By Nii B. Andrews.
Jardin Afrique (Garden of Africa) is a project pioneered and self-financed by the Algerian artist, Rachid Koraichi for migrants from Africa and beyond who have drowned in the recent past while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
The garden is located in the Tunisian coastal town, Zarzis.
It is scheduled to open next Spring and will include a non-denominational cemetery, a place for washing the bodies before they are buried, a monument and a chapel honoring all religions.
Koraichi stated, “As a human being, I think it’s fundamental to make a nice sepulcher for these poor people. My brother, who was 18 months older than me, drowned in the sea shortly after Algeria’s independence from France [in 1962] and this dramatically affected my life.”
Even before the project is completed, Koraichi agreed impromptu to bury 56 anonymous bodies in July brought to him by the Tunisian Red Crescent. Ninety people had perished in the sea and the existing cemetery was full.
A headstone will be provided for each grave and it will bear the person’s name – if known, the date when the body drowned, the person’s DNA code and will state whether the body is that of a man, woman or child.
“Not a single body will be buried without a DNA sample being taken and we’ll inform all the embassies in Tunisia about the DNA codes so that anybody trying to trace a family member can come and see if their DNAs match,” Koraichi explains.
The graves will be set among jasmine shrubs and citrus trees. Other embellishments will include hand made ceramic tiles.
Koraichi to his credit had previously developed the Jardin d’Orient at Château Royal d’Amboise (where Leonardo da Vinci is buried), in France’s Loire Valley, in homage to Emir Abdelkader, Algeria’s 19th-century nationalist leader who was once imprisoned in the château.
He won the Jameel Prize in 2011- an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition, from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (V&A).