Hip hop and children’s voices: In Paris, migrant artists craft new future

Paintings by refugees displayed at the Agency for Artists in Exile in northern Paris on Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 29 December 2017
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Hip hop and children’s voices: In Paris, migrant artists craft new future

PARIS: In a bright white room in a building north of Paris, Syrian musician Karam Al-Zouhir impatiently clicks a mouse as he presses his headphones against his ears.
The 30-year-old artist, who left his country shortly after civil war broke out in 2011, is composing a musical show for children based on recordings of migrant children telling their stories, with support from French writer Claire Audhuy.
“In many ways, kids are more perceptive and adaptable than adults,” said Al-Zouhir, one of about 200 musicians, painters and sculptors from conflict-affected countries working alongside each other in the workshop in northern Paris.
“There’s so much we can learn from the way they experience a crisis,” he said, totally engrossed in overlaying sounds of clinging forks and crushed cans on quotes from children.
Giving artists from countries such as Syria, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo the chance to continue their work and rebuild their lives was the reason that former theater managers Ariel Cypel and Judith Depaule set up the Agency for Artists in Exile earlier this year.
With funding from the Paris authorities and a 1,000-square-meter space the size of four tennis courts provided by French charity Emmaüs Solidarite, artists need only pay a token one euro a year to work there, explained Cypel.
“Most of the people working here live in extremely precarious conditions,” he said. “So we try to take off some pressure and provide members with a bit of stability, if only in their work life.”
Artists come at all hours and can stay for as long as they want, Cypel added.
“When you’ve suffered torture, rape or forced exile, getting into work early is the last thing on your mind.”
According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), about 400,000 refugees claimed asylum in Europe in 2017, fleeing the war in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, as well as conflicts and poverty in Africa and Asia.
While France has been much less affected by Europe’s migrant crisis than neighboring Germany, thousands of asylum seekers use it as a transit point in the hope of reaching Britain.
Cypel said artists were particularly at risk of persecution from repressive regimes and often forced into exile, where their talent and knowledge too often go unnoticed.
The agency’s art ranges from hip hop workshops to help minors feel more comfortable, to doll collections by Afghan performance artist Kubra Khademi whose work focuses on “those girls who have no choice but to be born women.”
While the initiative is primarily about art, it also aims to facilitate members’ integration into society by introducing them to art professionals, helping them learn French, and even offering legal and psychological support.
“For me, success would actually be our artists leaving us and making it on their own,” said Cypel, a hesitant smile spreading across his face.
For Al-Zouhir, there is “absolutely no chance of going back to Syria, even if it means never seeing my parents again.”
“If however I can make something beautiful out of something so ugly, and help preserve my country’s culture, then I hope they can be proud of me,” he said.
Cypel knows the workspace may not last forever.


Golden Globe Race seek to rescue injured Indian sailor

The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center is working hard to assess and coordinate all possible options to rescue Abhilas Tomy. (goldengloberace)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Golden Globe Race seek to rescue injured Indian sailor

  • The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center is working hard to assess and coordinate all possible options to rescue Abhilas Tomy

PARIS: The organizers of the round-the-world Golden Globe Race said Saturday they were scrambling to rescue missing Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy, but admitted he was “as far from help as you can possibly be.”
Tomy’s yacht Thuriya had its mast broken off when it was rolled in a storm on Friday and the yachtsman suffered what he called “a severe back injury.”
The organizers described him as “incapacitated on his bunk inside his boat” and his yacht is 2,000 miles (3,704 kilometers) off the coast of Perth, Western Australia.
On Saturday, he managed to send a message saying: “Extremely difficult to walk, Might need stretcher, can’t walk, thanks safe inside the boat... Sat phone down.”
The organizers said on the race website: “The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center is working hard to assess and coordinate all possible options to rescue Abhilas Tomy who is as far from help as you can possibly be.”
Tomy, a 39-year-old commander in the Indian navy, is able to communicate using a YB3 texting unit but his primary satellite phone is damaged.
He has a second satellite phone and a handheld VHF radio packed in an emergency bag, but organizers said he was unable to reach it for the moment.
The organizers said they had urged him to try to get to the bag because it could be crucial in making contact with a plane from Australia and an Indian air force plane which might be able to fly over the area.
Given the distance from land, the planes will not be able to spend long in the area, the organizers added.
A French fishing boat was also heading to the scene “but may not arrive for a few days.”
The Golden Globe Race involves a gruelling 30,000-mile solo circumnavigation of the globe in yachts similar to those used in the first race 50 years ago, with no modern technology allowed except the communication equipment.
Tomy’s own yacht is a replica of Robin Knox-Johnston’s Suhail, winner of the first Golden Globe Race.