Art for ­humanity

01 April 2019 | Africa


German human rights group Pixelhelper has erected an eight-metre copy of the European Union's external border in Morocco to serve as a memorial for all migrants who die on the way to Europe.

“People who die in the ocean, die in the desert, everywhere on the way. We have on this press picture a small concrete foundation ready for the museum for refugees,” says artist Oliver Bienkowski. Through this artwork, called Fencing4Humanity, the group calls on the German federal minister of economics, Peter Altmaier, to introduce a weapon tax in aid of refugees. Bienkowski says they want to draw attention to the fate of all those African migrants who had to leave their homeland for Europe because of armed conflict. “We are calling for a weapon tax that transfers the costs of refugees to the weapons companies. If a gun company can pay a dividend, then the company can also contribute to the German cost of refugees. If you cannot ban arms exports, you should at least alleviate the consequences of exporting weapons,” Bienkowski says. He adds that the group plans to construct a memorial museum for all the nameless migrants who have perished in pursuit of a better life.

“It is like a multimedia walk-through and it is eight by nine metres; it is big enough,” he says.

Last year Pixelhelper projected an image on the Bundestag (German parliament) and the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel to pressurise the government to apologise for the Nama and Ovaherero genocide.

The two pictures were posted on the group's Facebook and Twitter pages and were captioned with a summary of what happened during the genocide. “During the German colonial period, it was estimated that some 100 000 members of the Ovaherero and Nama communities were killed. Their destruction was the first genocide of the 20th century. Men, women and children were pushed into the [Kalahari] Desert, and access to water was blocked. The Namibian government has worked hard to have the bones returned from several German universities, museums and private stock. They were collected by researchers during the colonial period and brought to Germany. Studies on them also served to support racist theories.”

Humanitarian work

The group has converted a small farm 40km from Marrakech in Morocco into an interactive live-stream studio.

“Under the eyes of the cameras, we produce here, with the help of the spectators, humanitarian supplies, algae tablets for malnutrition, canned bread for refugee camps in a 4.6-metre wood oven, flood baskets against flash floods in North Africa, emergency cubes to survive in the event of loss of housing in natural disasters and motorcycle accidents and bicycle helmets for teenagers,” the group says.