Art and Activism Caravan 2006
News from the border crossing project travelling from Greece (early June) via Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Hungary to the eco-activist gathering Ecotopia in Slovakia. Supporting and connecting local youth groups, their actions and campaigns with the power of creative activism, the Caravan will share skills in the field of media, music, theatre, and street performance.
Who we are: EYFA (European Youth For Action), The Mischief Makers (art and activist collective, Nottingham), Rhythms of Resistance (Berlin Samba), Undercurrents (UK video collective), Rebel Clown Army and VideA (video collective, Turkey).
In Novi Sad the Caravan was welcomed and looked after by people from two organisations. One is Kulturanova, which organised various visual arts festivals and has been campaigning for a cultural youth centre in the city. The other is the 'Volonterski Centar Vojvodine' a volunteer centre, which supports and runs a variety of projects. The week in Novi Sad was one of good workshops, good actions and the occasional party!
Most Caravan members were accomodated on an old Ukranian cruise ship in the Danube, where workshops took place too. The Mischief Makers build a giant bird as a symbolic way of opening up Serb borders and made an impressive mosaic on the same theme, possibly to be used in a new youth centre. Clowns trained and joked about at the final parade to end the week of workshops. An other impressive feature of the activities in Novi Sad was the quickly formed samba band, which did a couple of stunning performances in the centre of town. The video group made 3 videos and did several open air screenings.
At the end of the first week a demonstration was held for the cultural youth centre as well as for the opening up of Serbian borders. During the second week some Caravan members worked at a Roma settlement and prepared a film screening and demonstration, demanding an electricity supply, which the settlement in its 33 year existance has had no access to.
Others articles: Groovy times in Novi Sad
The week in Belgrade was very different from our stay in the small community of Plav. There it was, a big city once again. We were looked after by people from the Stanipani Kolektiv, who had got people interested in the workshops and helped generating ideas on a possible theme and action.
The day the Caravan arrived a memorial vigil took place in the centre of the city to commemorate the victims of the Srebrenica genocide in 1995. People held banners and placards saying 'never again' and 'remember Srebrenica'. Last year the same vigil was attacked by nationalist groups, some of who trew teargas in the crowd. The police guarded the protest heavily this time. The article 'Belgrade remembers Srebrenica - 11 years on...' contains various links and photos of the event.
The final outcome of the week was an evening of silk and film screening at Peti Park, a small park in Belgrade, where a corporation called Crnotravac wants to build a five storage high commercial centre. In June 2005, the company cut down all the trees in the park. The neighbourhood has started an impressive struggle to safe the park. Coen from the Art and Activism Caravan spoke with local campaigners...
Plav is a small town in the north east of Montenegro. The 3.500+ inhabitants form a mixed community of Montenegrians, Serbs and Albanians. 80% is muslim, 14% orthodox, 2% catholic. Among the Montenegrians there are both muslims and orthodox, among the Albanians both muslims and catholics. Part of the population are refugees from the Bosnian war (1992-1995) and the Kosovo war (1998-1999). The town is very isolated, surrounded by mountains and six hours away from the capital Podgorica. In autumn last year, a small group of people set up an NGO, Plagus_M, with the aim to activate the local community and the youth culture.
The Art and Activism Caravan was guest in the town of Plav for a very special and hectic week. We were made very welcome by the people and everybody has worked very hard to make a big parade happen on the final day. The samba practiced by marching through the town, getting many funny looks. The Mischief Makers build a giant football and stadium seat, to support the demand from local youth to get better seating in the local football stadium. At the moment they have to sit on a rubbish dump to watch the matches... Another group of mischievious fairies made costumes and danced around during the parade. The video workshop produces films about the local lake and its safety, the management of waste and another one on local youth in Plav. The clowns worked on a performance about waste and collected some from the street in order to find its owners...
The Srebrenica massacre was the July 1995 killing of up to an estimated 8,106 Bosniak males, ranging in age from teenagers to the elderly, in the region of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina by a Serb Army of Republika Srpska under general Ratko Mladić including Serbian state special forces "Scorpions". The Srebrenica massacre is the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II and considered by many as one of the most horrific events in recent European history. It is also the first legally established case of genocide in Europe after the Holocaust. (source: Wikipedia).
11 years on, a large crowd gathered in the city centre of Belgrade to remember the victims killed in the Srebrenica massacre. Last year the same vigil was attacked by nationalist groups, some of who trew teargas in the crowd. The police guarded the protest heavily this time. We took some photos...
Links: Wikipedia on the Srebrenica massacre | Preliminary list of 8106 Bosniaks killed in Srebrenica - (PDF version) - Issued by Federal Commission for Missing Persons on June 5, 2005 | The Association Women of Srebrenica - Official Website | Srebrenica Genocide Blog - Independent Blog Regarding Srebrenica Massacre | "Cry from the Grave" documentary film detailing the account of the massacre | Chemical Warfare in Bosnia? The Strange Experiences of the Srebrenica Survivors (a Human Rights Watch report) | BOSFAM - Non-Governmental group supporting displaced women in Bosnia
In Albania the Caravan was welcomed by people from Mjaft!, a movement committed to fighting political corruption and raising awareness of social and environmental issues concerning Albania. Workshops were held at various locations in Tirana, which is the capital of Albania with different sources stating somewhere between 500,000 - 1,000,000 inhabitants.
