When he was just 15, Achilleas Souras felt compelled to act in response to the refugee crisis. Working with his school, he collected 400 lifejackets abandoned from the Greek island of Lesbos (a landing place for thousands of people seeking refuge in Europe) to create a dome-like structure in his art installation SOS Save Our Souls.
Two videos bring Souras’ installation to life. One video presents the perspective of the artist, while the other features the point of view of a young Syrian refugee who reached the shores of Lesbos after a perilous sea crossing from Turkey.
Living in Barcelona, Spain, the now 16-year-old artist Souras continues to create the modular shelters to help raise awareness of the growing crisis.
At the age of 13, Mustafa Al Said fled the war-torn city of Aleppo as a Syrian refugee with his brother and mother. After arriving in Lesbos, Al Said shared his journey, along with his fears and hope for a better future with a UNICEF film crew.
Today, the refugee crisis remains a critical global human rights issue. More than 65 million people are currently displaced by conflict or persecution. Children like Al Said who are uprooted by conflict undertake long treacherous journeys, often sleeping without shelter and experiencing the trauma of being separated from their family.
Installations like Save Our Souls and stories like Al Said’s contribute to reflection and dialogue about the refugee crisis. Seeking Refuge stems from, and invites, youth engagement. Like many others, Souras had witnessed the refugee crisis through media coverage. But he drew from his passion at only 15 years of age to make a statement about our responsibilities in the face of crisis. Al Said lived through this incredibly tragic experience himself, and found the courage to share it with the world.
Seeking Refuge is featured in the Level 5 Rights Today gallery from August 2017 to August 2018. Visit the Museum to see the full exhibition.