Multimedia Center Mala Stanica, October 2007
The phenomenon of refugees/refuge is one of the so called eternal issues and themes which both literally and absolutely communicate with the civilization codes of human existence. Essential existential and also moral, philosophical, sociological and various other aspects and consequences of man’s destiny directly transgress and unite in it. At the same time the refugees theme is distant to any possible rational comprehension, because it is an extremely emotional and distressful issue which hardly anyone can face with a ready-made defence mechanism of indifference or be cool-headed to it. The reason for such responses is basically because exile and refuge are mainly experienced, endured and felt through the prism of collective tragedies and exoduses, through images and pictures of lines of tormented, warn out and miserable old people, women and children – through images that make indifference impossible!
#1 On the other hand, should we relate the entire (known) history of mankind to the exile syndrome? Should we treat and interpret Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden as an act of (indirect) exile? Since, after all, refuge is very often only a reaction to a previous action i.e. to exile, we can simply say that this is definitely a Biblical theme which strongly supports its eternity aspect. And what’s more, the First Book along with the Eden Story, abounds in colourful and convincing elaborations of this crucial topic and also in some more drastic examples – the prosecution and exile of the Jews from Egypt, the exile/refuge of the Christians from Israel … thus, convincing us that the history of mankind is actually a history of exile and refuge.
But even the more exciting real world, reflected in some actual events from our distant or more recent past abounds in more cruel examples of actions and reactions to exile and refuge: Luis XIV’s Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685 1F, the Soviet Revolution in 1917 2F, the so called Armenian genocide in 1915-1917 3F, the horrors and the holocaust during the Second World War, the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, the Arab -Israeli wars 4F and so on.
#2 And, inspite of the shocking historical experiences, the situation with refugees of today has not improved much. According to the UNCHR reports, the number of refugees in the world at the beginning of 2006 was 8,4 million! Approximately 80% of the refugees are always women and children.
The reasons for these incredibly painful and, as a rule, always extremely bloody acts and events are various. They could be: religious, territorial, ideological, racial, etc. While the actual reasons and causes always seem to be inexplicably different, both the methods and the outcomes are always the same! The final outcome always seems to be a copy of the same matrix: blood and tears, dead and displaced people, split up families and reshaped destinies, terrible personal and collective dramas and tragedies, thousands of dislocated lives.
The Macedonian historical experience is familiar with the exile/refuge issue. This issue has affected various aspects of our existence and lives: both our country and our nation have directly been subjected to refuge genocide, as well as our territory on which a number of refugees crises have taken place. Yet the world historical memory is, more or less, ignorant of these tragic Macedonian experiences, because in almost all different searchings and rereadings of possible refugees crisis spots in the world history, there is hardy any mention of Macedonia or it is being mentioned only in a marginal way.
#3 This especially refers to the theme of this particular art project-the tragic Macedonian refugees exodus at the end of the Civil war in Greece, i.e. in 1948-1949, which in the popular and easily accessible “sources” of today (such as Internet) is simply not mentioned or is often reduced to a few euphemisms such as: deportation, relocation, transportation of families or children with no indication of their ethnic origin. On the other hand, there are numerous sources in which the truth is being altered by naming these refugees, and especially the children Greek children transformed into fanatic Macedonians5F. Although the stated numbers, surprisingly and strangely enough, do vary – some reach up to 700.000 refugees6F and others emphasize the number of children refugees – 28.296 7F – it is obvious that this refugees’ exodus was definitely an extremely terrible and tragic event, which in the middle of the 20th century took place in the Balkans.
On the other hand, although this is hardly an appropriate moment for such an elaboration, it is important that we ask ourselves the following questions: What have we done and in what way have we contributed for a better and more thorough documentation, interpretation, clarification and public presentation of these events.
As it was already said at the beginning of this text, the response to this particular theme i.e. the exile/refuge issue is usually extremely emotional and just because of that we can conclude, that both at a global level and also as an actual event it is viable for a possible artistic reaction and transposition. This is probably true, but our practice, at least the Macedonian artistic practice proves just the opposite. It appears that the refugees theme, regardless of Macedonian rich historical experience, has not been frequently used as an art theme and challenge. Even it could be said that it has been surprisingly neglected and ignored.
#4 Especially when it refers to the theme of this particular project: the Macedonian refugees exodus at the time of the Civil war in Greece in 1948-1949- there have not been many serious projects in visual arts.8F Of course, the first one that should be mentioned is Kiril Cenevski’s movie Black Seed, then a few documentaries (such as Tugleš by Kole Manev) and television films (for example The Barriers of Greek Diplomacy by Nikola Kalajdžiski), as well as the most recent cinematographic production The Children of 1948 by the young film director Suzana Dinevski. The attempts in fine arts are even fewer: probably in the paintings of Kole Manev (there is something in their atmosphere and a kind of reference) and in some sculptures and prints by Naso Bekarovski, and that is all. 9F
1. By this Edict Protestantism was forbidden by law and this practically caused a relocation by force of approximately 500.000 Protestants (i.e. Hugenotes) from France to other lands in Europe.
2. It caused the exile of approximately 1.500.000 refugees, mostly in some Eropean countries.
3. It caused a displacement from Turkey of approximately one million Armenians.
4. Some assessments indicate that approximately two million people (Palestinians, Jews and others) were displaced in that period.
5. Lagani, Irene. The Removal of the Greek Children and the Greek-Yugoslav Relations, 1949-1953-a Critical Approach.-Athens: I. Sderis, 1966.
6. Greece – Civil War, Library of Congress Country Studies.
7. Courtois, Stephane and all. The Black Book of Communism. – Cambridge, MA: H.U.P., 1999.
8. Differently enough, this theme is frequently treated in Macedonian contemporary literature in the works of a number of prominent Macedonian writers such as: Taško Georgievski, Petar Širilov, Ivan Čapovski, Kata Misirkova, Paskal Gilevski, Taško Širilov, Kica Bardžieva-Kolbe and others.
9. In this context, although indirectly related to the Macedonian variant of this theme, we should mention the exibition “Artists and Refugees” (currator Melentie Pandilovski) held at Skopje City Museum in 1999.