Writers: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichieo (NGR), Colum McCann (IRL), Sofi Oksanen (FIN), Elif Şafak (TUR), Richard Ford (USA), Erri De Luca (ITA), Anne Enright (IRL), Dave Eggers (USA), Marek Šindelka (CZE).
Illustrators: Ana Juan (SPA), Shaun Tan (AUT), Gennady Spirin (RUS), Marwa Al-Sabouni (SYR), Tomi Ungerer (FRA), Rikki Ducornet (USA), Matteo Pericoli (ITA), Oliver Jeffers (UK), Peter Sís (CZE).
The I WELCOME project is an initiative of Art for Amnesty in collaboration with the DOX Centre, Amnesty International Czech Republic, and Czech Radio.
There is an entire army of those who come to the aid of refugees, or at least would like to. The world tries to help those in need: people on the run from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sub-Saharan Africa, from countries in the throes of civil war, devastated by terrorism, and paralyzed by tyrannies: the insulted and humiliated of our time.
As it tried to help refugees arriving from the East during World War I and after the Bolshevik Revolution, how it helped Jews when Europe was in the throes of the Nazi terror, or emigrants from Hungary in 1956, from Czechoslovakia in 1968...
People usually helped without being asked – on their own accord. People like Fridtjof Nansen, Nicholas Winton, Raoul Wallenberg, Janusz Korczak, and thousands of others whose names we don’t know. Politicians usually joined in only when people exerted enough pressure on them.
They were always flanked by their two best allies – literature and art. From The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Prague native Franz Werfel the world found out about the Armenian genocide, from Barbuss and Hemingway about the horrors of World War I, from André Gide and Arthur Koestler about the crimes of Stalinism, from George Orwell about the Spanish civil war; Czech Jiří Weil testified about the crimes of Nazism, while Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov revealed the horrors of the gulags to the world. And beside the writers stood artists: Otto Dix, Georg Grosz, or Czech Josef Váchal with horrific wartime landscapes, Pablo Picasso with the Guernica, artists and witnesses to the gulag, Boris Sveshnikov and Eufrosinia Kersnovskaya...
Like their predecessors, the writers and artists represented in this exhibition also offer no ready answers, are incapable of solving our refugee crisis. They reserve the sovereign right of an artist to ask questions to which there are not clear answers, to only hint at topics, between the lines – the right of a work of art to intimacy and disengagement. And yet it is precisely they who are perhaps best able to answer or at least hint at the identity of these refugees who so unexpectedly burst into our comfortable and carefree life. They help us understand that the world from which they come and the world in which we live are one and the same: that their war is also our war, and that their suffering concerns us. And that even though politicians try to convince us otherwise, we cannot remain indifferent to them. And above all, that much depends on each of us. I WELCOME.