Dispatches in Exile
Since Hungary fortified its border with Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina has become a principal gateway for thousands of asylum seekers on their perilous journey to the EU.
With a few notable exceptions, the stories of people on the move are often told through dispatches from reporters who drop in periodically to cover the “migrant and refugee crisis.” People on the move are frequently nameless and dehumanized, deepening the rift between them and the local population and creating an atmosphere of alienation, antipathy, and, too often, violence. The stories are told from the perspective of outsiders, whether humanitarian aid agencies, activists, NGO’s or by professional journalists who are frequently limited by cultural differences, language barriers, and attention span.
The VII Academy has partnered with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to mitigate this fragmented and distorted narrative by providing migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina with basic media training and a portal to publish their reports and tell their own stories.
VII Academy trainers, together with the IOM, Bosnia and Herzegovina, will teach the basic principles of journalism and media production, including photography, time-based media, ethics, and narrative storytelling, to a group of about 60 men and women from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East currently residing in Temporary Reception Centers in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Participants will produce reports and stories from this teaching that provide insight into their fragile and tenuous lives. These stories will then be published on a dedicated online media portal.
The project is led by VII Academy curator Ziyah Gafić, “Once upon a time, I was a war refugee. Being a refugee is a transformative experience that never leaves you. The feeling of being uprooted is hard, if not impossible, to heal. Being on the move and leaving your home with slim prospects of return is a deeply traumatic experience. Owning your narrative is a human right. Enabling people on the move to take the narrative into their own hands can perhaps help them cope with their troubles and experiences.”
The IOM of Bosnia and Herzegovina writes, “Too often it happens that the voice of migrants are not heard, or are not given a chance to express their feelings, desires, and hopes.
In this way, we want to provide migrants with a space where they can, through photography and stories, address and send a message that can help a broader audience to understand their situation and needs. Through the opportunity to participate in photography training, composing, and publishing stories, our goal is to encourage migrants to release repressed thoughts and feelings of loss and sadness and learn new skills.
We hope that this place for the messages of migrants will be a space for their creative dialogue that will help to better inform and understand their needs, fostering empathy, acceptance, and inclusion.”