Face Forward… into my home is an interactive art project focused on the stories of people who have been forced to leave their homelands and are rebuilding their life in Greece. It includes storytelling workshops inspired by a selection of contemporary artworks from the collection of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST), the photo shooting of portraits, and a photography exhibition about and with refugees and asylum-seekers, now living in the greater Athens area, benefitting from ESTIA, the Emergency Support To Integration and Accommodation programme implemented by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and funded by the European Commission.
ESTIA means Home
Face Forward… into my home introduces the public to the faces behind the numbers and the Greek refugee crisis, and tells their stories – the family members, the woman, the man, the teenager. Getting to know these human stories, one realizes that even though they lost almost everything when they were forced to flee their homes, they still share many of the same desires and dreams that we all do. They haven’t lost their identity, their skills or their hope. They just long to resume a normal life.
The ESTIA programme helps them to realize exactly this: through accommodation in apartments and provision of monthly cash support, refugees and asylum-seekers are able to lead more secure and normal lives, regain the dignity of choice and gradually take back control of their life. At the same time, Face Forward… into my home introduces these people as residents of a city that has embraced so many cultures, religions and ideas – a diversity that is defined through social solidarity and mutual respect, so that we can all feel “at Home”.
Face Forward… into my home was designed and implemented by EMST’s Education Department, in collaboration with UNHCR, and is funded by the European Commission’s department for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), in the framework of the ESTIA programme, providing urban accommodation and cash assistance to thousands of asylum seekers and refugees in Greece.
Face Forward… into my home consists of the following three phases:
Phase I: Storytelling Workshops
Βeneficiaries of the ESTIA programme are invited to share feelings, memories, hopes and aspirations, inspired by artworks from the EMST collection. Using these as a starting point and as a stimulus to explore contemporary social issues, including forced migration, social integration, cultural exchange and social interaction, the participants create autobiographical stories that reveal moments from the past, build personal narratives about the present, and make plans for the future.
Phase II: Photographic Portraits
Based on the narratives that unfold during the workshops, photographic portraits depict the refugees and asylum-seekers in their daily life in Athens. Accompanied by the stories, the portraits shed light on each person’s unique character. At the same time, both photographs and stories reveal the “human face” of the refugee plight and remind us of the things, emotions, feelings that connect us all – our common humanity.
Phase III: Exhibition of Photographic Portraits and Personal Narratives
The personal narratives and photographic portraits will be presented at EMST from November 22nd, 2017 to January 31st, 2018. The works from the EMST collection that prompted the narratives will be presented in electronic form in a specially designed exhibition space, in addition to a short documentary video of the whole project.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with all the portraits and personal narratives. As part of the exhibition, special events will be organized for the public with the participation of the refugees and asylum-seekers themselves, as well as educational programmes for students of all ages.
The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST) is a major contemporary art institution in Greece that from the beginning of its operation (2000) has developed a wide variety of programmes and activities addressing different audiences. The permanent home of the Museum is the former Fix brewery on Syngrou Ave., which was reconstructed to open its doors again in late 2016 with the first exhibition “Urgent Conversations: Athens – Antwerp” inaugurating the temporary exhibition spaces of EMST simultaneously with the series “EMST in the World” and attracting thousands of visitors.
From April to July 2017 EMST was the main venue of the acclaimed art exhibition documenta 14 and attracted global attention, while establishing contacts with major art institutions in Europe. In the meantime, all necessary procedures have been accomplished leading to its full operation within 2018. In parallel, EMST designs and delivers a variety of social intervention projects, such as educational programmes designed for primary and secondary students.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. UNHCR safeguards the rights and well-being of refugees and stateless people around the world. In more than six decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. UNHCR is on the front lines of the world’s major humanitarian crises, including Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, and countless other emergencies.
Apart from its humanitarian assistance programmes, UNHCR is helping refugees rebuild their lives and trying to find solutions for their future. Learning languages, the recognition of their skills and knowledge and access to the labour market are valuable for easing their financial, social and cultural integration in the hosting communities.
About the European Commission’s department for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO)
The European Union with its Member States is a leading global donor of humanitarian aid. Through the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), the EU helps over 120 million victims of conflicts and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, ECHO provides assistance to the most vulnerable people solely on the basis of humanitarian needs, without discrimination of race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation
Acknowledgments: Arsis, Caritas Hellas, CRS, METAdrasi, Municipality of Athens through Athens Development and Destination Management Agency, Nostos, Praksis, SolidarityNow, Welcommon
Exhibition curators / Idea-Implementation of the project:
Μarina Tsekou, Education Curator EMST
Ioannis Vastardis, Photographer
General coordination: Katerina Koskina
Portrait photographs: Ioannis Vastardis
Composition of narratives: Marina Tsekou
Project manager assistant for Face Forward …into my home, UNHCR: Elli Paxinou
Quality and program manager-The Director’s office EMST: Elena Andreou