Milan exhibition highlights migrant crisis

Photos taken during a rescue operation of migrants off the Libyan coast in October last year are on show at The Restless Earth exhibition at Milan's Triennale.
Photos taken during a rescue operation of migrants off the Libyan coast in October last year are on show at The Restless Earth exhibition at Milan's Triennale.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The belongings of 52 migrants who died in a barge while trying to reach Europe in 2015 are part of the exhibition.
The belongings of 52 migrants who died in a barge while trying to reach Europe in 2015 are part of the exhibition.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MILAN • Just like how an awardwinning entry about migrants had sparked off reflection at a World Press Photo showcase held in Singapore recently, another exhibition in Milan is offering further fuel for debate.

It offers, through the lens of 65 photographers, an original look at the topic of immigration and the migrant crisis.

The Restless Earth, organised by the Nicola Trussardi foundation, is being presented by the Visual Arts Programme of Milan's Triennale, the title alluding to works by Caribbean poet Edouard Glissant, on how different cultures can live together.

The exhibition - with works from photographers from some 40 countries including Syria and Turkey - is an "exercise in empathy, understanding and intercultural dialogue" to facilitate "a future together", the foundation said.

The works are designed to not only show migrants' experiences, but also hint at perceptions of new arrivals amid the worst refugee crisis Europe has known since World War II.

Italy has been at the front line of the crisis, receiving tens of thousands of migrants attempting the dangerous sea crossing from Libya in vessels that are often barely seaworthy.

Included in the exhibition, which runs through Aug 20, are 26 powerful images taken by Agence FrancePresse photographer Aris Messinis depicting their hazardous journeys.

Another powerful exhibit is Syrian Manaf Halbouni's Nowhere Is Home, comprising a car crammed full of objects to symbolise the transient existence of refugees with nowhere to call their own.

Also throwing into stark relief the human cost of the migrant crisis is an exhibit of passports, damaged mobile phones and other personal items from African refugees.

Hundreds of them drowned off Lampedusa, an island near Sicily, when their vessels capsized in 2013.

Milan itself is an industrial economic hub in the north of Italy, where the anti-immigrant Northern League has sought to extract political capital from the migrant crisis, a divisive issue across the country.

In January, tensions boiled over as residents at a migrant reception centre near Venice set the facility ablaze after the death of a female refugee, which residents blamed on a long delay in getting her medical treatment.

More than 1,000 migrants are thought to have died making the dangerous voyage from Libya to Italy so far this year, according to the United Nation's refugee agency.

Nearly 37,000 have been rescued and brought to camps around the country.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2017, with the headline 'Milan exhibition highlights migrant crisis'. Print Edition | Subscribe