‘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.


‘Invisible Women’

For every Feride in Moria who speaks and her voice is not heard, 

for every Eleni in Mytilene whose life is ignored, 

for every woman in the world trying to find a place.  


We women are screaming for freedom 

but they silence us using every form of violence. 

We’re tired of hiding, 

We’re tired of being scared, 

for our bodies, our children. 

We’re tired of hearing about another female homicide, 

From men to patriarchy 

From bosses to capitalism.  


Our sisters, 

it’s time for our voices to be heard 

it’s time to fight & 

to claim our rights.

For everyone in this world, 

for all of us, 

For life! 


(Invisible Women Manifesto)

‘Invisible Women’ is an initiative that sprang from the research team ‘Invisible Cities’ of the Department of Geography of the University of the Aegean, which includes women living or passing through Lesvos (many of them are no longer on the island).

Its original purpose was to respond to the call of Zapatista women for the Second International Conference of Women Fighting in Chiapas, Mexico in early December 2019. It was decided to send a video recording the speech of women who have been, or are trapped, in the hot spot of Moria as well as their actions against the homicides in the Aegean islands.

As part of the implementation of the video, meetings were held to discuss the call of the Zapatistas, an action of collecting voices, images and theatrical proposals and an action of joint creation of a mosaic-mural, in collaboration with Mosaik’s reuse laboratory. The process of reusing materials that seemingly are considered waste, in addition to covering real needs on the island, is highly symbolic as ‘a lot of human lives in Lesvos are characterised as ‘waste’. Therefore, changing the meaning of materials through their reuse becomes analogous to making visible women from every corner of the globe.

The video was prepared and traveled virtualy in the city of Mexico, where it was received by the Geobrujas team, which, through a convoy of 400 women on a 22-hour journey to the jungle of Lacandona, handed it over to the Zapatistas. The video sparked the opening of a communication channel with Mexican feminist collectives, a process that is still ongoing.

Violeta Dimitrakopoulou & Naya Tselepi
December 2019

Photos by:
Violeta Dimitrakopoulou


#All Women Against Moria

In the daily life of the women and girls of the hot spot of Moria, relentless insecurity prevails. More than 20,000 people live in a detention centre with a capacity of 3,000 people at the time of writing (April 2020). Even more so for women, this situation exacerbates their insecurity as most are victims of different types of violence, including rape. This violence is not unprecedented for them as it was most often experienced in the countries of origin, during their travel to Europe, and in the hot spot of Moria it is greatly intensified. Even greater is the need for women traveling alone to be housed in specially designed spaces, women’s ‘safe-spaces’. Unfortunately, these places are few and overpopulated, so very often single women are forced to stay in tents set up in areas with a male population, which makes their survival very difficult.

For the inhumane conditions they experience every day in the hot spot of Moria and for the asylum applications that are increasingly delayed for hundreds of immigrant and refugee women, they marched and demonstrated on January 30, 2020 from Moria to Mytilene. The main slogan of the women during the march was ‘Moria is a women’s hell’ which was supported by solidarity on social media with the hashtag #AllWomenAgainstMoria and he motto ‘tolerance for the conditions in Moria and the geographical limitation of asylum seekers on the islands is criminal’.

Their voices were very loud, and neither the torrential rain nor the shields of the uniforms of the special police forces could stop them.

The testimonies of the women themselves in conversations and interviews taken by one of the writers are exemplary of the situation:

“Moria is not Europe, Moria is worse than Afghanistan. We, women, we are not safe in Moria, in Moria people has been murdered, in Moria, they treat us like dogs (very bad),we request from the united nation to help us. Moria is not Europe, Moria is not a safe place, and our youth are hanging themselves to end up their lives. We want justice.”

“We want justice, we want freedom. When we had to cross the sea we realized we could drown, but we took that risk for a better future for our children. Unfortunately it is worse than Afghanistan, we do not feel safe in the Moria camp, we suffer. from the conditions that exist in Moria. We cannot even compare with hell the situation we have in Moria … ”

“We have putted our lives in danger, we have risked our lives when we stepped in the rubber boat, and we knew that it was possible to get drowned in the sea, we knew that it was possible that won’t make it alive to Greece. Why Greece is prisoning us? Greece is not Europe, Greece is worse than Afghanistan, we want justice, we have come to live and for that we have putted our lives in danger several times.”

