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Ai Weiwei sets up studio on Lesbos

January 2, 2016

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has announced plans to create a refugee memorial on the Greek island of Lesbos. The island has served as a main point of entry for hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past year.

Ai Weiwei in Berlin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has said he wants to honor the struggle of the million or so refugees who have traveled to Europe by working on the Greek island Lesbos. Thousands of people are currently stuck there.

"A lot of people have lost their lives under the waves...we need a memorial," he said.

The Chinese dissident artist, who now resides in Germany, has said he wants to be more involved as an artist and create "artworks in relation to the crisis and also create some kind of consciousness about the situation."

Ai, who has already set up a studio on the island, told reporters that he will produce projects with themes related to the refugee crisis, and praised the people of Lesbos for having a "very good understanding" of the refugees' plight and for being "very helpful and very tolerant."

He also expressed his satisfaction with non-governmental organizations and their "impressive work." However, he said that Europe and the rest of the world have stalled in their willingness to act on the refugee crisis.

The 58-year-old visited the island earlier this week and visited with the refugees and migrants. He took to social media and tweeted photos and videos, providing evidence of the refugees' plight.

"It's very important to come and be part of it."

Ai told reporters that he would visit Lesbos several times over the year and said that he would continue to visit the island if the refugee crisis persists beyond 2016. Around six to ten students of his from China and Germany are also expected to work at the studio.

Four in five refugees are said to have traveled via the Greek islands after fleeing violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. More than a million refugees registered in Germany last year.

smm/bk (AP, AFP)