In the summer of 2015, the world was focused on Idomeni - a small village on the Greek-Macedonian border, where thousands of new refugees were finding themselves trapped every day. But the story of Idomeni as a crossing point started years before. Vasilis Tsartstanis, a resident of a neighboring village, was the first to begin taking photographs, videos and written testimonies of the perilous journeys of those he saw traveling north. Years later, his work offers unique insight into the history of this migratory route and the struggles of those who have taken it.
This summer, he combined his materials with the work of other photographers, filmmakers and journalists working at critical crossing points to create an exhibition. Beginning in Greece’s famed Bensousan Han, the expo will be traveling around Europe for the next six months.
I’m proud to have my work on display alongside his and honored to represent the critical Spanish-Moroccan borders found in Ceuta and Melilla. I believe these borders - the only European borders found on the African continent - are the frontlines of a little seen battle against Africa’s rapidly expanding population of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. This expo will help bring their stories to light.
More images from the next stops on our exhibition trail (Italy, Spain, France, Germany, UK) coming soon...!
Almost every day, I receive messages from the ‘brotherhoods’ - bands of migrants hiding out in the forests surrounding the two Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco’s northern mountain region. The brotherhoods come together along lines of shared nationality. The youngest boys are usually 11 or 12 years old, and the chief of each group is one of the elders - a young man in his early to mid twenties. Most of the ‘brothers’ have traveled thousands of miles on their own, fleeing war or poverty in their home countries and dreaming of a better life just past the Morocco-Spain border. When they’re fortunate enough to have a few old blankets or plastic tarps to share between them, they couple these supplies with tree limbs and ‘rope’ made by tearing apart old t-shirts to construct makeshift tents. Piling into each tent, 10 or 12 brothers will sleep side by side on the ground, protecting themselves from the cold winds and rains that settle over the mountains during this time of the year. These are the happiest messages that I receive - messages like this one from the Guinean chief, which included photos of his brothers proudly building a safe place that they could call home.
#TheBurning #Brotherhood #UntoldStories #MigrantCrisis #Africa
And these are the saddest messages that I receive - messages like this one from the same Guinean chief, which this time included photos of the makeshift tents that his brothers had so proudly built just days before now burned to the ground by last night’s police raid on their forest home.
#TheBurning #Brotherhood #UntoldStories #MigrantCrisis #Africa #PoliceBrutality #BLM
This week, I was thrilled to officially join the Speaker Series at Atlanta's most innovative high school - TNS - and speak to the newest generation of change-makers about how they can be the change they want to see in the world.
The topic? COMMUNITY.
"The community I feel most a part of is one you might not expect when first looking at me.
It's a hidden community - hidden in the forests that cover the mountains around a town called Zoutia.
It's a changing community. Depending on the time of the year, it's as small as 10,000 or as large as many tens of thousands.
It's a young community. In fact, it's made up of young people who are just your age. The youngest is usually 11 or 12 years old and the 'elders' are 24 or 25, but the majority of them are teenagers just like you.
It's a male community, with around 90% of the population being boys and young men.
It's a diverse community - comprised of individuals from across the African continent. Most are coming from countries in Western and Central Africa - countries like Sierra Leone, the Congo, and Cote D'Ivoire - and they live together in 'brotherhoods' that are divided along lines of nationality and common language.
This community is home to those who have lost their parents to war or poverty and who, as the eldest in their families, were expected to set out in search of a better life. It's their responsibility to provide for their younger siblings and their own communities offered them no way to do that, so they journeyed north, often traveling thousands of miles on their own until they reach their final border crossing.
Now, who can tell me where this community is?"
I'm deeply honored for my work on the other side of the migrant crisis to be profiled by State Senator Will Brownsberger today...
"Every once in a while you run into a story that you can’t quite believe and you just want to hear more.
I recently found myself seated for dinner next to Isabella Alexander - an anthropologist who has spent many months living in the makeshift camps home to sub-Saharan African boys and men trying desperately to reach Europe.
Her courage, putting herself out there alone in a dangerous environment, borders on recklessness. But the story she brought back deserves hearing, and surely, there was no other way for her to get it. It starkly illustrates the increasingly painful dilemmas that we will all face around immigration policy in the decades to come..."
Thrilled to be back at Brown University as a keynote speaker in their 'Materiality of Migration' series...
Presenting on a panel organized by two academic heroes of mine, Glenda Garelli and Martina Tazzioli, at the American Association of Geographers this week I discussed...
Over the last five years, the European Union has significantly restructured its own borders through a new politics of border externalization, increasing its third-party agreements for the containment of migration flows and strengthening collaboration on border patrolling, surveillance, and interception at the external frontiers of Europe in countries across North Africa.
While these political agreements have been of great interest to scholars, what remains unexplored is the materiality of practices through which border cooperation is enacted... E.U. training programs for third countries’ coast guards and border patrols and technical equipment for monitoring migrant journeys by land and sea. Also lacking exploration are the new spaces that these practices are producing at the external frontiers of Europe and the embodied experiences of the migrants who end up trapped there.
Our panel mobilized "counter-mapping," as a tool for challenging the geopolitical map of Europe and investigating the bordering practices being enacted in spaces distinct from the European territory. What are the new spaces of control and mobility that are produced through border cooperation between the E.U. and third countries? How are migrant subjects working agentically to embody or challenge the identities that are assigned to them there? And how can we challenge the Eurocentric perspective that “border externalization" implicitly assumes in order to better document the spatial processes that are being ignited at the external borders of the E.U.?
Thankful to all who donated and helped me spread a little warmth in Morocco's migrant camps this holiday season!
"Thanks to our contributors and the Ottoman History Podcast's growing audience, 2016 was our most successful year yet! In the most past 12 months, we've released 70 podcasts, which have logged over 500,000 plays, and our following has reached almost 30,000.
With 2016 soon behind us, we wanted to showcase the year's most popular podcasts and highlight our editor's top picks of those that deserve a second listen..." - The OTP Team
Honored to be one of top picks of 2016! If you missed this episode of the Ottoman History Podcast, you can check it out here.