritrea. This unknown danger, however, does not deter Eritreans fleeing, as they believe that the situation in Eritrea is worse than any danger they would encounter during their exodus. The lucky ones board an aeroplane in Eritrea to exile. Only a few make it to their final destination after months of struggling to cross-different countries. Some end up dying in the Sahara Desert or in the Mediterranean Sea. Others are detained in refugee camps or prisons and many more end up in hands of human traffickers where they are abused, tortured or killed unless they provide a ransom.
The title of this work echoes a message found on the walls of Sinai Mountain: Even This Will Pass. This sentiment of hope, together with a map of the refugees’ journeys, fragmented stories and mug shots are the blueprint for this body of work.
This body of work has taken a conceptual approach in order to engage the audience without showing gruesome or pitiful imagery often associated with this subject matter as well as to preserve the dignity of the sitters. It aims to provoke an audience to action as opposed to a more traditional response of inaction due to the overwhelming enormity of the subject matter. This will hopefully raise awareness of human trafficking appeal for urgent intervention from the international community, will bring to light different experiences and difficulties that my sitters faced on an uncertain voyage to exile which can sometimes be dreadful. The lucky ones board an aeroplane in Eritrea to exile. Only a few make it to their final destination after months of struggling to cross-different countries. Some end up dying in the Sahara Desert or in the Mediterranean Sea. Others are detained in refugee camps or prisons and many more end up in hands of human traffickers where they are abused, tortured or killed unless they provide a ransom.
There remain hundreds of refugees from East Africa, mainly from Eritrea, currently held hostage in the Sinai Desert by people traffickers.
Dedicated to those who suffered or were left behind in their quest for the ‘Promised Land’ and to those who marked their names and left messages on the walls of Sinai Mountains.
Your voices will be heard
“Even This Will Pass.” Aida Silvestri (2013-2014)