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Bulgarians and refugees create art together, beyond the boundaries of distinction

Photo: gobeyond.bg

Through the universal language of art, six Bulgarians and seven refugees are having a glance into the souls of ancient civilizations, bringing a fiery spark from remote native lands, playing cards, getting to know each other through activities like kneading bread, painting with henna, singing in three different languages with an underlying Rhodope motif and walking the path to a new life.

The online exhibition “Beyond differences” is being conducted under the UN Refugee Agency initiative and is presenting the joint art projects of visual artists, painters and musicians in Bulgaria, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. The idea is to bring closer different representatives of different cultures and, with the aid of multicultural art, to open our eyes for the beauty and diversity of our world.

“My project partner is called Ali Haj Ali - an architecture student. I believe that he liked my work since it is related to space in the broader sense of the term,” shares Radina Stoimenova, visual artist. The Bulgarian girlwho is living and working in France and the Afghanstudent who resides in Bulgaria are representing themselves with the joint work called “Goodbye Windows” - a story of childhood memories and sorrow coming from the inability to return back there.

“I offered Ali to begin what would be something resembling a conversation about the places which we hold dear,” says Radina. “We quickly concluded that these places are our homes. He described his parents’ house to me, where he grew up with his siblings. And I told him about the dwelling of my grandparents. Each of us was painting the dearest place solely with words - and in that way, Ali created a professional architectural layout of what I associate my childhood with, and I recreated his house’s plan in my artistic manner.”

Radina does not recreate the pieces of furniture, she just tells the story about them, while taking a walk in the imaginary home of Ali. Whereas he is able to inspire some warmth in her miniature model home through the use of some objects she holds dear to her heart.

Silsila Mahbub – just like Ali, comes from Afghanistan and loves singing authentic songs from her country. The Syrian Amjad Jad has been living in Sofia for ten years now and plays oriental music on an Arab instrument called the oud. Boyana Zheliazkova plays the violin, sings and composes. The three of them are going on stage with their song “Beyond differences” and sending out the message that music and the enthusiasm for beauty are not subject to boundaries.

“With the song that I have sung, I want to tell people to love each other and cherish life. It is important to live in peace and love,” says Silsila. Boyana adds: “Within a single repetition, an extremely interesting composition was born from three completely different songs. There is an Indian song in Hindi, a Syrian one in Arabic and the third one is from the Rhodope Mountain, in Bulgarian.”

Is the process of creation easy with an unknown person, coming from a foreign culture and different history? As it turns out, yes it is: “Actually, the fact that we are from different countries does not make us different types of people – on the contrary, we have so much more to share with each other,” Radina Stoimenova responds. She does not simply work with Ali on their join artistic project – in fact, today, he is one of her friends.

“The sad part is that more prejudice can be seen in Bulgaria, compared to France, where there is a longer history of integration of different cultures,” she continues. “I believe that there is nothing to overcome – we are all human beings and it is only natural for us to help one another in hard times. This is a simple humane rule, which does not require effort since people are everywhere. I become sad when I hear of cases when refugees are badly met, but I hold hope that with time, Bulgaria, as well as the rest of the countries, will learn to overcome the differences. When people meet in person, such differences are forgotten. And there is no reason for them to exist in the first place.”

English Boris Totchev

Photos: gobeyond.bg

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