The Art of Walking: On-Going (open post)

From 3rd to the 15th of July 2020, Amsterdam-based Indian artist Pankaj Tiwari and collaborator Abhishek Thapar embarked on a durational performance walk of 312 km from Amsterdam to the refugee camps in Calais, France.

‘The Art of Walking’ is a performance raising awareness in Europe and beyond about the ongoing struggle of migrant laborers displaced after the COVID-19 lockdown in India and that have been walking long distances from big cities to their native villages. The walk from Amsterdam to Calais connects the crisis in India to an ongoing humanitarian crisis across the world that spells privilege, as much as it spells dispossession, loss and homelessness.

This project seeks to create space for conversation, and exercise an urgent role and function of art in the time of crisis.

You can witness the journey by following the writings, sounds and images published on this page. They were shared chronologically along the walk, and uploaded as the artists sent them in.

For an exclusive artist reflection on thier experience, visit:

DAY 1 – 3rd of July, 22:05

We finished our first day. We are fine and healthy.
It was 29.3km. We started at 7am and we reached to our first destination on around 4pm.
Currently we are at Zandvoort.
Here is also sharing the first reflection

And few images from today.

The walk:

The walk is a hope,

The walk is a need,

The walk is not a desire,
It’s an urgency,

This urgency is not created by us.

The walk is a question,
Question of inequality,
Questions of Power,

Questions of privileges,

The walk is a gesture,
The walk is solidarity,

The walk is being and standing together,

The walk is distance,
The walk is duration,
The walk is pain,

The walk drains.

The walk have history,

The walk have life.

The walk is dependency,

The walk is a beginning,

The walk is an end.

The walk is continuity,

The walk is art,

The walk is life and it’s continuity.

The walk is love, sheer love.

Written on the first day of the walk

By Pankaj

Images by Abhishek 

DAY 2 – 4th July, 06:38

Yes, It was a bit difficult as it was raining and windy all day. We walked between Zandvoort and Katwijk. The distance was around 26.5 km.
We started at 8am and reached by 6:45 pm.

Each day we are sending one photo to a friend Agat in india, he is writing long poems from that photo. Here is a part of the poem.

What is it like to be someone else.

Every day
No name, no coordinates,
No place to plant their feet deep in the ground
No language, no food
No family, no songs
No community, no security
No documents, no insurance
Erasing them by building walls
By leaving no room to breath
By arranging them in measurable configurations
By suspecting them, By segregating them
By washing them, By blaming them
What is it like to be them in our city?
To be like them is to be like – nothing
That is why my dear friend
You are finding it difficult to understand
Why he left with his pregnant wife
Towards his village weeks away.
What is it like to be someone else.
What is it like to be nothing.

What is it like to be someone else.

By Agat

DAY 3 -5th July, 20:45

We walked between Katwijk to ‘s-Gravenzande.

Day 3 was very difficult. The distence was around 32.5 km and the first 3 hours were rain and wind. We thought that, we will not able to complete it. We did though. We reached to the destination at 8:45pm. We had some fever, so took medicine and fine again. Fine to begin the new day.

There are more to write but we have to walk. Here is Abhishek’s reflection from the day.

Walking against winds & regimes

A resilient body knows only one thing.

To walk ahead, one step at a time. Storms or Regimes.

It knows how to mould, adapt, tuck down, slip, slide, one step at a time.

Winds and regimes exhaust themselves.

A resilient body knows how to improvise. A step at a time.

Move swiftly, gently, firmly, consistently.

A resilient body is razor sharp.

Cuts through winds and regimes.

A resilient body is a body in resistance. One step at a time.

A resilient body is a body in resistance. One step at a time.

Till soon.

Day 4

Day 4

Day 5 – 7th July

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Day 6 – 8th July, 7:35

We are sorry for not able to update day 4 and day 5. As it was long distances and we were not. Here doing it together.
After day 3rd, we were so tired and sick that we felt that more than 30km is not possible. But this feeling was there only in the night. Day 4 started with bad weather and slowly turn into good one. We walked 29km between s-Gravenzande to Hellevoetsluis.

Then yesterday, which was day 5th we walked 34.5km. Between Gravenzande to Kuijerdmseweg. We are in Zeeland now. Yesterday we were joined by few friends and artists as well.

Distance walked: 27km

Below, a poem by the artists

Day 7 – 10th July, 8:57

Pankaj: The Netherlands is not just Amsterdam, same as India is not just Delhi. There are things beyond trading. It have so much. Nice people and soroundings. People, who really care. People, who smile. People, who talk with happy faces. Yesterday we were hosted by Froukge and family, it was so much love. They ordered Indian recipe book, so that they can make some Indian food for us. While leaving, they even refuge to take the rent for stay. It was almost halfway to the walk for us. And it seems we are starting again with new energy. It was being at home. We can’t stop ourself  about writing this experience.

Day 8 – 11th July

Day 9, 12th July


Day 11 – 14th July, 8:02

We couldn’t write in last two days, so thought to update now. We are fine. We entered into France this afternoon. Now we are only 36 km away from our final destination calais. Which we will complete tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be our last day of the walk. Dayafter is the final ritual of cooking and eating together. There are lots of reflection and stories, which we will keep sharing on the fb page of The Art of Walking, even after 15th.

