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Crossing the Mediterranean – what’s on the other side?

For the past few months, apart of being involved in different activities around Brezice, which lately feels pretty much like “home”, I have also joined the Terra Vera group for the project that connects Slovenia-based artists and people from the Asylum Home Ljubljana, or those who were there before. The project is funded by Urad RS za komuniciranje and hosted by different places around the city of Ljubljana.

Back in winter, I was searching for possibilities to get involved in a project that works with refugees, and Terra Vera Association for Sustainable Development  from not-so-far Kostanjevica na Krki was the place. Led by Jana Milovanovic, it organizes weekly meetings and workshops for the asylum-seekers and refugees, aiming to build a bridge between different cultures and help the integration process of the newcomers.

Starting with Friday evening talks with refugees that I first attended in February, the idea further developed and shaped into having a series of workshops for refugees and asylum-seekers led by professional artists  - “SoDeloValnica mladih na področju begunstva”. The project aims to teach the participants how to work with different materials and techniques, master their skills in arts and handcrafts that in future may also help to create new employment opportunities for them. As the culmination of the project, the participants will take part in an interactive installation called “Living Room” that will take place in Pligon from October 13th to 23rd within the Biennale of Industrial Design BIO 25thThe idea is to combine different techniques and create a place filled with artistic objects, everything handmade – from furniture to teacups and table games. This “living room” will be “inhabited” by the participants themselves, and this will create a space for the intercultural dialogue between visitors of the Biennale and refugee artists. To reach this ambitious goal “SoDeloValnica” offers a variety of workshops in: textile design (at NTF, mentored by prof. Marijo Jenko and prof. Eleno Fajt), graphic design (Samira Kentrić and prof. Zora Stančič as mentors), culinary (coordinated by Ngen Palmas Kamerun, Amjad Al-Achkar (Syria) and Afshin Shirazi from Iran), working wood (with architecture students) and a ceramics workshop that I co-mentor with a great Slovenian sculptor Dragica Čadež who was very kind to accept the invitation to lead the workshop.

Why ceramics with refugees? Apart of academic education, back in Russia I studied traditional ceramics and sculpture for many years and I was looking for an opportunity to transmit the knowledge while being here in Slovenia. That is how two interests – working with people from other cultures/vulnerable group and ceramics - came together, and I proposed to organize a ceramics workshop to Jana, and luckily she agreed and then did a lot as a project coordinator to make it happen. And here we are now – we gather every Tuesday in atelier APOK in Ljubljana to dip our hands into clay, create, invent, laugh, play around, struggle together on a difficult shape and share a story or two while working.