An art installation of 5,000 ceramic boats, each representing a migrant who drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea last year, opened in the Bourn Vincent Gallery, University of Limerick, on Friday, December 1st.
Charon’s Boats was created by County Limerick artist Sheila Stone, with the help of friends, students and local community groups.
The name of the project is a reference to Charon – the boatman of Greek mythology who was paid to ferry the dead to the next life.
In 2016, 362,753 people fled to the EU by crossing the Mediterranean. Of these, more than five thousand are reported missing or dead.
Inspired by an RTÉ Documentary about the Irish Navy and their humanitarian rescue mission in the Mediterranean, Sheila decided to use her skills as a ceramic artist to highlight the situation.
“With Charon’s Boats I have created a ceramic installation which expresses my deep concern at the plight of migrants fleeing across the Mediterranean. Each of these boats honours the memory of one of the five thousand and more, men, women and children who drowned in 2016. Most of these individuals do not even have a grave to mark their passing. My intention is that the visual impact of five thousand boats, seen en masse, will illustrate the enormity of this ongoing human catastrophe,” Sheila said.
Sheila has been inspired by artists such as Ai Weiwei, who have used multiples (a series of identical art objects) to make political statements. Sheila previously created Faceless, a collection of 1,132 unique ceramic heads to commemorate the victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013.
Charon’s Boats will remain on display at the Bourn Vincent Gallery until January.