The Global Chess Board

Orient Net - R. Sikora | 2016-06-20 18:11 Damascuss

The Global Chess Board
Donald Trump once told this reporter that Syrians are simply pawns in the game of life; and indeed the people of Syria have long felt like they are merely game pieces on a global chess board -- which makes the symbolism of this giant art project located on the campus of University of the Aegean in Greece so meaningful and appropriate. 

“It’s a metaphor for the human struggle for survival, for a better life and prosperous future,” said Maria Chatziantoniou, who teaches in the university’s environmental department.

Chatziantoniou also took the photos that documented the stages of development of the project that was first conceived by Fereniki Tsamparli, an artist and fellow member of University of the Aegean.

The project was both artistic and environmentally friendly as the recycled materials used to create it were gleaned from the university trash as well as piles of discarded life jackets and rubber boats abandoned on the shores of the island of Lesvos by refugees arriving from Turkey, the majority of them Syrians who had fled the violence in their homeland.

Until just a few months ago, Greece was viewed as the most favorable point of entry into Europe by hundreds of thousands of refugees who traveled the short distance from the shores of Turkey to the small Greek islands like Lesvos.

Since the Greek border was sealed earlier this year, thousands of Syrians who never intended to stay have been forced to seek asylum in the financially devastated country of Greece -- with a few even paying smugglers reduced fees to get them back to Turkey after having their dreams of reaching Europe squashed.

Although not the first art project to be done using the discarded life jackets, this one created by University of the Aegean students was the most creative and labor intensive as it required disassembling the life jackets and using their foam cores to create chess pieces that are roughly four feet tall.

To create a “fusion” between the refugees and the students, the giant game pieces were then covered with paper pulp made from the university’s discarded academic papers.

The colossal chess board on which the pieces sit was created using recycled plastic material from the inflatable boats, also abandoned by refugees on the shores of Lesvos, and is covered with the paper pulp as well. 

The Global Chess Board was installed outdoors on the university campus and is available for anyone to use.

The giant chess board’s creators say the pieces are meant to reflect the thousands of people who have landed on the coasts of the Greek islands looking for safety, peace and better future -- but Chatziantoniou the environmentalist has come up with her own take on the project’s symbolic nature: “That we can play by our own rules as long as basic human rights and the environment are respected.”