A huge graffiti image of toddler Aylan Kurdi, pictures of whose dead body stirred global sympathy for migrants fleeing war and poverty, confronts motorists, pedestrians and river travellers in Frankfurt.
Thousands of weekday commuters using the Main river footpath and road bridge will see the 120-square-metre image of the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in September along with his mother and brother as they tried to reach Europe. The artwork on a peninsula about a 15-minute walk from the city centre will stay until the autumn.
“We are very sad about the children dying and we are angry,” says graffiti artist Justus Becker, 38, known as COR, who worked on the image with another artist who uses the name Bobby Borderline. “We want to work with issues facing our society.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is struggling to convince other European countries to accept a plan for handling the unprecedented flow of migrants and may face a backlash in state elections on Sunday over her open-door policy on refugees.
Staff at the European Central Bank’s headquarters across the river can also see the image.
The artists’ previous projects include graffiti on the boundary fence around the new ECB building in 2014 which showed a female figure representing Justice holding a scales with euro symbols in one weighing pan and refugees in the other.
The Aylan project, which has used 50 litres of wall paint and about 80 cans of spray paint, is intended to provoke by bringing the issue of refugees to Germans’ front doors, explains Becker.
“We hope to have people emotionally rethink their selfish fears of refugees coming to Germany,” says the artist.
More than a million migrants, including refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, arrived into the EU last year, most making the perilous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, then heading north through the Balkans to Germany.
Last year, the deadliest for migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean, more than 3,700 are known to have drowned or gone missing, the International Organization for Migration says. The actual number is believed to be higher.
“It is a memorial piece representing all children who died fleeing from war to Europe,” says Becker, who along with his artist partner has done voluntary work with refugees in Germany.
“Their lives matter.”