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Les Misérables, January 2016


Les Misérables


Les Misérables

Date: January 2016
Location: French Embassy, London, England
 Credit: Banksy and
A new stencil by Banksy has appeared on a building opposite the French Embassy in London. The stencil on board features a CS can on the floor spreading a teargas cloud. With the French flag waving in the background, the infamous character Cosette from Les Misérables emerges with tears in her eyes.
This mural is the latest in a series of works by Banksy criticizing Europe’s handling of the ongoing refugees crisis, after earlier his stencils in Calais. It is a direct comment on the recent actions by French authorities to destroy part of the Jungle(a refugee ca mp in Calais) and evict around 1,500 refugees.
As usual location is key for Banksy as the new stencil appeared on the corner of a very busy road of Knightsbridge, surrounded by lots of CCTV but most importantly opposite the French Embassy under the watchful eyes of security guards.
The mural is a re appropriation of the iconic image of Cosette from Les Misérables, the little girl depicted in the historical novel of Victor Hugo during the French Revolution, whose mum left to another family hoping she would get a better life.
The French flag, used as symbol of Freedom during the French revolution but also for Les Droits de L’homme (Human rights) is torn apart. Grey tears are rolling down the girl’s face, provoked by a cloud of teargas from the CS cannister laying on the floor.
The mural is a continuation of Banksy’s engagement in raising awareness about the migrant situation in Europe, and specially in Calais.
France is often referred to the “Pays des Droits de l’Homme” which translates into “Country of Human Rights”, but looking closer at the living conditions in the Jungle camp of Calais, it seems like a total disgrace.
This wall, which includes a French flag and the iconic girl from the famous musical, comments on the events from the 5th and 6th of January when French authorities used tear gas, rubber bullets and concussion grenades while attempting to clean up a section of the camp.
Even though a police spokesperson later denied the use of tear gas, a YouTube footage that appeared online clearly proved that to be untrue. Actually, one of these videos (shown below) is linked via the the QR code that is painted next to this piece, which is the first time for the elusive artist to use these optical labels.

Credit: Calais Migrant Solidarity
With refugee crisis showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, it’s good to see artists getting involved and using their reputation to showcase the injustice and alarming situation.