A work of art for migrants shipwrecked in Tunisia

Carte blanche by François Prouteau, president of Fondacio : On 22 April last, an inflatable boat with more than 100 migrants on board capsized in the Mediterranean and ten bodies were found a few days later off the coast of Libya. This tragedy added to a grim toll announced the day before by the International Organization for Migration: at least 453 migrants have disappeared since January 1, 2021 in the Mediterranean.

In 2020, more than 2,200 migrants died in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, more than 10,000 since 2014. 

The director general of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, is visiting Tunisia these days and will go to the Garden of Africa where the Algerian visual artist, Rachid Koraïchi has created an oasis to give a burial to the victims of such shipwrecks. 

"For too long, humanity has shown impotence, even indifference, while women and men drown and too many look the other way," said Audrey Azoulay. "By giving a burial, we also give hope of an identity and therefore of dignity to those who have perished". Audrey Azoulay will offer for this oasis of burial, The Tree of Peace, a sculpture by Hedva Ser, a work that brings together, in an intertwining of knotted branches and soaring doves, the values of peace promoted by the United Nations.

Today's inauguration of this memorial garden for Africa bears witness to Rachid Koraïchi's humanist commitment. The artist himself experienced the tragedy of such disastrous crossings when his brother, Mohamed, a year older than him, lost his life in the Mediterranean in 1962. 

In a lecture given in 2019 at the Catholic University of the West, Rachid Koraïchi expressed his indignation at the treatment of bodies recovered from the sea, dumped on the shore or left to decay in landfills. This is why Rachid Koraïchi bought a 2500 m2 plot of land from the town of Zarzis to create this cemetery, financed solely by the sale of his works, but where none of them will appear. 

Rachid el Koraïchi is a plastic artist, a landscape architect and heir to a prestigious family descended from the Prophet of Islam. He has lived in France since 1968 and has no geographical or intellectual boundaries. Nourished by a long Sufi mystical tradition open to dialogue between religions, he likes to say that the word comes from the breath that animates his life and all his work as an artist.

I look forward to going to Zarzis, in the south-east of Tunisia, to visit this memorial garden of Africa. We remember the beauty of another of Rachid Koraïchi's works, not far from here: his Jardin d'Orient in Amboise, always to link the Human to History and never to forget the greatness of every human being, his eminent dignity.