“All refugees need shelter and I want them to get it. Their lives won’t be as easy as it may have been before the war that drove them out of their homes, but they will have a place to start anew … they will have the chance to find their own way of flying away for a while.”
When I was a child, I always wanted to be a Quetzal – the shy snakebird worshipped by the Mayans that lives high above in the trees of my Guatemalan motherland. Instead, someone gave me an old camera as a gift. That is how I was able to get away. When I take photographs of the world around me, it feels like I am no longer part of this world – taking a step back, capturing a part of the scenery is like flying above the ground, disconnecting myself from earthly troubles, watching the world from the treetops.
Nowadays, for many children as well as adults, getting away is more than a relief from the hardships of daily living; it is a matter of survival. As refugees, millions of people are fleeing from conflicts worldwide and more will follow. As our planet´s climate changes, there will be climate refugees: families driven out of their homes by extended dry periods or catastrophic events like flooding and storms. Scarce natural resources will bring more conflicts and even more refugees.
But even those lucky enough to get away cannot fly above the ground and distance themselves from their troubles. They are seldom lucky enough to have art or any other form of human passion to help them. But you can´t live from your passions alone. You need a home, a place on the ground, a shelter under the trees.
This 20th of June is the day we should all remember [what is happening]. There are people on the run, human beings whom need a place to stay, a place to rest, to sleep, eat, work, and live so they can rise above the ground again. There are people knocking on doors in other countries, asking for a place to live. Those people do not ask for charity. They ask for opportunity. They want to work, to do their share.
Many countries recognize the right for political asylum, but these policies are under pressure. Right-wing groups in industrialized countries demand that fewer people receive shelter, arguing that the refugees want to “take their work away.” How can a person steal work, I wonder?
In Europe, I met some of those refugees. Some lucky enough to be accepted and granted the right to stay, some sent back to their war-torn countries that are supposedly “safe.” I met an Iraqi boy who said goodbye to his friends to hide someplace in the mountains when the government decided his home was safe enough to return. In my home country of Guatemala, people are still coming back from seeking shelter in Mexico during the civil war.
All refugees need shelter and I want them to get it. Their lives won’t be as easy as it may have been before the war that drove them out of their homes, but they will have a place to start anew … they will have the chance to find their own way of flying away for a while.
My art is influenced by my academic education as a journalist. It is raw and real, whether I capture the beauty of nature or the reality of everyday life engraved in a person´s features. Being a volunteer in the project for children Los niños de Jesús for more than a decade now, I have always used my art to support social and environmental causes. So far, I have exhibited in Guatemala and Germany.
“World Citizen Artists brings together individuals from manifold backgrounds. All of them interact with society through art, in their own very special ways. Whenever you meet people from other places, and whenever you connect yourself with other places – by living or working there – you can easily spot the big differences between ways of life all over the world. But you also discover the sole identity of the human condition: Why our answers to the questions of life may differ, the questions themselves are always the same.
World Citizen Artists is a project that allows us artists to unite in contributing to the discussion of the social and existential questions of our time – that is why I am happy to be a part of it.”