For a year and a half, Mathilda, a graphic designer, traveled to Northern France to help the temporary camps in Calais. Every time she came and went, she felt “the need to share” that “saw”, “heard” and “lived”. “I was so annoyed by the way migrants were presented in the media that I wanted to change that by remembering, documenting and commemorating mundane but intimate discussions that everyone can feel connected to.”says Mathilda.
It is to “rehumanization of people affected by migration crises” which she created Conversations from Calais, a street art project that turned into an Instagram account. Mathilda began by inserting excerpts of her conversations with people passing through Calais into the streets of London. When it was first shared on Instagram, his project gained visibility, and since then volunteers have also shared their anonymized exchanges with him.
The 320 or so exchanges posted on Instagram tell of grief, funeral voyages across the Channel and the Mediterranean, jaw-dropping jokes and blunt questions. Inspired by the volunteers working in Calais and determined to “not to be silent”has the creator of the project intended “to listen to the voices that have always been marginalized, to convey human stories that are not heard and to give people solutions to create the change they want to see in this world”.
On the posters, “you” (“you”) quotes are addressed to refugees and not to passers-by who would encounter them: “It’s a way to make room for the thousands of displaced people stuck in Calais trying to reach the UK, whose voices are so often silenced.”
Mathilda puts up her posters in London, where she lives, and has worked with brands to get larger placements in public spaces. If Mathilda alone manages the account, “People insert the images all over the world in many different languages. So far they have been deployed in more than fifty cities on five continents”.
Regardless of where the lyrics are inserted, they seem to elicit similar reactions: “Most people are shocked to discover the reality of Calais today”, notes the creator of the account. The latter hopes that the public will experience “anger, frustration and shame” and realize it“there is no alternative but to get out of this broken system which only treats certain people as people”. “I know not everyone will feel the same way and some people will prefer to ignore it, but at least they can’t say they didn’t know.”