‘You are here’: Μap on Platanos, Sykamia

This map was made by ‘solidarians’, activists, volunteers together with migrants and refugees[1] in order to provide location and orientation for the ‘newcomers’ who were arriving from sea to Sykamia, Northern part of Lesvos island, during the year 2016. It was hanged on the old Pine Tree (‘Platanos’) nearby the beach, which, from summer 2019, no longer exists.[2]

Observing the map, we notice that:

-apart from the main map of Lesvos, another map of Greece and five (5) other text messages are are layered in one ‘collage’;

-a variety of icons, symbols, typographies and fonds are used in order the message to be transmitted; (photo 1);

-apart from English and Greek, we can see Arabic, Farsi and Urdu languages (all photos);

-the map shows the location of Lesvos island within the Greek territory and neighbouring area (photo 2 & 3);

-the location of the newcomers is indicated by the hand-written ‘YOU ARE HERE’ (photo 4);

-the important information on it is the two alternative routes to Moria, Kara Tepe camps and Mytilene (highlighted in red and arrows, photo 2). Thus, Molivos & Sykamia, the two closer villages where there is bus transportation, are highlighted (photo 2);

-the map uses symbols of transport means, ie. bus and boat (photos 2, 4, 5), as well as, it provides info for the boat’s time duration and average cost (photo 5)[3];

-the directions given in all languages (Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, English, Greek) are, approximately, the following[4]:

Welcome to the Greek island Lesvos.

You must register with the authorities first at — MORIA.

By bus takes about 90 minutes. Walking takes two days.

Please stay with your traveling group, and don’t get into separate vehicles.

Keep your luggage with you at all times. Beware of over-pricing.

Do not sleep or rest on the roads. (photo 6)

Every map is more than its representation, symbolism, typography etc.; it is the people behind, in front and over it, as well as the relations and procedures needed in order for its creation. These ‘mapping’ processes reveal a variety of enclosed information regarding all above-mentioned observations:

-the people who created the map respected the need of the ‘newcomers’ to be treated in their own language and to participate in procedures that concerns, vastly, them; their location, orientation and first basic directions;

-the use of hand-writing on the map, either in order to emphasise an information, ie. ‘YOU ARE HERE’ or to change an old one, ie. ‘MORIA’ instead of ‘the port in Mytilene’, reveals the on-going process of the mapping, throughout many changes in data, circumstances, means etc..

In all, this ‘mapping’ is open to alterations and ‘newcomings’; is in a process of becoming towards to the future, and finally; inspired by Deleuze and Guattari’s work, we can argue that it performs as an ‘assemblage’.[5]


Naya Tselepi
December 2019



[1] More info here: 

[2] Τhe Pine tree fell in July 2019 due to heavy storms. More info here:—symvolo-ths-prosfygikhs-krishs-sth-skala-sykamias

[3] We assume that the time duration and cost refer to the itinerary from Mytilene to Athens.

[4] Some deviances from the English text are noticed in Greek language, which, roughly affect the communication, given that the vast majority of newcomers doesn’t communicate in Greek.

[5] The term ‘assemblages’ derives from the french ‘agencements’, which is introduced by Deleuze and Guattari in Mille Plateaux, Capitalisme et Schizophrenie (1980).



Crampton, J.W., 2011. Mapping: A critical introduction to cartography and GIS, 11. John Wiley & Sons.

Deleuze, G., and Guattari, F., 2004. A thousand plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.


Map of location and orientation for migrants and refugees who were arriving from sea to Sykamia, Northern part of Lesvos island. The map was made by ‘solidarians’, activists, volunteers together with migrants and refugees & it was hanged on the old Pine Tree (‘Platanos’) nearby the beach. 
Photos by Naya Tselepi, February 2016.


Map of location & orientation, Korakas promontory

The rocky promontory of Korakas, at the northeastern tip of Lesvos is one of the—often deadly—‘entry points’ of migrant and refugee flows into Europe. In November 2015, at this place, volunteers and solidarity organisations created an ‘observatory of movements,’ which also functioned as a ‘welcoming station’ for migrants and refugees who were arriving by sea to the broader area, down to Sykamias beach. 

