Ai Weiwei Hosts Concert for Beleaguered Young Pianist Stuck in Refugee Camp

Art can defeat war, the artist says.

Ai Weiwei holds up a plastic sheet to protect Syrian pianist Nour Alkhzam from the rain. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Building on his burgeoning reputation as a humanitarian, Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei organized a performance for a young Syrian pianist at the Idomeni refugee camp on the Greece-Macedonia border.

Twenty-four-year-old pianist Nour Alkhzam played a 20-minute concert on a white piano brought by Ai. The artist and others held a plastic sheet over the performer to shield her from the pouring rain.

“She has been victimized by these wars,” Ai told the French press agency AFP. “She has not had the chance to touch a piano in three years.”

According to ABC, the United Nation’s refugee agency spokesperson Babar Baloch called the conditions at the Idomeni camp “unbelievable.” He said, “We are seeing human misery at its peak in Europe… It has gone beyond imagination how bad it can get…”

As Eastern European countries work on closing the Balkan route to northern Europe, over 12,000 refugees have gathered on the Greek-Macedonian border in the hope that they will be able to cross soon.

Ai explained that the performance is an attempt to change attitudes towards refugees. “We want to reveal a new image to them, to relay possibility, art, and imagination. This is the image that needs to be relayed to the world… It tells the world that art will overcome war,” he said.

Ai has been an outspoken critic of the European authorities’ handling of the refugee crisis, and has realized several projects to raise awareness of the plight of migrants and refugees who are risking their lives to come to Europe. Some have gone over better than others.

For instance, in December 2015 Ai volunteered at the Lesbos refugee camp to document the plight of people displaced by war and poverty. This February he commemorated refugees who drowned in the Aegean Sea while making the boat journey from Turkey to Greece, by installing 14,000 life jackets at a gala venue in Berlin during the city’s Berlinale film festival. That same month, the artist was lambasted for recreating the image of a Syrian toddler whose body washed ashore in Turkey.

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