“Sjenica Selfie” and “Subotica’s Light in the Dark”
During December, we adapted to working in the virtual world and launched a caravan of three-day online workshops for secondary school students through the Zoom platform, first in Sjenica, and then in Subotica. The workshops are a continuation of the educational process started in the programme for university students “WHY SCHOOL? – On Identities and Intercultural Issues” held in October. Namely, university students who went through the School formed groups in charge of different towns and were given the task to explore the intercultural heritage of the given towns, as well as to prepare small lectures with the help of Group 484 associates – presentations that will be part of workshops for secondary school students.
Three-day online workshops for high school students were held on 8-10 December 2020 for students from Sjenica, and on 10-12 December for students from Subotica.
Workshops for secondary school students from Sjenica were held under the name “Sjenica selfie”. Through the metaphor of the mirror/lens of a selfie camera, we dealt with the identity of the town, its numerous identities and intertwining of the personal and the common in the cultural mosaic of the community. We started the conversation by telling small stories and photographing the town and its parts, personally important to the participants. Each photo story talked about individuals and their relationships with the town, the community, others, and friendship. In the following, the participants realised that the personal is always relational – to something we are in contact with, especially in our immediate environment, their community.
To analyse what makes up this community in Sjenica, we were helped by university student presentations on: toponyms – names of villages in the vicinity of Sjenica and legends and stories related to those names and the origin of the villages; then about the bridge on the river Uvac in the village of Ursule near Sjenica, which was an important point of connection of the surrounding regions and the meeting point of different people of that area; as well as a presentation entitled “Birds of Sjenica” which presented Sjenica men and women who migrated to other cities (or countries) – namely, university students interviewed them and asked what Sjenica means to them, why they return to it and about the parts of the town they find significant. In the end, the photos and stories of the participants were presented and jointly analysed: through a conversation about what is personally significant, we came to a network of symbols, encounters and parallel existences of different cultural heritage that make up the cultural mosaic of a community.
In Subotica, together with secondary school students, we examined the history of everyday life of this city, compared it with today’s life, analysed the ways in which the city is changing and came to explore the role of “foreigners”/”newcomers” for positive changes and progress in one community, and we followed the trace they left on Subotica and its inhabitants.
The name of the workshops “Subotica’s Light in the Dark” is a reminder of the work of our dear, prematurely deceased associate, Mirko Grlica, curator of the City Museum of Subotica and tireless researcher of the history of the rich intercultural life of Subotica; and his exhibition “Light in the Dark. 100 years of Lifka cinema in Subotica” from 2011. It was Mirko’s research work on Aleksandar Lifka, “the pioneer of the film in Central Europe”, that served us and the university students to design the content of the workshops. Lifka opened the first cinema in Subotica, was a filmmaker, but also a distributor; he believed in the educational role of film and always informed schools about his screenings. The Lifka Cinema was a travelling cinema and performed throughout Europe, but Aleksandar Lifka decided to settle in Subotica and left a significant mark in the field of filmmaking, but also the social life of the city and the introduction of new, film habits in Subotica during almost half a century, in the first half of the twentieth century.
The participants of the workshops dealt with their own experience of Subotica and the people in it, at the same time discovering Subotica, previously unknown to them, through the work of Aleksandar Lifka, presented to them through archival texts and photographs. Photography as a medium is also used here to learn about stereotypes and prejudices in the workshop “Wider image, wider frame”, when participants have to conclude what is happening in the photo based on a clip from the photo, to see the rest of the photo only after its interpretation and get to know about the broader context in which the situation takes place, which is usually much different from what can be concluded based on the clip. Dealing with stereotypes and prejudices and their disintegration is always an important component of our work on the identity of a town, as well as on the coexistence and cooperation in towns and different communities.
After the educational and lecturing part, the participants were tasked to go out on the street and film a scene of their choice showing Subotica and the people of Subotica, to work on the selection and processing of videos about Subotica, as well as on “subtitling” of finished films at the workshop “Through Lifka’s lens”. From this came the short films “Subotica Danas-Szabadka ma” and “View from the Window” inspired by documentary footage by Aleksandar Lifka.
The video is available here.
Workshops “Sjenica selfie” were led by Group 484 associates Jelena Mijić and Ivana Bogićević Leko, together with a group of university students from the seminar WHY SCHOOL? and Sedat Vrcić, teacher of the Technical-Agricultural Vocational School, while the workshops “Subotica’s Light in the Dark” were led by Ivana Bogićević Leko, Miloš Janković and Luka Knežević Strika, together with a group of university students from the seminar “WHY SCHOOL?” and representatives of the local organisation “Klara i Rosa”.
The workshops were organised with the support of the European Union, within the project “ID for EU”.