Caroline Said Lawrence - Malta Playing Cards

Caroline Said Lawrence

The figure for 8 tilted on its side becomes the infinity symbol. An eight has the power to flip a suit (six cards ahead, six behind), so as contrast, a very different boat from the 3sails into view. A small frigate (fregatina) was elected as the yachts’ antithesis, although perplexingly it charters the same course: South to North. Very unlike the slick , this boat’s journey is one-way and the rough has no sponsorship; bejewelled rich and famous are not onboard and nowhere to be seen. This artwork foregrounds that each life has worth, we are ‘Anyone’ (→Box flap) now in the same boat, and deals with the age-old issue of migration. The boat’s name could well be ‘Ad Infinitum’ (charcoal and acrylics, 36.5x 25.5cm), with refugees risking their lives on the often treacherous seas: “The Mediterranean Sea is the deadliest border crossing in the world” (Migrant Offshore Aid Station, OceanusLive.org, 11 Feb. 2015). Likely this is why so many crowded diamonds stand side-by-side with bowed heads facing the sea. Asylum seekers who make it from the North African coast across the 160nmi (nautical miles, =296km) to Malta are officially labelled irregular migrants or informally klandestini, meaning illegals, literally the hidden, the unseen who become subject to compulsory detention. The survivors must further rough it by being held in camps, such as Tent City in Hal Far.

At the time of writing this entry in April 2015, a 20m skiff with some 900 refugees capsized and all but 28 drowned off the coast of Lampedusa, an Italian island just 86nmi (160km) southwest of Gozo; a grave cry went around middle sea ‘Je suis la Méditerranée’. The known death toll for the first half of 2015 exceeded 2,000.

(text by Margit Waas)