Earlier this month a boat carrying 500 Eritrean men, women, and children caught fire and capsized off the coast of Lampedusa, an Italian island famous as a destination for asylum seekers and for its beautiful beaches. Only 155 people survived and the scale of the incident, along with the difficult attempt to recover bodies from the wreck, shocked people across the world. The Lampedusa disaster highlights the desperation and vulnerability of asylum seekers, many of whom flee their home countries in crowded and ill-equipped boats to try and find a better life in Europe. Furthermore, it has brought attention to Europe’s struggle and in many cases, reluctance to deal with immigrants, many of whom have legitimate claims to asylum. According to the UNHCR, so far this year more than 13,000 people, mainly from Eritrea, Somalia, and Syria have attempted the perilous journey to arrive at Lampedusa from Northern Africa. Lampedusa which has a population of only 6,000, is ill-equipped to deal with and aid those fleeing war, persecution, and poverty.
Berni Searle’s haunting video Seeking Refuge addresses the experience of asylum seekers and immigrants. Seeking Refuge asks what it means for someone to leave their home for a new land and a different life. The short video films her moving across the dramatic landscape of Lanzarote Island, another historically important destination for immigrants . She explores what it means to survive a dangerous journey and wander, aimlessly in a new land. Her video, focusing on the distant horizon, the ocean, her feet on the pebbly, volcanic beach… is filled with stunning, yet bleak landscape that leads one to ask what one loses and what one gains from the process of migration and how this affects ones identity.
b. 1964, South Africa
Streaming video (5 min. 51 sec)
Edition of 5 + 2 artist’s proofs
Courtesy Michael Stevenson Gallery