Banksy Finances Rescue Boat Assisting Migrants Seeking Shelter in Europe

British street artist Banksy is well-known for his use of public art to support social causes. The plight of refugees is particularly close to his heart and he recently put his money behind a boat that rescues African refugees stuck at sea as they try to reach Europe. The Louise Michel is a former French navy boat that's been customized for search and rescue. Painted pink, it also features a Banksy image of a girl holding a heart-shaped life vest.

Banksy first got involved in the project in 2019, when he sent an email to Pia Kemp. Kemp is a German activist who has captained many humanitarian ships and is currently facing up to 20 years in prison in Italy for rescuing 1,000 migrants from drowning in the Meditteranean.

For Kemp, the email came as a surprise and, initially, she thought it was a joke. The message read: “Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass. 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.”

After the initial shock, a crew of activists set about getting the ship up and running, naming it after a French female anarchist. To avoid being intercepted by the authorities, the Louise Michel secretly set sail from the Spanish seaport of Burriana on August 18. Kemp is clear on the fact that Banksy acted purely as financial backing, and has no involvement in how the ship is run. That's up to the 10-person crew, which has already dove headlong into its work.

The ship has been keeping the public abreast of its activities via Twitter and in less than two weeks, they've already accomplished several rescue missions. This includes assisting a rubber boat with nearly 130 people aboard. After transferring them to a larger boat, those migrants are now waiting for a safe place to disembark.

For now, Louise Michel is back at sea on the lookout for other distress calls and waiting to take action when necessary. If you are interested in supporting the boat's mission, they are taking donations via a fundraising platform. You can also follow their Twitter and share their messages to create more awareness about the plight of migrants attempting to reach Europe.

Street artist Bansky has financed the Louise Michel, a search and rescue boat that picks up migrants in distress.

Louise Michel: Website | Twitter
h/t: [The Guardian]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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