Friday, September 11, 2015

Migration in quilt and for real

As things have turned pretty dramatic with the refugees pouring into Europe during the past ten days, and almost all of them wanting to go to Germany, I have been working on stitching the text onto my piece for the SAQA exhibition on that theme. While I am stitching I keep wondering what these developments will mean for the future.
On the one hand, I think it is amazing that Germany, a country which was less than hospitable towards a large part of its population only seventy years ago, and which brought a lot of bloodshed to other countries and their peoples, has turned into the desired destination for so many people. Obviously, the historic part is not an overwhelming factor any more. On the other hand I wonder whether all of these people are refugees from war zones – not every place in Syria is subject to bombing right now, and some of the new arrivals we have had here in town openly told us that they were not fleeing from a war situation. And then I wonder what kind of probably false information is being passed around in those countries – because we have had people here who were annoyed that they were not given a house to themselves immediately,  who were expecting to bring in their families right away and who were not at all happy with the fact that being a refugee in this country does not get them treatment as in a decent hotel.
I still believe that Germany’s constitutional right to political asylum is one of the greatest achievements that this country has arrived at. But I am afraid that it might get damaged because of the developments we are watching right now. And what is going to happen with all the people in winter? It can be cold here, and we may not have enough houses to put them all up!
During our summer vacation, which we spent at home, I coached myself to step back a bit from volunteering to help the refugees. At one point a family from Kosovo, whom I had never seen before, had stood in front of our door, with two small children, they were facing being sent back, and could I please help them. That was the moment when I knew something had to change. I’m still visiting one house on a regular basis, but slightly less frequently, giving German lessons to two of the inhabitants once or twice a week, and managing internal communication within the network of volunteers. But I make sure that there is much more time left for my family and myself, and my quilting. I did not jump and run when yet another house was dedicated to housing refugees and 14 people were placed there within two days. Somebody else from the network had to do that. Sometimes I wait until late in the afternoon until I check e-mails. And I make plans as to when I will be sitting at the sewing machine. So the migration quilt is indeed making progress.

transferring letters onto the fabric

auditioning threads for stitching the letters -
none of these got chosen in the end, though.
Partly because my machine decided it does not like the shiny quality ones...

Backside view of first word stitched

Just before starting to write this I pinned the migration quilt to the wall to see how it looks now. Before I had started the stitching of the text I hadn’t been at all sure that this was going to turn out at all. But now I like what I see, and although I still have a lot of work to do with it, I am pleased with the development it has taken.

I am even planning ahead rashly – I might try to finish a second quilt, for another call for entry, before I go to New Zealand. But this is getting very ambitious, because I would have to have it all finished before I leave in order to catch the last date of online entry when I return. We don't know how many more refugees will arrive in our town within those seven weeks before I leave. And is traveling another kind of migration? A jumble of thoughts...


  1. I keep thinking of you when I see the pictures of people wanting to go to Germany. And do countries realise the need for developing networks so it doesn't all become too much?
    It is like the Romanian orphans after the revolution in 1989. We saw childless couples - especially Americans - taking two children - no experience of children at all and taking 2 who by all accounts of their previous existence made them special needs. ...My mother sent me an article only a few years later which talked about how many of those children ended up being taken into care because the parents couldn't cope.
    And because Britain made it so very difficult to get all the appropriate documents and everything, eventually Romania said no to Brits. So those of us who could have done it lost the chance.
    Anyway, I am glad you are still able to help, but I am also glad that you have been able to help without having your own family come undone because of being too burdened.

  2. Dear Sandy - yes, it is a very difficult situation with and for the refugees right now. And who knows where it will end! I think this will change a lot about how we are living and dealing with each other. And as Europe is closing its borders to the desperate, I wonder what we have learned from previous crises.It's only 70 years since we had lots of European refugees. Is it too long to remember, and too difficult to open our hearts ?