LIDIJA ANTONOVIC SHARES HER EXPERIENCES FROM A RECENT TRIP TO ANGOLA WHERE SHE LED AND DEVELOPED CREATIVE WORKSHOPS WITH YOUNG PEOPLE LIVING IN ORPHANAGES.
The experiences and the energy of youth can bring the freshness of good changes, as well as possibility for the future. The diversity of ideas from young people is the wealth of the future. The possibility of choice is important on the journey towards growing up, where there should stand warning signs, especially for children in orhanages. For artists, contact with young people is important, in order to understand more about their rights and responsibilities in society, through active participation in artistic processes on the one hand, and through the artist questioning themselves, their own ideas and competencies on the other. For me, this interaction is a crucial encounter in order to gain new experiences and for creatively solving tasks. I've had experience in working with the youth, as group leader and peer educator, working on Forum Theater and Image Theater, by Augusto Boal, with Ljubica Beljanski Ristic and also later as photographer in workshops for young people.
Photography workshops had sharpened my ideas, ones that are no longer theoretical assumptions that these young minds with whom I worked were changed by their peers which influenced on their attitude to life, style, working ethic and positioning of themselves in society. Also through being a longtime collaborator of Theatre Mimart as a visual artist and performer, developing efficient methods of good practice for the informal education of young people.
My one-month stay in Africa in Angola was a great experience as a photographer practicing "on the road photography" (Walker Evans). I exchanged experiences with fellow photographers from Angola. Besides professional exchanges and staying in Angola most of the time, I spent much of my time in Luanda. Through the Foundation for Culture and Arts in Luanda, I held workshops with children who are without parental care in two Orphanages, Cacaj and Viana. In Luanda, there currently lives Vera Pavlović Radošević from Serbia, who was a member of the Theatre Mimart more than ten years. Together with her I have worked on workshop methods from Mimart and Forum Theatre, which I conceived. Through the Theatre Image technique, developed by Augusto Boal (on of the world's leading theatre practitioners), we photographed young people where we optimised the situation in space that had been created, which became apparent after we analysed the image. Through this kind of work, we developed a tolerance and the ability for participants to freely express and introduce themselves, which is important for them because they are without parental care. After this, children are open to the idea of team work and they become easy to work with, displaying high levels of creativity in movement, with powerful energy. The three-day workshop focused on the creative liberation of young people from Luanda. As a photographer it was important that through the photography they see aesthetics of image, balance of space and to correct their body position, expression and focusing on tasks. We used elements - Color, Shape, Sound, Movement and Feelings to access different parts of the brain which then opens our minds up to possibilities for new ideas to come through. The methodology encouraged using creativity to foster understanding for coexistence and respect for different cultures and beliefs, which was already happening as the workshop leaders were from Serbia. We compared ethno-motives and simple rhythm of folklore dance. Body rhythm is connected with rhythm of photography, rhythm of colors, rhythm of art and rhythm of life. The humane signals of the body and photography are communicate nonverbally.
Three expressions the children wanted to present were Freedom, Hope and Love.
Therefore, the whole process was educational. I photographed their portraits and in return the young people received a copy of the photograph. For the first time in their lives, some of them touched a photograph on paper with their own hands. Within inter-cultural introduction we compared colors of flags, food and national dress. We used a geographical map of countries, tasted national plates, looked at the photographs about both countries in the International school, listened national music, learned some words of languages and national steps of dances.
Boys from Cacai Orphanage presented to us game called Chandorocan, which was made by themselves. That was crucial for the purpose of reminding us of our games from growing up. So, we exchanged energy through the games and dance steps from Serbia and Angola. Trying different approaches to the games which are present in their everyday lives, deeply-rooted in their daily lives, as they are not the children of new technologies like our children. We showed them some basic steps of our folklore dance and then they showed us capoeira (which comes from Angola), kizomba and some clapping games for girls. The aim of demonstrating these games was respecting diversity of culture and presentation of cultural heritage. I discovered these spontaneous methods by accident, through photography, which I introduced in order to overcome language barriers and to bring creative freeings, free representation through movement, something that I think is very important for young people without parental care and children with developmental problems. The specificity of this approach opened space to create our own games through a ritual and bodily outwitting. I learned a lot through this work, which I gave the name PHOTOGRAPHY ↔ MOVEMENT. The primary purpose of the workshop was to learn about the development and participation of a community performance of music and theatre with young people and children of all ages. Creative processes lead individuals and groups into greater and greater versions of their own potential.
The workshop leaders in Angola had a meeting to discuss further about our work: what we have achieved so far, what we have learned, what has been successful, how can we proceed and what is the way to link all material from workshops in the Orphanages to ensure long term progression. We built and developed a program of training.
Art has the power to change by sending very clear signals to the entire society. This type of work gave them transparency and people became informed about what they had learned during the workshop. Creative processes lead individuals and groups to greater and greater versions of their own potential. Culture is a social mechanism to develop safe communities. My concept PHOTOGRAPHY ↔ MOVEMENT worked with young people from Angola, I will develop this and present in the UK at TCFT 2016, to young people from 7 countries.