Humade Crafts Workshop & ‘Parisa’s journey’

The project of Humane Crafts Workshops [1] are part of the NGO Solidarity Lesvos. It is housed in the Mosaik Support Center [2] in the center of Mytilene. The workshop started in 2017 and it is free of charge for everyone who wants to participate. Its goal is the environmental awareness of the public through the art of reuse / use. One of the workshop’s basic requirement is to provide a safe space where participants feel comfortable to create and experimenting with different materials that for many might seem useless. It is very important that in the process of creation, participants have the opportunity to choose individual or collective projects as well as the materials they will use. At the same time, the process of reuse, in addition to being linked to recycling and climate change, meets immediate needs, as there are many materials on the island of Lesvos as a result of the ‘refugee crisis’ that are considered as waste. At the same time, it acquires a symbolic character, as many human lives on Lesvos are considered a “waste”. Therefore, changing the meaning of materials through their reuse during the workshops becomes a symbolic act, making visible the stories of the people participating in the workshop.

One of the many participants was Parisa, a 16-year-old refugee from Afghanistan who was with her siblings in Lesvos for 1 year and 8 months, waiting to leave for Germany to meet their mother. “Parisa was a very artistic and revolutionary figure and we loved each other from the beginning,” says Gioula, the lab’s coordinator. “She liked to paint, she even came to classes when the classes were over and we enjoyed each other’s company doing art. Restless spirit and sensitive souls. She came to Humade for about a year and as she revealed to me, her experience there made her believe in herself and feel happy again! ”

The day came when we learned that Parisa would eventually leave for Germany. “Strange moment,” we didn’t know how to react, with joy or sadness, “notes Gioula. “That’s when this idea came to me! I suggested she should paint something on the wall in the workshop yard, so she would always stay with us through her art. She liked the idea but suggested that it be better to do something together. So we thought that she should make this design and some pieces of the mural. It would be a collage of seemingly useless materials that I would add some pieces of her painting. I was thrilled! That’s where the brainstorming started. “

“So she designed a project that symbolizes her journey from Afghanistan to Lesvos. Both her narration and the depiction of the story with colors and materials were very moving. ”

“After a while Parisa left but her ‘journey’ was not over yet. So I thought of continuing the mural but not alone. Women of different nationalities took part in continuing the ‘journey’ for the next six months. Women with different stories but with a common vision. Women in solidarity. Everyone put their personal talent and style, always following the basic idea of ​​the story. So, on the occasion of the call of the Zapatistas for a collective action art that would participate in their established Comparte festival, we collaborated with the Invisible Women [3]. We continued with them and almost completed the ‘journey’ that reached as far as Mexico, the jungle of Lacandon and from there the struggling women around the world. 

Parisa’s journey began with a lot of love, in an effort to represent the life and vision of a teenager and in the process her journey was united with the counterparts of many other women. The entire process proves that art has a therapeutic effect and even more so in groups.

The materials used in this project were highly symbolic: the pieces of life jackets that are reminiscent of the dangerous regime in which thousands of people move everyday, the pieces of rubber from boats that cut off the safety of their lives, the buttons of clothes that were left behind in order to survive, the seals the slow process of obtaining asylum status, etc. The process of transforming all of this into something beautiful is a healing process that transforms an unpleasant experience into a positive one.

At the same time, the shift in the meaning of the materials through their reuse has made “visible” the women of the laboratory and strengthened those who live under the idea of ​​”waste”. As one of the workshop participants once said:  It’s like saying to those who are robbing people, waging war, and preventing people from moving that what you consider waste is the most beautiful thing in the world and that we can to prove it by making it into a work of art.”

Youla Koutsoumbou & Naya Tselepi
March 2020




[3] The ‘Invisible Women of Lesvos’ is a collective formed by members of the research group ‘Invisible Cities’ of the Department of Geography, University of the Aegean.

1, 4, 5: Naya Tselepi, October-November 2019
2, 3, 6, 7:  Youla Koutsoumbou, October-March 2020