DAY 13 – 16th July

We are done with the Calais and the final rituals. Yesterday was the day. It went really smooth with the help of Nan, Sinta and Arijit.
Some photos will be uploaded here soon.
Also we are done with the walk, but not with the reflections. As we have so much stories, reflection, we will keep sharing here at least for few weeks.

Lots of love and energy for being with us in the journey.

Paidal khuli line
by Pankaj Tiwari
Video by Arijit laik

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July 9 – Of kindness and open doors: a reflection

There is, as we know well by now, a species of journalism in India that lives off the suppression and discredition of resistance; that meticulously hunts out exemplars, probes and prods, not to know more about it or what value it might have, but to forage for weaknesses in order to stifle it and all others of its kind. Subjective and objective, partisan and unprejudiced, singularity and generalisation merge insidiously to set traps.

I came across one such moment when I joined my friends Pankaj and Abhishek yesterday on day six of their 340 odd kilometer walk across the Dutch and Belgian coast to Calais, in solidarity with the migrants back home and those in Europe. A renowned Indian English daily newspaper was interested in interviewing Pankaj. The questions they asked barely concealed a snivel, a sneer, a snarl — what started out as seemingly genuine curiosity — tell us about your life in Amsterdam, and what you see out the window — quickly turned to condescension — how did you find out about the migrant situation back home, does your position of privilege, give your performance a sense of irony — to a poorly concealed rebuke — what makes you think your walking to Calais will do anything for the migrants here; what makes you think you have the right to turn the suffering of others into an artwork.

There was a flash of anger in Pankaj’s eyes when he turned to me and said: Privilege! I have been living without a shower damnit.

As we continued walking, I learned more: Pankaj was in pain, he had a sprained ankle, was running the odd evening-fever. If he stopped, it would be immeasurably hard to get up again, the muscles would lock, so he’d rather not stop. Speeds had slowed, but Pankaj was hard pressed to show any weakness. He was fine, he would not die; resolutely, in his words. Abhishek, similarly had been struggling with the blisters, the thirst, the feeling each evening of the body and breath shutting-down. This walk, this pain, this experiencing-another-in/as-yourself was never meant to be a luxury or a stroll in the park, a casual aestheticization of someone else’s experience, or a pretty picture for instagram; it was not meant to be the turning of another’s experience into a work of art, in/for one’s own name; it was not meant to be a reason to speak for another. Rather, it was to be the beginning of an experiential community, a way of feeling with the other; and realising in this bodily solidarity, the hope for an experience that might come close to the aesthetic.

They decided against responding to the paper. No point being pushed into a corner. There is the strength to endure the labour of walking, but not the malice of strangers who take cover under the name of the regime.

But the questions had caught an edge of me, of all of us, like barbed wire.

That evening we arrived at the home of a stranger who had heard about the project and was kind enough to host. When we entered, she was cooking dinner. She had not been expecting three of us. I had sprung-up unannounced, though I did not intend to stay or inconvenience the hosts. I thought I would give Pankaj and Abu a quick massage and then set off back home to Haarlem in the north. But our host betrayed not the slightest sign of being inconvenienced. She was only cooking dinner, she said, and dinner was meant to be eaten by all. In a single open-armed gesture, she made the place home for all of us. What followed was an evening of of cooking together, for ourselves and some more for anyone who’d like to join (we cooked Indian food, following recipes from a Dutch cookbook: Calcutta street-style fried aubergines, baingan masala, kachumber, dal, rice, Cauliflower sabzi), sharing stories, eating together. This is your home tonight, she said again and again.

In the silence of our eating, an answer to the belligerent newspaper flickered momentarily before me. If there is a privilege in Pankaj and Abu’s position, it is in moments of kindness like this one, in the generosity of open doors and shared hearths. This is the economy of kindness the migrant crisis in India has missed. What if a portion of people with a home and a spare bed had opened their doors to the walkers, said, come rest, eat, we have plenty. Certainly it would (and should) not have mitigated the cruelties of the regime, but would it not have offered a moment’s respite, a moment’s companionship and a moment’s solidarity to those who were faced otherwise with only miles and miles of dust and tarmac? This is the ‘privilege’ that keeps my friends going, that nourishes them, sustains them. These simple gestures of kindness that give their own walking experience something, a semblance, of ‘luxury’, and a feeling that home is not that far, and not impossible to reach.

We know why the majority in India didn’t open their doors, chose to look the other way; we know why there was no room in thought, in language, for the word ‘guest’ to be allied with the walkers. Here too, we know, we are only lucky: to have the right credentials to be received as guests. There are others who do not have the same privilege, who have only ever faced closed doors. We know why kindness is selective, and why personhood matters less than the capital (social, cultural or economic) one bears, or at times is forced to bear. We know. We don’t. There are no easy answers.

Divya, Vlissingen

The Art of Walking is presented by:
Foreign Actions Productions for performingbordersLIVE20,
HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin),
Flinnworks (Berlin),
Standplaats (Utrecht),
Spring (Utrecht)
Festival Boulevard (‘s Hertogenbosch)
Zuiderstrandtheater (The Hague)
Korzo (The Hague)
Over het IJfestival (Amsterdam)
WPZimmer (Antwerp)
Artreach (UK)