“We want nothing else but just freedom from you, just let us to go because of these kids, we have lived our lives in all the worst possible situation, at least let these kids to have a peaceful life, why you have no mercy towards us? Why nobody hear us? Why you don’t want to listen to us? Why you do not understand? We have put our lives in danger to finally arrive here and yet you are deporting us back.”

Μigrant women are screaming for freedom, it’s time for their voices to be heard, for “invisible” women to be seen.


Violeta Dimitrakopoulou & Naya Tselepi
April 2020


photo 1: Natasha Papanikolaou, 
photo 2 & 3: Lesvos Solidarity Pikpa, All Women Against Moria, 
photo 4, 5 & 6:  Violeta Dimitrakopoulou


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.


‘One happy night’

On the night of Saturday, 7 March 2020, “unknown persons” set fire to the premises of “One Happy Family,” an open social centre outside of the city of Mytilene that supports refugees and migrants.

Since 2017, when it was created, One Happy Family constitutes a humane space of encounter, relaxation, and education for refugees and migrants who live in Lesvos: in the Moria hotspot, at the Kara Tepe camp, and in apartments in Mytilene. The services it provides are food, medical care, a space for resting and leisure, childcare, and education. Some of its sub-projects include: a kitchen, a dining hall, a medical centre, a café, a cybercafé, a cinema, video games, hair salon, an educational centre, a library, a bank, a garden, a greenhouse, a gym and sport facilities, music lessons, yoga, playground, a “nest” for small children, and a safe space for women[1]. This multitude of services and activities cover to a large degree the gaps that have emerged from the inadequate humanitarian assistance and the absence of state intervention, more generally in Greece, and specifically in Lesvos.

A special reference must be made to the ‘School of Peace’, which for the past three years offered daily access to education for children and adults. Since February 2017, it was a “home” for more than 4,000 children who passed through the island.

The fire at One Happy Family was no accident. The police department of Mytilene published a press release which states that it was planned arson[2]. According to the people who created and staff One Happy Family this hate crime is an “attack on the edifice of solidarity.”[3] Burning down a school and a social centre means not only the destruction of particular buildings, but also the destruction of a place that secures basic and self-evident human rights, a space of learning, expression, creativity–a space of freedom.

The arson took place in the midst of a period of dramatic escalation of violence against refugees, volunteers, journalists, and local solidarians–not only by law enforcement agencies, but also by groups of far-right extremists. Moreover, this was the outgrowth of the policies of recent years that have led to an emergency situation in the Aegean islands, at the borders of northern Greece, and in Greece in general: thousands of people are trapped in miserable conditions in the Moria hotspot, many more on other islands. The ongoing violation of human rights, the cessation of the right to apply for asylum in Greece, illegal pushbacks and violent obstruction of people in their attempt to cross the borders–these are just some of the characteristics of the emergency situation. The creators and  staff of One Happy Family remind us that “All of these are much worse than the damage caused to the buildings of One Happy Family and the International School of Peace. All these are still continuing.”

The arson took place in a country where a member of the ruling party commented on the incident on Facebook as “One happy night.” Indeed, when another fb user replied to him that “you rejoice in disaster; that’s how miserable you’ve become,” the former answered: “No, it’s not a disaster. This is more idyllic than a sunset in Santorini.”[4]

Between sunset and sunrise, “light and darkness,” racist paranoia and solidarity, ashes and rebirth, One Happy Family continues to be–and not only “was”–a promise of encounter of people from different points of departure who nevertheless have similar goals: the improvement of their living conditions.

Thankfully there “exists […] a large solidarity movement all over the world, which is determined by the struggle for human rights, equality, and justice”[5];  hence this promise is not only located in Lesvos but everywhere in the world. “We will rebuild the school! Together, the light will prevail over the darkness.”

Naya Tselepi
March 2020





[5] ibid.

