Campaign in Sjenica: Exhibition Common Denominator and We and the Others seminar
During May, we were preparing to launch campaigns for raising awareness on the rights and position of migrants in Serbia and encouraging intercultural exchange between the local population and the people residing in the centres. Based on months of work at the centres for accommodation of asylum seekers in Serbia, the artists Ivana Bogićević Leko, Snežana Skoko and Luka Knežević Strika conceived an exhibition entitled Common Denominator. The exhibition is a combination of documentary notes, works created through the interaction of the artistic team and workshop participants, and the contents and discussion topics artistically being shaped with beneficiaries of the centres. The exhibition thematises the issues of identity, culture and customs, the position of women in different societies, ambitions, hopes and anxieties, as well as the borders – both the state and symbolic ones.
The contents of the exhibition are: 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 of 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 exhibition was first presented to the audience in Sjenica, in the premises of KUD Jedinstvo. During the preparation and setting up of the exhibition, workshops for teenagers from the local community and the Asylum Centre were held. At the same time, at the Technical- Agricultural Vocational School we held a training course for teachers “We and the Others”, intended for acquiring competences for intercultural communication and cooperation, and in this case it was part of the preparation of teachers for enrolment of migrant children to schools. Lectures at the seminar covered the basic concepts of stereotypes and images of others, the basic concepts of migration, as well as the methodolog y of research work and the collection of documentary material on local social history, the history of everyday life, migration. Historian Aleksandar Todosijević talked about the methodology of exploring the image of the other and the stereotypes, as well as the methodology of researching local social history: he presented possible topics, methods, sources and critical views of these sources. Examples of good practice related to the existing high school research followed, presented by Ivana Bogićević Leko. Robert Kozma from Group 484 talked about the basic concepts related to migration. The seminar also presented the methodology of work, the collection of documentary material and the shaping of the materials with various artistic practices, following the example of the documentary exhibition “The Border is Closed”, which speaks about the life, the journey and the culture of migrants and asylum seekers.
After the seminar, the participants, together with the team, attended the opening of the exhibition Common Denominator. The exhibition was opened on May 29, 2017. Besides citizens and the local media, the opening of the exhibition was an event attended by students from the local community who met again with their peers from the Centre. In addition, the presence of teachers allowed for the preparatory activities for school enrolment to be arranged, such as language classes. The opening was an opportunity for all the participants in the process to have their say and comment the work and the exhibition so far. The Farsi translator, Ana Lazović, was there to ensure that everyone understood the conversation. The exhibition lasted for a week, and then it moved to Vranje. During the exhibition, students of the Technical-Agricultural Vocational School organised guided tours through the exhibition for all the interested audience, especially for elementary school students.
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)
Photos: Jelena Mijić