In May 2019, a learning program was designed and implemented in collaboration with the Multifunctional Center of Hellenic Red Cross, with the participation of a group of teenage refugees. The program ran in a series of ten two-hour meetings and consisted of two phases:
In the first phase, two works by Russian conceptual artist Ilya Kabakov from the EMST collection were presented and discussed: The Boat of my Life, 1993 and The Cycle 10 Characters, 1970-1974. The main aim of this phase of the program was for participants (a) to discover the artistic manners which Kabakov uses to present different aspects of his personality (The Cycle 10 Characters) and the “narration” of the various periods of his life, in dialogue with the socio-political reality of those times (The Boat of my Life), (b) to familiarize them with contemporary art expression, (c) to allow them to aesthetically appreciate the works of art.
In the second phase, participants talked about their personality characteristics, narrated personal stories and, inspired by the works of art which they had previously approached, they created their own group artwork.
Although their work was created during the meetings within the framework of the program, participants had to further discuss and exchange opinions and ideas, beyond the scheduled meetings, before finally agreeing on the content and creative methods. These discussions were held either in additional meetings, which they arranged themselves, or through electronic media and applications, such as WhatsApp, etc.
Through this group and experiential creative process their book-album was created. Speech and images capture and reflect the thoughts, feelings and personal experiences associated with their journey as refugees, as well as with settling down and adapting to a new social and cultural environment. The title, Forced Silence, was given by the teenage creators themselves, testifying to their need to break the silence imposed on them and their wish to share with us their innermost thoughts and feelings.
Once the program was completed, the participants presented their work in shelters which accommodate or creatively occupy other teenage or adult refugees. In these presentations, both teenagers and adults with similar experiences, concerns, dreams and problems were offered the opportunity, on the occasion of the artistic creation, to discuss, communicate and feel they are not alone. These presentations were also attended by people who had not had similar experiences.