Campaign in Niš and Vranje: Exhibition “Common Denominator” and the accompanying program
The campaigns in Niš and Vranje were running at the same time, as a festival entitled “Nobody is Illegal”, with the participation of the “School on Migration” team, the artistic team of the exhibition “Common Denominator”, journalists, teachers, students- participants of School on Migration, Sjenica teenagers from the local community and the Asylum Centre, Vranje high school students, etc.
Official activities started on June 5, when a short continuation of School on Migration was held in Niš, organised by students of philosophy and sociology, students-participants from our school, in agreement with the philosopher Ivan Milenković. The event took place at the Faculty of Philosophy in Niš, and was intended for students and professors interested in the topic of migration. The discussion was moderated by students and the introductory speaker of the first session was Ivan Milenković. It was dealing with the issue of refugees and problems with identities that occur on that occasion, the concept of “impossible identifications” and the anxiety refugees introduced into the social order with their existence, while their place in the system is not defined. Zoran Dimić, professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Niš, also took part in the discussion, talking about the issue of migration through history, emphasising the role and significance of migrants and foreigners for the establishment of university in the Middle Ages: namely, students in Bologna, who did not have the residence rights, gathered in order to fight for their rights and better living conditions, and thus created new positions in the existing order. The introductory speaker of the second session was a translator for the Farce language, a reporter and journalist of Vreme weekly, Momir Turudić, who analysed the image of refugees in the media and emphasised that it depended on the political mood. They were being joggled between the “humane” approach and the presentation of refugees as “danger”, and in both cases they were out of a true focus, always superfluous, or invisible if they could not be used. This discussion was also attended by the professor of the Faculty of Philosophy in Niš, Dragan Todorović and Group 484 program coordinator, Robert Kozma.
On the same day, opening preparations were made in Vranje for the exhibition “Common Denominator”. A group of students from the Vranje High School, the school that had been cooperating with Group 484 for more than a year in various ways, gathered to welcome their peers from Sjenica. The idea to engage teenagers, who had participated in workshops in Sjenica in campaigns in other towns, was greeted with great excitement. In that way, the Vranje-Sjenica-Afghan group was formed, and the next day they visited the sights of Vranje, among other things, the National Museum and Pržar – the park of interesting architecture and acoustics at the town lookout. They also participated in integrative workshops with Zaga Aksentijević from Group 484, with the help of the Farsi translator, Ana Lazović, as well as the students who came from Niš. In addition, this group helped the team to set up the exhibition, and they were prepared to present the exhibits to visitors.
The exhibition was opened on June 6, at the National Museum Gallery. The speakers at the opening ceremony were Ivana Bogićević Leko, on behalf of the team of authors, journalist Momir Turudić and teenagers from Afghanistan – participants in activities. The opening part was followed by an open discussion with Momir Turudić, moderated by students of philosophy and sociology from Niš, dealing with the analysis of the situation in the countries of migrants’ origin, the media picture on the refugee crisis, translation and journalistic experiences in refugee camps in different countries.
The exhibits presented at the exhibition “Common Denominator” were: textile books Book of Names and Words that Describe Me – different embroidery techniques made by migrant women, inspired by the discussions about identity and compiled into a collection; embroidered tablecloth for Nowruz sofra and hands as a symbol of diligent work and friendship; Make up Corner that collects stories of self-esteem, human dignity and the fight for rights, especially women’s rights; Memory of the Future – photo portraits in front of the city images; I see a long way ahead of you – best wishes for the future as fate seen in cup of coffee readings (print on canvas); Newlyweds –step forward, all others at ease! – portraits on wedding photographs; publication My Last Night at the Sharia Camp – a narrative and photo story by photographer Zirak, whom we met in Bogovađa. Each of these works tells the story about our topics during Sofra Art, about language, about wondering and understanding, discovering, freeing from own prejudices, and the stories are presented in the catalogue Common Denominator. The authors of the exhibition are artists: Ivana Bogićević Leko, Snežana Skoko and Luka Knežević Strika, and the art collective “Škart” contributed to the appearance of the exhibition and the accompanying materials.
The program continued on June 7, when screening of Gianfranco Rosi’s film “Fire at Sea” was held in the American Corner of the “Bora Stanković” National Library, in cooperation with the “Free Zone” Film Festival. The film is a documentary overview of the crisis situation on the island of Lampedusa and presents a testimony of the suffering of people disembarking there (those who have survived crossing the sea), as well as a call for an urgent action. After the film, the discussion was led by the philosopher Ivan Milenković and students from Niš. In the full hall, high school students from Vranje were the most prominent in the discussion, with their brilliant observations and the careful analysis of the film.
This event closed the three-day festival “Nobody is Illegal” and the exhibition “Common Denominator” was open for visitors by the end of June.
Project: INVOLVED – INclusiVe COmmunities Lead to the Vibrant SociEty without Discrimination
Goal: Project goal is raising awareness of asylum seekers and migrants, general and professional public on social, economic and cultural rights of asylum seekers and migrants
Implementers: Group 484 (Educational Program “We and the Others”)
Support: The Delegation of European Union in RS – European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), Serbian Government – The Office for Cooperation
with Civil Society
Photos: Jelena Mijić