The “Emergence” public interventions is a piece that intends to address uprising xenophobia and islamophobia in the U.S.A and in Europe. As part of the piece, I am walking in public spaces, wearing a hijab made out of an emergency heat blanket. The emergency heat blanket is made out of a metallic, golden material and it has been provided as first-aid to rescued refugees that have crossed the Mediterranean Sea. The emergency heat blanket has the ability to raise the body temperature up to 90%. Wearing the hijab, I posed in front of the Statue of Liberty and the Hephaestus’ Temple in Athens that used to be a refugee camp in 1922 housing refugees that came to Greece after the conflict between Greece and Turkey.
I have been living between two cities, Athens and New York City. These are my homes and I am very proud of what my cities are standing up for. New York City is standing up as the American symbol of welcoming the needy, the immigrant, as well as the refugee. New York City is constantly fighting for human rights, for gender equality, for freedom of speech, and free college education. In parallel Athens, the Greek city that founded democracy, philosophy, arts and sciences was the center of the ancient western world. Those two are my cities. Two cities that combine the new and the old. Two cities that have a very long history of migration. Two cities that became the center of the world because of their cosmopolitan character and the constant cultural exchange that made them globally unique. Through this work, I try to speak up against xenophobic and islamophobic voices and incidents that unfortunately are becoming more and more pervasive.
I am coming from a refugee family myself. My grandfather was a refugee from Turkey who migrated to Greece in 1922. His people that were part of the Greek speaking minority in Turkey were forced to migrate to their “homeland”, but in Greece they faced racism and xenophobia, like any other refugee in the world. They were called “Τουρκόσποροι” (Turkey’s seeds). My grandfather came to Greece as a six-year-old boy with his mother and his five siblings. He had told me that one time he got so hungry that he tried to eat dirt. My grandfather did not speak a lot about those times. He was trying to forget and to leave those memories behind.
I had grown up not knowing where my grandfather was from, what was his religion was, or his heritage. My brothers and I had been taught that he was part of the Greek population in Turkey, but we were wrong. When he died, we surprisingly found out that he was circumcised. He was likely adopted from a Muslim family during the war. The sense of lost roots and the global uprising of xenophobia and Islamophobia that targets refugees, immigrants, and Muslims compelled me to take a strong position and speak up through my art.
Statue of Liberty Poem by Emma Lazarous
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”