” Mapping Refugee Camps ” 2021-22
-Marking the Unmarked-
During the corona, artist Servet Kocyigit started a new series of the work 2021 “ Mapping Refugee Camps ”. He has been busy with different mapping ideas for the last 8 years. “Mapping Refuge Camps” is a continuity of the idea of mapping non-existing geographies. His maps are questioning how current geographies and artificial borders are created. Refugee camps are maybe the most fascinating mapping projects of all.
Refugee camps are hosting 10.000 million people around the world. Camps created for temporary status during conflicts. They do not actually qualify as cities, towns or part of the country. They are in Limbo. Despite their temporality some of the camps have existed for more then 70 years (Palestinian refugee camps opened in 1948-1968). Some of them reached populations up to 600.000 (Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh). One of the oldest, Coopers camp in West Bengal, opened in 1947 when large numbers of Hindus living in East Bengal fled to West Bengal. Around 20% of them, including some survivors from the 1947 exodus, still have not been given papers conferring Indian citizenship. There are even unofficial camps near Calais, which is not recognized by UN or French governments. People are born and die in those camps without papers, without any official status, or being a citizen of any country.
He is using so called “immigrant bags” for this series. A type of cheap matted woven nylon zipped tote bags, used by everyone around the world to move their belongings. They come always in 3 colours. The first Red-White-Blue bags were made from a nylon material first produced in Japan then exported to Taiwan and eventually to Hong Kong, now produced in China. Worldwide, the bag has a variety of other names associating it with migrants. In Germany it is called the “Türkenkoffer” (Turkish suitcase), in Ghana they’re known as the “Ghana must go” bag. In the USA the “Chinatown tote”, in Guyana the “Guyanese Samsonite” and in various other places; the “Refugee Bag ”.
“Ghana must go” was a popular name given to the migration of illegal migrants (mostly Ghanaians) from Nigeria following a presidential executive order in 1983. In January 1983, the President of Nigeria, Shehu Shagari issued an executive order mandating immigrants without proper immigration documents to leave the country or they would be arrested according to the law. The order was in alleged response to the religious disturbances that had engulfed parts of the country in 1980 and 1981 (the Kano riots). Most of the immigrants were West Africans and Ghanaians. Over 2 million men, women and children were affected during this crisis.