1-4: by Naya Tselepi, taken during field visits in May and November 2018.
6-7:  by  Knut Bry


Aegean Guernica

In 1937 Pablo Picasso paints Guernica, probably what became his most well known painting, in order to express his opposition against the atrocities of Franco’s regime. In particular, Picasso’s work was a commentary on the destruction of the city of Guernica in the Basque country of Northern Spain. During the Spanish civil war in 1937, the city of Guernica was associated with the Republican resistance movement and was regarded as the epicentre of Basque culture. This is what made the city a significant and symbolic target for the Spanish Nationalist forces, which collaborated with Hitler’s Germany and bombed Guernica. Picasso’s oil painting on canvas is regarded as one of the most powerful anti-war artworks in the history of art and has since become a globally recognised symbol of the role and the power of artists in times of war, crimes, and atrocities. 

In February 2003, United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell was presenting the evidence in favour of going to war against Iraq at the United Nations Security Council. After the meeting with the officials, a press conference was scheduled outside of the UN council room that informed the world of the reasons and justifications for the US-led attack on Iraq. Yet, a very large tapestry reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica is located on the wall outside of the council room. Powell asked for the tapestry reproduction of Guernica to be covered with a blue curtain during this press conference. Replying to the questions of the journalists, United Nations officials claimed that the cover-up was simply a matter of creating a more effective backdrop for the television cameras: when we do have large crowds we put the flags up and the UN logo in front of the tapestry’ (Walsh, 2003). Of course the presence of mutilated bodies, distorted faces, and chaos on the background would be an ineffective and unappealing backdrop for justifying to a global audience that the US was planning to start a war in Iraq. The covered Guernica was a symbolic statement that spoke volumes about the power of art to raise consciousness, the representations of the horrors of war and fascism, and the inconvenient ‘art’ of UN’s diplomacy.

 In 2015, the cartoonist Jovcho Savov revisits Picasso’s Guernica in order to create a visual cry against the horrors of the ‘refugee crisis’. Savov uses the powerful nightmarish faces from Picasso’s painting provoking an intense feeling of suffering, fear, and inescapability. In Savov’s re-appropriation the figures are now in a boat drowning in the Aegean sea. In 2015, these bodies are named ‘refugees’ trying to escape wars and atrocities declared (or remaining undeclared) in front of covered Guernicas. Savov’s artwork has colour – while Picasso’s painting is black and white- and depicts on the background a cruising boat on the Aegean sea, perhaps a commentary by the artist that not all crossings are dangerous, not all bodies are drowning in the Aegean. The Aegean Guernica is a powerful reminder of the normalisation of war and not its inescapability.


Myrto Tsilimpounidi


Walsh, David (2003) ‘UN conceals Picasso’s Guernica for Powell’s presentation’, World Socialist Website,

Guernica transformed by cartoonist Jovcho Savov.

Wall writing

‘We are an image from the future’

Unknown Artist
Photo by Lefteris Margaritis, 2017

Time is conceived of as representing hope, opportunities and vision – all of which are acutely challenged by the notion of crisis. Time is inextricably bound up with notions of progress, growth and development. By contrast, in a state of crisis, defined as a temporary, critical turning point, the past is experienced through a sense of nostalgia, the present is experienced as loss, and the future is precarious. At the old port of Lesvos a street art piece depicting 3 children playing underneath the tag ‘We are an image from the future, No Borders, No Nations, No Governments’ makes a strong comment on a shared vision of future that is not yet here, but about to happen. This shared vision of a future brings to mind Benjamin’s fifth thesis on the philosophy of history (1968), in which he states that:  

[t]he true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognised and is never seen again. ‘The truth will not run away from us’ – this remark by Gottfried Keller denotes the exact point where historical materialism breaks through historicism’s picture of history. For every image of the past that is not recognised by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably (1968: 255).

In other words, the fragments of truth of the past are only visible as a contingent image, always under the threat of slipping away. This image becomes decisive in the continuity between past and present struggles. Benjamin argues against historicism and the claim that it depicts the eternal image of the past, and instead he puts forward an image of history as a constellation of self-standing experiences. The most valuable aspect of his theses on the philosophy of history is that they provide a non-linear conception of time, or to put it differently, a conceptualisation of time that breaks the hegemonic contract of time.


Myrto Tsilimpounidi



Benjamin, Walter (1968) Illuminations, trans by Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken Books. 

Tsilimpounidi, Myrto (2017) Sociology of Crisis: Visualising Urban Austerity. London: Routledge.