Balkana 2009: Art Beyond Borders and Barriers

January 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

(Re-posted from Survivor Corps : Survivor News,  Sept. 24, 2009)

From August 23rd-28th, 19 conflict survivors from Southeast Europe joined students and
professors from the art academies of Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Belgrade for the 5th Annual Balkana Regional Art Colony, on Lake Balkana in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Balkana Regional Art Colony is an opportunity for artists with and without disabilities to build bridges of communication and support in the region. Through the universal language of art, artists showcase their skills, raise public awareness about disability rights, and promote resilience and reconciliation.

During the 6-day event, the artists produced 54 paintings and 9 sculptures.

“An incredible impression was left on me by the artists, painters, and sculptors,” says Branislav Kapetanovic, a cluster bomb survivor from Belgrade. “This experience reasserted my view that each person with disability, each one of us, needs to find new purpose in life and strive towards it.”

Observers were extremely impressed by the beautiful paintings artist Stjepan Perkovic creates using his feet.

“I am an independent artist and an independent man, placed in a life situation with certain bodily limitations that are often considered in a clichéd manner. … I come to this colony every year, because this cliché is lost here and I paint most sincerely, independently, from my own spirit and my own instinct,” he says.

Balkana 2009 also included performance art, film screenings, workshops and discussions on the topics of survivorship, community rebuilding, and human rights. In one unique performance activity, artists with and without disabilities were confronted with new disability challenges by spending time in a wheelchair, on crutches, wearing a blindfold, not speaking, or with their arms or legs bound so that they could not be used. This snapshot of life with a disability—working, communicating, and facing real-life barriers—was a powerful, eye-opening experience for the participants as well as observers from the media and the public.

Nikolina Vuleta, a painter from the Art Academy in Banja Luka, said “Even though I have been in a relationship with a person with a heavy hearing impairment for 4 years…the performance left me feeling confused and helpless. I could not get up on my own, carry things while using crutches, I was moaning all the time and asking for assistance, while surrounded by people with real disabilities, who were active and engaged in everyday activities without anybody’s help…I gained a greater admiration and respect for people who rise above their disabilities and are, before everything, excellent artists.”

Pieces by the 2009 Balkana participants were combined with artwork by over 70 artists from past Balkana Regional Art Colonies for the Balkana Retrospective 2005-2009 exhibit, which has shown in 3 cities so far—Mrkonjic Grad, Brcko, and Banja Luka. The Balkana Regional Art Colony is hosted by Survivor Corps in collaboration with Landmine Survivors Initiatives, the Organization of Amputees of Republika Srpska (UDAS), and the Mrkonjic Grad Municipality.

See a slideshow from the 2009 Balkana Artist Colony


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