Known for her impactful yarn-bombing projects, Polish artist Olek is back with a new project in mind, a whole lot of pink yarn, and a growing issue to address—the refugee crisis, which is forcing 34,000 people every day to flee from their homes. For the 21.3 million refugees who are struggling to find a place to call their own, hope is the last thing they have time to think about—and Olek wants to change that. The artist had the opportunity to meet a group of women refugees from Syria and Ukraine. At the time, she was commissioned to build an art installation based on a traditional 19th-century Swedish home for the Verket museum in Avesta, Sweden. Instead of flying solo, Olek invited the women to participate in the crocheting project. As they sat together and talked, it wasn’t long before stories, memories, and photographs of the pasts were shared.
“They showed me pictures of their houses — their destroyed houses,” Olek told Mashable. “They showed me pictures from before and after the bombs had destroyed their houses. And the women told me stories about how they ran away from war to survive.” She was so affected by the women’s stories that she knew she needed to do something big to make a statement to the world. “I decided to blow up my crocheted house to illustrate the current unfortunate situation worldwide, where hundreds of thousands of people are displaced.” In a visually powerful video, aptly titled In the blink of an eye, Olek brings to light how quickly a peaceful home can be bombed to rubble. Many of the women were brought to tears.
Following the explosive segment, Olek’s project was far from over. What falls down must be built up again—this time with a statement of hope. “After I exploded the house, I wanted to create a positive ending for them as a symbol of a brighter future for all people, especially the ones who have been displaced against their own will,” Olek said. She and her team of women began to create swathes of pink crochet, which would cover two houses of hope: one in Avesta, Sweden and one in Kerava, Finland. This time, neither house would be touched by devastation.
The project took a total of three weeks to complete, and involved a large group of volunteers and women from a reception center for asylum seekers, as well as a professional team from Poland. Together, they crocheted over 3,000 square feet, which covers the houses from top to bottom. “Our pink house is about the journey, not just about the artwork itself. It’s about us coming together as a community. It’s about helping each other. We can show everybody that women can build houses, women can make homes,” Olek shares her powerful vision. “Women have the ability to recreate themselves. No matter how low life might bring us, we can get back on our feet and start anew.”
The installation after it was exploded.
All images via Olek.