JR Art Project Saved Hundreds of Lives

The Magellan at port Photo: Thierry Dosogne via Paris Match

An art installation by French street artist JR was involved in the sea rescue of African migrants, the Wall Street Journal reported. The artist decorated the 1,200-foot-long (365 meter) French container ship Magellan with a picture of the eyes of a Kenyan woman, as part of his Women Are Heroes series.

After unloading its cargo in Malaysia, the vessel was heading back to port in Le Havre, France when it answered a distress call en route, rescuing 213 migrants drifting helplessly in the Mediterranean. The ship’s crew looked after the migrants for two days before transferring them to authorities in the Italian port of Taranto.

By coincidence, the artist learned of the rescue operation shortly after returning from the Italian island of Lampedusa where thousands of undocumented African migrants trying to reach Europe are processed every year. The artist told WSJ, “I was starting an art project on immigrants and another artwork of mine was already connecting with it in the middle of the ocean.” He added, “I will do something on undocumented immigrants; I still don’t know exactly how.”

Despite the dangers, thousands of African migrants attempt the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe every year. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration say that 3,000 individuals have drowned while attempting to make the crossing this year alone.

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