France to protect Banksy mural of Steve Jobs

A picture of the Steve Jobs mural on Banksy's website.
A picture of the Steve Jobs mural on Banksy's website.PHOTO: BANKSY.CO.UK

LILLE, FRANCE •British graffiti artist Banksy's mural of late Apple founder Steve Jobs as a refugee on a wall in the Calais migrant camp and two other works in other parts of the city will be protected, the local authorities said last Saturday.

The Banksy mural depicts a life- sized Jobs - whose biological father was a Syrian immigrant to the United States - carrying a shoulder bag and an early model Apple computer on a wall surrounded by immigrants' tents. The mural pictures are posted on the artist's website.

The authorities in Calais, northern France, said they planned to shield the murals with glass or transparent plastic panels. "We found out about the presence of this artwork on Friday and have decided to protect it, so it is not damaged," a spokesman for the city said.

Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart told the local newspaper Nord Littoral that the artwork is an opportunity for the city. "It is very good and it has a message," she said.

Banksy, whose identity has never been confirmed, said in a rare statement to the British media that Apple, "the world's most profitable company" that pays more than US$7 billion (S$9.9 billion) a year in taxes, exists only because the American authorities allowed in a young man from Homs, Syria.

"We're often led to believe migration is a drain on the country's resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant," said the artist, who is famous for painting ironic murals in unexpected places.

About 6,000 migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East live in a so-called jungle of camps in Calais and are trying repeatedly to enter Britain by jumping onto lorries, hiding on trains and walking through the tunnel in the hope of better lives there.

In a second Banksy mural by the Calais beach, a child with windswept hair, a suitcase at his feet, peers at the distant British coast through a telescope on which a vulture is perched.

A third work in the city, close to the immigration office, reproduces a black-and-white version of The Raft Of The Medusa, a famous painting of shipwreck survivors by 19th- century French painter Theodore Gericault. It shows survivors on a raft desperately waving to catch the attention of what looks like a modern yacht on the horizon.

The Banksy website carries a photo of the mural with the slogan: "We're not all in the same boat."

In September, the artist said on his website that timber and fixtures from his temporary Dismaland theme park in western England would be sent to build shelters for migrants in Calais.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'France to protect Banksy mural of Steve Jobs'. Print Edition | Subscribe