Cast aways - Számkivetettek

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COMMENTARY

By Eszter Kerék

SZEFIT Vice President

20 March/April 2017 Review

GUEST COLUMN

 

What we see: banal objects meant irrelevant, piled up or scattered, left behind. What do they represent? passages, situations thick with life, personal stories, the everyday images of a major 21st century event.

„Documenting the remnants of material culture of refugees that passed through... is a powerful way to give real insight into social change.” It helps us to make real and tangible connections with the refugees that we have heard about in the news. It helps us to realise that the stories we have heard are about real people.

What some might see as rubbish left on the Hungarian border are striking reminders of the refugee crisis. The items lie as if in the layers of an archaeological excavation – collected – lying next to each other – classified. They trace the invisible process and passage of the migration and signify the relationship of humans and their objects in this situation.

The pictures tell the story of anthropological fieldwork and collection at Ásotthalom and Röszke in Hungary in September 2015. They show what has been ‘excavated’.

A refugee can take only a few objects on the long, exhausting, dangerous and changeable trip. Tools of communication are necessary – maybe even the most important. One must also ensure that appropriate shoes and clothing are selected. It is important to bring provisions for personal hygiene and health during the constantly moving migration.

How will you pass the time when you are waiting or resting? What foods will you have available to you? Will you know what to buy in a different country? What food will you receive from aid agencies?

Many of the objects bought from home are religious. Many are symbols of identity. But sometimes these objects, too, must be left behind. Although it is not possible to know the owners of the objects found at the border or to know about their lives, they do allow the observer to ask questions: What message can a scrap of material, a coke-bottle cap, a broken toy-horse convey to you? Who passed through this place? What brought them here? l These images form part of a collection titled On The Border of No-Man's Land that will be on show at the PSEU Annual Delegate Conference, Clayton Hotel, Galway, 20-21 April.

Eszter Kerék is a photographer and cultural anthropologist at the Museum of Ethnography

in Budapest, Hungary. She is also Vice President of the SZEFIT trade union

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