In recent months, street artist Bansky has weighed in on various political issues, including systemic racism and the refugee crisis. That latter topic is once again the focus of his work. The elusive artist has now funded a boat transporting refugees across the Mediterranean Sea from north Africa to Europe.
According to a report by the Guardian, the boat, which is named for the 19th-century French anarchist Louise Michel, is currently carrying 89 people and seeking a port in Europe. The boat, which was previously owned and operated by the French government, had left the Spanish seaport of Burriana on August 18.
Bearing the word “Rescue” across its sides, the boat’s exterior also features pink accents and a work by Banksy depicting a girl holding a heart-shaped lifebuoy. Its crew reportedly includes 10 European activists.
Pia Klemp, who has served as a captain for NGO boats and is involved in managing the ship Banksy is funding, told the Guardian that the artist will not be physically participating in the rescue operations.
“I don’t see sea rescue as a humanitarian action, but as part of an anti-fascist fight,” she said in an interview with the publication, adding, “Banksy won’t pretend that he knows better than us how to run a ship, and we won’t pretend to be artists.”
Banksy had reached out to Klemp in 2019 asking how he might support efforts to aid refugees.
“Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass,” he wrote in an email to Klemp last year. “I am an artist from the UK and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.”