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Street artist Banksy takes aim at migrant crisis, greed as he hits Paris for first time

© Philippe LOPEZ AFP | Reworking of famed Napoleon portrait seen as a reference to France's 2010 ban on face coverings in public

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-07-11

Celebrated British artist Banksy has confirmed that the street art appearing across the French capital is his work. The murals have sparked debate, with his art tackling France’s migrant crisis and greed.

Many doubted at first that the work appearing across the city was that of the famed artist, but earlier this week he posted his latest two Paris murals on Instagram and confirmed that another near the Sorbonne University was also his.

Banksy, who remains anonymous but is from Bristol, has previously taken aim at injustice through his work in New York, London and Gaza.

Banksy’s trademark is the rat -- a symbol of the downtrodden -- in hommage to the Paris street artist Blek le Rat who began in 1968 when a general strike by students and workers brought France to its knees.

He sprayed this tribute (below) on the back of a sign outside the Pompidou centre modern art gallery, which houses Europe's biggest collection of contemporary art.

Tribute to Paris street artist Blek le Rat and May 1968

. Fifty years since the uprising in Paris 1968. The birthplace of modern stencil art.

Une publication partagée par Banksy (@banksy) le

The artist made headlines Sunday with another Paris mural of a refugee child (below) looking distressed while trying to cover up a Nazi swastika design over the patch of pavement where she sleeps with her teddy bear. It appeared shortly after World Refugee Day on 20 June but has since been defaced to make it look like she is drawing the swastika herself.

It is clear that Banksy is exposing the current social and political imbalances, especially in relation to his location choices: the pic below appeared on a wall in the run-down neighbourhood of Porte de la Chapelle where hundreds of migrants have made camp.

Banksy: Young girl covers swastika

. Porte de la Chapelle, migrant’s soup kitchen.

Une publication partagée par Banksy (@banksy) le

By placing this mural right next to a former refugee centre closed down in March by the French government, many viewed it as an attack on President Emmanuel Macron's crackdown on migrants.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who set up the centre, praised the mural.

"Sometimes an image is worth a thousand words. Humanity and pragmatism rather than populism," she tweeted in a dig at Macron, who had argued the shelter was making Paris a magnet for migrants.

Migrants to terrorism

Banksy's first image (below) in his Paris campaign was a haunting portrait of a girl in mourning at a fire exit next to the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 people were massacred by jihadist gunmen in a terrorist attack in November 2015.

Banksy: Image on fire door at Bataclan

. Fire door, Bataclan

Une publication partagée par Banksy (@banksy) le

Banksy also stenciled another rat wearing a Minnie Mouse bow under the caption "May 1968" near the Sorbonne University, one of the centres of the student uprising and general strike that rocked France in to its core. This has been interpreted by some online as commentary on the decline of the French revolutionary spirit.

Banksy's tribute to May 1968

Une publication partagée par Banksy (@banksy) le

Many believe Banksy to be musician Robert Del Naja, a 52-year-old member of the Bristol-based trip hop trio Massive Attack.

The band play the French city of Lyon on Sunday.

His final Paris stencil -- which he posted to his Instagram account on Monday evening -- shows a genteel old rat couple (below) out for a walk along the River Seine near the Eiffel Tower.

Banksy's trademark rats going for a stroll

Une publication partagée par Banksy (@banksy) le

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2018-07-11

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