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Artist Ai Weiwei poses as drowned refugee toddler to protest immigration crisis

The idea to pose as a child refugee, whose death sparked international uproar over the plight of Syrians, came "quite spontaneously," Ai Weiwei said.

By Elizabeth Shim
Artist Ai Weiwei poses as drowned refugee toddler to protest immigration crisis
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei posed as drowned Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi in a photograph to be published in India Today. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

NEW DELHI, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A photograph of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei posing as drowned Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi has surfaced less than a week after he canceled an art exhibit in Denmark following the passage of an anti-refugee law.

The photo, to be published with an article on Ai Weiwei in India Today, was taken on a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos, The Guardian reported Sunday.

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"The image is haunting and represents the whole immigration crisis and the hopelessness of the people who have tried to escape their pasts for a better future," said Sandy Angus, co-owner of India Art Fair where an exhibit of the photograph and other works is to be held.

The idea to pose as a child refugee, whose death sparked international uproar over the plight of Syrians, came "quite spontaneously," Ai Weiwei told CNN.

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"The photographer and journalist asked me to pose for a photo near the beach [in Lesbos] and to close my eyes. We had talked about the image of the boy, so I had that on my mind," Ai said.

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Ai likened refugee children to angels, saying they are "the most vulnerable."

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"You can see the world has put them in extreme, hopeless conditions. There are two worlds – a world of adults and a world of babies, and they are not connected," he said.

In 2008, Ai also visited China's Sichuan province in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that killed 70,000 people, including schoolchildren.

Ai, who was born in 1957, said he grew up in difficult circumstances, but that his experience cannot compare with those of Syrian and other refugees.

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"I cannot connect with those people who risk their lives going through the path of refugees to Europe. And then you see all those politicians that are not really helping, and trying to find all kind of excuses," Ai said, adding the anti-refugee crackdown in Europe made him very angry.

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