Sofra Art Workshops in Banja Koviljača
Since October 2016, we have regularly organised social support workshops for women and teenage girls in the Asylum Centre in Banja Koviljaca. Our associates, Ivana Bogicević Leko and Snežana Skoko developed a concept of workshops called Sofra Art, with an idea to encourage women accommodated in the Centre to take some time for themselves, to socialise and briefly forget their everyday responsibilities and worries in a pleasant and productive atmosphere.
For these several months, we have gathered in different places: in the dining room of the Asylum Centre, in a small office – workshop within the Centre, in a local coffee shop and in the park. Sofra Art involves development of handwork skills, but also preparation of small tea parties, while drinking coffee and having refreshments. Together, we work and talk, gradually becoming willing to share our personal stories; compare our habits, customs, similarities of our languages and cultures; we examine the elements of the culture we come from and open up for accepting diversity.
When having handwork activities, we often learn from each other – the Centre’s beneficiaries are highly skilled in knitting, crochet and embroidering, and our associate, textile artist Snežana Skoko is here to show them innovative techniques and provide them with new ideas. Apart from the items for practical use – winter clothes that they needed, the handwork has had an exhibition character: the contents of the painted textile and embroidering on canvas handkerchiefs summarise the topics of our talks. By embroidering names and meanings of names, objects or words that best describe them, we have initiated discussions on identity, position of women in different societies, ambitions and hopes, borders – the physical and state ones, but also those within us … So these handkerchiefs bear the inscriptions: desire, sea, Syria, mother, music, open the borders …
Sometimes, the talks about the future are filled with anxiety, and we need to somehow reliably find out what awaits us: there have been days when fate has been interpreted in the residual coffee grounds. Although neither the team nor the participants have claimed to possess the predicting skills, the vision of the future is seen and imagined, with a positive attitude and hope for a better tomorrow.
During these months of socialising, we celebrated New Year and Women’s Day, in particular. This was an occasion to discuss the customs, celebrations and marking of important life events. Around New Year, we were making greetings cards and decorations, and the central event was the New Year’s Bazaar. Together with the girls from the Centre, we exhibited the collected humanitarian aid: clothes, footwear, jewellery and toys and invited all the Centre residents to try on and choose what suited them best. Even if something did not suit them completely, we would alter it the next day, take it in or decorate it, until it became attractive, interesting and fitted perfectly.
Marking the International Women’s Day took us in two directions: relaxation while trying out different makeup techniques and readiness and fearlessness while talking about women’s rights – throughout history, nowadays, in the East and the West. So, with eyeliner brushes and nail polish in the hands, we were breaking prejudices about each other, questioning our own positions and the positions of “the other” women in our world.
During these visits, there were days when movies were watched or music for dancing was listened, or when various topics and photo poses were conceived, which was the responsibility of artist Luka Knežević Strika, who was allowed into the small women’s world of Sofra Art.
Photos: Luka Knežević Strika
Project: INVOLVED – INclusiVe COmmunities Lead to the Vibrant SociEty without Discrimination; Our new neighbours – a step closer
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; Contribution to the development of the reception system for different categories of migrants and an open and tolerant society.
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); Open Society Foundation Serbia