2020欧洲杯体育投注网In July, 2011, the first Libyan civil war was intensifying, and a United Nations refugee camp called Choucha, just across Libya’s border with Tunisia, was uncomfortably packed. Standard-issue tents billowed in the hot wind, their thick, beige walls barely distinguishable from the sand below. As refugees—fleeing violence and brutality in Libya’s cities and countryside—ambled about in the scorching midday heat, the photographer Henk Wildschut moved slowly through the camp. He had travelled to Tunisia specifically to see this settlement, and a press officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees walked alongside him, pointing out communal bathrooms and wells. Then, among the monotonous sandy tones, Wildschut spotted bursts of pink, purple, and pale green. Buckets overflowed with verdant tendrils; small green shoots poked through the dusty ground. Outside one tent, someone had carefully wrapped twine around spindly stakes to support a sprig of leaves topped with pastel-purple petals. It seemed impossible that such plants could survive in the harsh summers of the Tunisian desert, and yet here they were, carefully tended and meticulously arranged. Wildschut turned to the press officer and asked about the plants. When did they start appearing? The officer stared at him blankly. “Gardens?” he said. “I’ve never noticed them.”

2020欧洲杯体育投注网Galvanized by this discovery, Wildschut began visiting other camps around the world, including Za’atari, in Jordan, and several communities in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. He self-published the resulting project in a volume called “.” Wildschut had expected that gardens would be more common in camps with longer-term residents (some of the migrants in Choucha had lived there for a year or more), but he was surprised to meet a man in an encampment outside Calais, France, who had carefully tended a small patch of grass, even though he knew he’d likely have to leave before too long. Wildschut’s travels revealed that many refugees cultivated green spaces for themselves, regardless of how long they would stay. “The gardens allow these people to quite literally put down roots,” Wildschut told me. “They are a symbol that says, ‘I belong here, at least for a short while.’ ”

Bar Elias, Bekaa, Lebanon, May, 2017.

Although a few of the people he met cultivated gardens for food, Wildschut says, the majority of migrants grew them as a mental pursuit. The ubiquity of plants in such camps all over the world—Wildschut shot in four countries for his book—suggests a shared desire among migrants to make a personal mark on such impersonal environments. In a camp near Baalbek, Lebanon, one refugee filled thick plastic bags with stones and arranged the bags in a circle, creating a boundary around a small patch of dirt and burgeoning greenery. Such gardens also suggest an interest in demarcating private spaces: some migrants filled old water bottles with sand, upending them and settling them snugly alongside one another to mark the perimeters of flower beds or yards in front of their tents.

Choucha camp, Tunisia, July, 2011.
Nasiriyah, Bekaa, Lebanon, May, 2018.
Choucha camp, Tunisia, July, 2011.

Most refugees aren’t sure how long they’ll stay in the camps, and this uncertainty makes its way into their gardens. Some migrants grow their plants directly in the ground and even purchase expensive trees to plant outside their shelters. “One man told me that he wanted the tree to grow and provide shade,” Wildschut said. “He plainly expected to stay for a while.” But others keep their greenery in portable containers. One man told Wildschut that he did so in order to be able to travel with them at a moment’s notice; he said that he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving his plants behind.

Terbol, Bekaa, Lebanon, May, 2018.
Za’atari camp, Jordan, April, 2018.
Saadnayel, Bekaa, Lebanon, May, 2018.

2020欧洲杯体育投注网Wildschut’s photographs intentionally diverge from the traditional visual language around refugees. There are no people in them, though he considered including portraits—particularly of a man named Walid, whom Wildschut visited several times in the course of three years. “I decided not to include a photograph of Walid because I felt that people would see him as a victim, and, instead, I think his flowers represent him as strong,” he said. “I didn’t want to make him a refugee for the rest of his life, because I hope that soon this will be only a bad moment in his life.”

Saadnayel, Bekaa, Lebanon, May, 2018.
Chtaura, Bekaa, Lebanon, May, 2018.
Za’atari camp, Jordan, April, 2018.

2020欧洲杯体育投注网I asked Wildschut if he had concerns about aestheticizing the experience of living as a refugee in a camp. “I wanted to show a different angle,” he told me. “You have to realize that refugees aren’t walking around feeling sorry for themselves all day. They live normal lives. They are normal people. They’re just in a worse living situation.” That said, Wildschut made a point of returning to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in March of 2019, when he knew the camps would be cold and flooded. The resulting photographs show a different side of life there: gray skies hang heavy over pools of water flooding the spaces between the tents. “This is another reality,” Wildschut noted. “I didn’t feel comfortable only representing the camp with flowers, because this is the other side of the lives they live.”

Za’atari camp, Jordan, April, 2018.
Calais, France, July, 2016.
Terbol, Bekaa, Lebanon, May, 2018.

Amaryllis, jasmine, rose, snapdragon. These are the subjects of Wildschut’s photographs. Many refugee camps are home to independently run plant stores, and some migrants make money this way. Cuttings are passed from neighbor to neighbor. Other plants take an even more unlikely route: some migrants, knowing that they might never return, uproot their favorite plants before abandoning their homes. Nura, a Syrian woman living in the Bekaa Valley, cultivated a cutting of a sea fig in a glass of water; the specimen was a gift from a fellow-refugee. He had carried the plant on his journey from Syria. It reminds Nura of the garden she left behind in her home town of Idlib. “When you put a seed in the ground and it grows, you made that piece of soil a little bit yours,” Wildschut says. “But, of course, the home soil is always better than the soil in the camps—that’s what they all told me.”