Inflatable Refugee is a 20-foot tall sculpture created by Belgian visual artists collective Schellekens & Peleman that is set to sail around the world as part of a nomadic art project aimed at drawing attention to the European refugee crisis. 

Coinciding with the current migration crisis from East to West, Schellekens & Peleman have started work on ‘The Inflatable Refugee’, a large inflatable sculpture depicting a life-vest wearing refugee clutching his knees on the deck of the wooden boat. They chosen to create this inflatable figure from the same material as the boats, used by human traffickers to cross the Mediterranean Sea, are made from. It’s too fragile to withstand the waves of the sea, making the passengers on these boats extremely vulnerable.


Together with the presentation of ‘Inflatable Refugee’, Schellekens & Peleman started their correspondence project ‘Moving Stories’, which connects refugees with other fellow citizens in each city Schellekens & Peleman visit. Schellekens & Peleman collaborate for this project with refugees living in this city and invite them to write a letter to other (native) citizens. The letters will be printed on an edition of as many copies as there are different nationalities in that city. (for ex. In Antwerp 166 copies are made, as there are 166 different nationalities registered in Antwerp). The artists will then, together with the writers, post these letters in mailboxes of random addresses.

With the letter comes a post card and a stamp which the receiver of the letter can use to return an answer to the author of the letter. Additionally to this local correspondence project, Schellekens & Peleman set up an international correspondence project where they invite refugees from one city to write to those in the next city Schellekens & Peleman will travel to with the ‘Inflatable Refugee’.

The project was unveiled in Venice late last year and has since then traveled through Antwerp and Uppsala, with plans to go on to Rotterdam and Melbourne. Head over to Schellekens & Peleman’s website to learn more about the Inflatable Refugee project.



all images by Dirk Kinot, courtesy Schellekens & Peleman | video courtesy of Schellekens & Peleman