Don’t be alarmed when you see a 20-foot tall man wearing a life jacket sailing a wooden boat down the Yarra River next Saturday. He comes in peace – specifically, to draw attention to the global refugee crisis, as part of Australia’s Refugee Week (Jun 18-24).
Inflatable Refugee is a sculpture by Belgian art collective Schellekens & Peleman. It debuted in 2015 in Venice, and is on a journey across the world to spread awareness of the plight of the millions of people displaced from their homes and forced to attempt dangerous journeys in search of safety. Inflatable Refugee is made from the same fragile materials as the boats that human traffickers use to cross the Mediterranean Sea, and its size is intended to mimic the intense preoccupation and fear surrounding refugees in the western world.
You can watch Inflatable Refugee sail into Melbourne from east of the Princess Street Bridge in front of the boat sheds from noon-3pm Saturday June 17, and from 11am-3pm on Sunday June 18. After that, it will be on display at the Immigration Museum from June 19-25.
To learn more about the work, head to the museum at 6pm, Thursday June 22 for a talk with Schellekens and Peleman and local refugee artists.
For an idea of the sheer scale of the work, check out this drone video taken in Copenhagen:
The Immigration Museum is open daily, 10am-5pm. Child and concession free, adult $14.