A Kolossi high school art project, which poignantly highlights the dangers faced by refugees trying to get into Europe, has been shortlisted from more than 22,000 entries in 54 counties for a major prize offered by the London-based Saatchi gallery.
The installation, called Immigrants, depicts life-like figures of drowning adults and children, which have been made of expanding foam, and arranged on an old fishing boat donated by the Kolossi community council.
The project is the brainchild of eight students, aged between 16 and 18, of the Apostolos Loucas district lyceum in Kolossi, who were supervised by their art teacher, painter Popi Nicolaou.
A scaled-down version of the work, by students Giorgos Mouskis, Christos Hambiaouris, Christos Charalambous, Annita Yianni, Panayiotis Panayiotou, Nikoletta Elia, Loukia Varna, and Vasilis Vasiliou, will be on show at the Saatchi Gallery in London between March 3 and 9 along with the other 19 projects short-listed for the prize. The winner of the Saatchi Gallery/Deutsche Bank Art Prize for Schools 2016 will be announced on March 3.
“The art project was created as part of a national art competition among schools in Cyprus, but I felt that it was so good, I decided to submit it to the Saatchi gallery as a candidate for the awards,” Nicolaou told the Sunday Mail. “I knew it was a long shot, but deep inside I had this feeling that it could do well, as it is a very good project.”
Students chose the specific theme, Nicolaou said, because of the refugee crisis, and the impact that pictures of all the drowning refugees in the Mediterranean had on them, especially the drowning children. The students want to raise awareness of this issue, she said.
“The project began in September, and even though it is mostly finished, we are still working on the details,” Nicolaou said.
“To make the human figures, students cut out real images of drowning refugees from magazines and newspapers and made casts of their own faces,” Nicolaou said.
Due to its size and weight, as the project is built around a real-life fishing boat, students will send to the Saatchi gallery for the competition, a smaller 3D model, along with the photos and a video by two of the students, Annita Yianni and Panayiotis Panayiotou.
The art teacher described how the project gradually became a team project for the whole school, as more and more students offered their help.
“Even though the project has eight leaders, more than 40 students contributed one way or another, even students who are not in my classes, offered their help,” Nicolaou said.
Her colleagues also chipped in financially.
“We started off with a small budget I had in my disposal, but as the project evolved, expenses grew, and we received a lot of support from colleagues who made anonymous donations, and the Kolossi community council. I can’t thank them enough,” Nicolaou said.
She said that getting short listed had really boosted the morale and self-confidence of the students.
“They were feeling anxious about their future, and many felt that they would not be able to choose the path they want, because they fear they will not find employment. This is a proof to them that when they do what they love, they will find their way,” Nicolaou said.
“Art unites children. Regardless of language, social status, background, they all are the same; they all worked on the project as one team,” she said.
She said the project was also an answer to all those who bash public schools.
“Public schools can produce remarkable work.”
Two of the students will travel to London for the award ceremony.
The school is competing in two categories. One is for the overall winner, offering £10,000 (€12,980) to the winning school, and £2,000 (€2,500) to the winning pupil. The second is for the secondary school winner for ages between 11 and 18, and offers £5,000 (€6,400) to the school, and £1,000 (€1,200) to the pupil.
“If we win, I would like the money to go needy students who need assistance with pursuing their studies,” Nicolaou said.
The Saatchi Gallery/Deutsche Bank Art Prize for Schools is one of the largest international competitions open to primary, secondary and sixth form schools from around the world. It aims to support and encourage young artists by providing them with a platform to showcase their work, and giving them the confidence to continue studying art and consider a creative career.