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Tracking Down Banksy in Calais

A few days ago, after Banksy had updated his website, we noticed that his work is now displayed at various points in “The Jungle” refugee camp in Calais, one of the largest camps in western Europe. Despite his identity still being cloaked in anonymity, Banksy is currently one of the most highly valued artists around. His sharp, critical wit is undoubtedly the hallmark of his work.

Noteworthy among the four new artworks he posted is the one showing Steve Jobs carrying an early-eighties Macintosh, with a sack slung over his shoulder, reminiscent of the bags the forced migrants often take with them on their harsh journey. This is clearly a reference to the whole migratory movement being enacted from Syria to Europe. Jobs was, of course, the son of a Muslim Syrian immigrant and was adopted by a middle-class family of Armenian origin. That is the conceptual link Banksy draws between Steve Jobs and the Syrian diaspora.

Another Banksy offering in the same area makes reference to a famous work by Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa, painted between 1818 and 1819, depicting a group of castaways in danger, packed onto a drifting raft. This alludes to the dangerous voyage embarked on by many of these refugees who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean on flimsy rafts. In this version, the castaways are crying out for help to a modern cruise ship speeding past near the horizon. The artist had previously drawn attention to the issues surrounding the refugee crisis in a work entitled, Dismaland.

In addition to these artworks, members of Banksy’s team set up 12 permanent installations in Calais, and a makeshift children’s playground in the camp precinct. The materials used were either sourced locally or were remnants of the Dismaland project brought here for the purpose. This new project is known as Dismal Aid.

A Much Frequented But Little Visited City

Calais is primarily a city of passage. Some 15 million people are estimated to pass through it each year as it is a compulsory way station for access between France and England. In contrast, comparatively few people actually spend some time visiting the city. However, we can wholeheartedly recommend this city in the north of France, with little over 75,000 inhabitants and just 34 km from Dover, as a tourist destination. Its charm lies not in its architecture or monuments but in its privileged siting on the seaboard and the majestic Côte d’Opale.

The city is not celebrated for its grand monuments or buildings, but it does have such landmarks as the Musée Mémoire 1939-1945, dedicated to the Second World War and housed in a bunker, a sculptural group by Rodin known as The Burghers of Calais, located opposite the City Hall, and the Cité Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode, the city’s Lace Museum. On display is a century-old mechanical loom with 3,500 vertical threads and 11,000 horizontal ones. Calais’ genuine heritage lies in its natural surroundings and local scenery is stunning. Come armed with your camera as the views are breathtaking. The attractive seafront is dotted with striped changing booths which take you back to the early 20th century. The sands stretch westwards for 8 km along the dune-filled Blériot beach, so named as it was here that the pioneer aviatorLouis Blériottook off on the first ever solo flight over the English Channel in 1909.

By the way, when you feel like having lunch or dinner, be sure to head for the Histoire Ancienne, a bistro specialising in regional and French dishes, some cooked on an open wood fire. This very pleasant, Parisian-style restaurant was opened in the 1930s. Prices are affordable, with dinner ranging from 19 to 28 euros.

Don’t miss your getaway to Calais – check out our flights to Lille here.


Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by Rob Sinclair, Carawah, Olivier Duquesne

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