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Justified or just obscene? Celebrities take selfies in refugees’ blankets at a fundraiser

  • Aamna Mohdin
By Aamna Mohdin


Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Ai Weiwei has been no stranger to controversy this month. The Chinese artist has made some bold statements about the refugee crisis. He’s posed as the drowned Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi and draped Berlin’s concert hall with 14,000 refugee life jackets.

Now, he’s gathered a number of celebrities—including Charlize Theron and Pussy Riot member Nadya Tolokonnikova— at a Cinema for Peace fundraiser, which was held at the Berlin concert hall, where Ai had wrapped bright orange vests around the columns. And they all took selfies while wrapped up in emergency blankets.

Unsurprisingly, the stunt that took place at the refugee fundraiser hasn’t gone down well with everyone. Tim Renner, Berlin’s culture secretary, took to Facebook to criticize the fundraiser guests for posing for pictures while draped in emergency blankets. He wrote:

When Ai Weiwei illustrates the dimensions of terror outside [the gala] with 14,000 life jackets from Lesbos, it is perhaps not subtle but effective and justified; but when the guests of Cinema for Peace are prompted by the organizer to don emergency blankets for a group photo, even if understood as an act of solidarity, it has a clearly obscene element.

Ai has been a fierce critic of Europe’s response, or lack thereof, to the refugee crisis. He’s been volunteering at the Greek island of Lesbos, the main entry point for tens of thousands of refugees trying to get to Europe, and documenting the plight of refugees on his Instagram account.

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