In Tirana Cat left and Johan joined the Caravan as a Rebel Clown trainer. It was a busy, hot and stressful week full of good and crazy experiences and well attended workshops. The participants were generally around 16-18 and some were part of youth and activist groups. The video workshops produced 3 films and the Clowns and Mischief Makers combined their efforts in an action for clean and reliable drinking water at the Ministry for Internal Affairs, in the middle of the city.
Photos: On the road - from Bitola to Tirana | An action for clean and reliable drinking water at the Ministry for Internal Affairs in Tirana, Albania | Photo update of Art Activism Caravan | Photos from silkscreening workshops in Bitola + Tirana
After a week of student uprising in Greece, the Art and Activism Caravan moved onto Macedonia, where it was welcomed by the Bitola Youth Forum, to fill a week of youth activities in the city of Bitola. Bitola is a city in the south-western part of the Republic of Macedonia, with just under 100.000 inhabitants.
Workshops included: action samba, silkscreening, video activism and rebel clowning, some of which took place at one of the local swimming pools. The Mischief Makers worked in a Roma settlement just outside the city. At the end of the week a large event was held in the local amphitheatre, which was joined by some local bands.
Video: Beautiful Bitola (about litter on the streets) | Bitola's Neighbourhood Voices (aspirations...) [will be uploaded soon!]
Since the beginning of this week, members of the AA Caravan have been working with students at the Politecnik University in Athens. The students have occupied their university in solidarity with their striking tutors as well as raising their concern over the proposed changes to the education law and privatisation of the Greek educational system. In the last few weeks almost all of the universities and colleges in Greece have been occupied by the majority of their students. After lectures and teachers went on a national strike in a long lasting dispute over pay, students around the country took over more than 300 buildings and university grounds.
Last week demonstrations took place all over Greece. In the city of Tessaloniky over 5000 students took to the street, in Athens over 7000, when other protests happenend in smaller cities and towns across the country. Many demonstrations were marred by police violence in an attempt to portray the students in a bad light. A few days ago student assemblies agreed to continue their occupations and a 15.000 strong demonstration in Athens on Thursday (June 8th) was met with huge quantities of tear gas.
Photos: AA Caravan starts workshops with students in Athens, Greece | Photos from the 15.000 strong student demonstration in Athens | Radical wall art - Politecnik University, Athens | More photos from the occupied universities and last weeks demonstrations | Last weeks student demonstrations in Athens, Thessaloniki and Heraklion (Crete) | Online map showing all occupations | Photo-essay from Thessaloniki's Occupations | Photos from demonstrations in: Ioannena | Patras | Volos
Links: AA Caravan Indymedia | Athens Indymedia | Article by AA Caravan member in German | Greek Embassy in Paris is occupied in solidarity with the Greek Students | A description of the proposed changes | Statement of the Plenary Meeting of Greek Student Assemblies | During the last 3 weeks there is quite some unrest in Greek universities
The Art and Activism Caravan is a border crossing project, starting early June, travelling for 3 months from Greece via Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Hungary to the eco-activist gathering Ecotopia in Slovakia. Its aim is to support and connect youth, campaign, community and activist groups, their actions and campaigns with creative forms of activism. The participants will share skills in the field of video, creative writing, music and dance, sculpturing, street performance, drawing and painting, samba and screen printing.
Groups involved in the AA Caravan are EYFA (European Youth For Action), Candida TV (video collective, Italy), Rhythms of Resistance (samba), The Mischief Makers (creative activist collective, Nottingham), Undercurrents (UK video collective), Karahaber (video news network, Turkey), Loesje (creative writing), Rebel Clown Army and VideA (video collective, Balkans).
The local organisations and groups hosting the project are Medsos (Greece), Bitola Youth Forum (Macedonia), Mjaft (Albania), Plagus_M (Serbia & Montenegro), In Stage (Serbia & Montenegro), Kulturanova (Serbia & Montenegro), Tuzla Live (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Uruk (Bosnia & Herzegovina) and ZoFi and Valley of Arts (Hungary) and Ecotopia (Slovakia). For more information on the host groups click here. The artists taking part in the project come from Norway, Turkey, Italy, The Netherlands, UK, Ukraine, Germany and Armenia.
Art Activism Links: Design for Social Change | My Dads Strip Club | Northern Arts Tactical Offensive | Movement of the Imagination | The Church of Stop Shopping | The YES Men | The Lab of Insurrectionary Imagination | YoMango | Space Hijackers | videoactivism.org (everything for the video activist)
Background Links: ZNet Balkanwatch (Background articles on the political situation in the Balkans + lots of links) | Transitions Online (Online newsletter covering politics in the Balkans and wider region) | Maknews.com (Macedonian independent news agency) | Abolishing the Borders from Below (anarchist magazine focused around Eastern Europe) | Role of Women in The Balkans War (links) | Balkansnet.org (Balkans anti-war and human rights resources) | Our target is peace (The centre for peace in the Balkans)