Amongst the first actions of solidarians who staffed the station was the creation of a map of ‘positioning and orientation’. Specifically, the map indicates the point of ‘arrival’ of migrants and refugees and provides information and instructions for the route to follow and stations they would encounter in the surrounding area. 

On the map we observe that the point of arrival of boats (in black, bottom right) is at the Korakas Lighthouse,  where first aid is provided (cross symbol). Then, newcomers will have to walk a difficult path (footprint symbol) for 800 metres to reach Point Eight, the first station where they can get warm, drink water, and sit down to rest (at the respective symbols). From this particular point, a vehicle (flatbed truck) picks them up, which after 20 minutes’ drive transports them to the station at the former Cheese Factory, where heating, food, warm beverages, water, bathroom, basic clothing, and first aid are provided (at the respective symbols). There, they are picked up by the designated vehicle of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which transports them within 30 minutes, to the nearest station of the organisation. 

It is very important to note the following about this particular map and the process of its creation (mapping): 

  • the map has been created with indelible paint on a marble surface in order to withstand rain, humidity and other weather and natural processes that could damage or destroy it.
  • its symbolism is appropriate to be able to ‘communicate’ its message to speakers of all languages.
  • the map provides important information of distances and time, as it is addressed to people who find themselves in an urgent situation and/or in danger, for whom it is very important to know these parameters as soon as they reach the shore.

Naya Tselepi
December 2019


Map of location and orientation for migrants and refugees who reached the Korakas promontory by the sea, made by solidars and volunteers.
Photos by Naya Tselepi, February 2016.


Mind Mapping ‘Refugee Crisis & Solidarity’

If we consider maps to be representations of known places and territories, which are accompanied by specific narratives -spatial territory, sovereignty, control, etc.- then we could suggest the reorientation of such maps through collective new mapping processes, not only of space but also of the other representations that are formed in relation to it.

The mapping workshops in the present research project were addressed to students and other members of the community of the University of the Aegean; to a more general public concerned with issues of forced displacement and migration whether as researchers, as professionals, and/or as volunteers; as well as migrants and refugees living on the island of Lesvos.

In this context, the workshop “Mappings and representations of the ‘Others’: The example of Lesvos toward an antiracist geography” took place during the second conference of the School of Social Sciences at the University of the Aegean, entitled “Social Sciences today: Dilemmas and prospects beyond the crisis” and held in Mytilene in June 2019. At this particular workshop, our aim was to ‘map’ anew places and populations through a process of renegotiation initially of space and then of stereotypical distances that emerge from the everyday lived division between the ‘Self’ and the ‘Other.’

Therefore, we addressed an intercultural group from various areas of the world who were on the island for completely different reasons, asking them to represent how they perceive the image of borders, of migration, and of Lesvos, as follows:

Map – represent the so-called “refugee crisis” and solidarity on the island of Lesvos in whichever way you want, as you imagine them.

We explained that we are preparing an Atlas, which will include untold stories, collective memories, and everyday experiences of local populations, which encounter the corresponding ones of migrant and refugee populations, and which, together, now, create visible and invisible actions and claims. We asked to include their narratives through their own mappings.

Some conference attendees dealt with scales or routes. For instance, in one representation various scales were placed between those who travel on foot, in cars, or in boats, in comparison with those who travel by plane from Syria to western Europe.

Image: Mappings and representations of the so-called “refugee crisis” and of solidarity on the island of Lesvos. Mapped conceptual representation by conference attendee/visitor to the island.
Photograph by Chryssanthi (Christy) Petropoulou

In this particular representation, the origin of the person on the move appears on the left and his destination appears on the right, in a diametrically opposed direction with the location of places on the dominant world geographical map (with North on top), and which also indicates the direction of writing in Indo-European languages and not the direction of writing in  Arabic. 

In another representation, the island of Lesvos was located with a dot on a world map; in another as a sign on a route that becomes increasingly uphill; while in others only abstract ideas, objects, and non-spatial words were presented. Only in some representations did images appear that refer to the concept of solidarity. From the above, we can see that space and time have different meanings according to the knowledge, experiences, and stereotypical references of each individual.

Naya Tselepi
December 2019