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Walk into my Life

Duration: January 2015 – October 2015

Location: London (UK), Stockholm (Sweden), Budapest (Hungary) and Oviedo (Spain)

Minorities: Ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural and migrant communities in the four countries in Europe mentioned above. The minority communities include: Somalis in London, Muslims in Budapest, African immigrants (and other immigrant groups) in Aviles, and Senegalese in Stockholm.

What was this programme about?

This exciting cultural project encouraged various minorities, from countries within Europe, to tell stories of identity and belonging as well as shedding light on daily experiences of discrimination.

This multi-country pilot project aimed to (re)define public space and build more inclusive societies in neighbourhoods in which minority and migrant communities live.

The project sought to create space for critical and constructive dialogue linked to citizenship, belonging and rights. In particular, by involving participants ranging from disadvantaged and excluded minorities to local council/government officials, this project aims to foster more inclusive, accountable governance and a form of participatory democracy that promotes greater involvement of groups typically excluded, such as minorities and migrants.

Through fostering social inclusion, this project also aimed to benefit local councils in community building, as well as other governance issues.

What did we do?

Here are some examples of our activities:

In Aviles (Spain), a festival called ‘Andar Por Casa’ was organized on 26 June 2015 in people’s houses, including those of African immigrants. Around 100 people participated in the festival, which aimed at breaking down the privacy of houses and transforming them into open spaces where guests could attend a cultural event. An interactive emotional mapping was also done which captured the places that made them feel at home, locations they preferred to avoid and places they frequently spent time at. Around 30 people heard the stories of different people from the African community and also shared their own stories. In another part of the programme, an exhibition was put up celebrating widely appreciated Roma celebrities (across the world) in collaboration with the Roma Women Association. The idea was to give a positive image of this collective, breaking down existing stereotypes surrounding the minority. The project will continue here with plans to flesh out the stories collected so far from the African immigrants as well as potentially approach and include the experiences of another immigrant community.

In Budapest (Hungary), to question the public space and juxtaposition of religious communities in a symbolic heritage site, a two-day ‘Ramadani Vacsorak’ (which translates as Ramadan Dinners) was organized on 18 and 19 June 2015 in front of the St. Stephen’s Basilica. The programme consisted of free dinners for all at sunset, Turkish music, folk songs, Ebru painting, Sufi dancing, calligraphy, and photography exhibition. The programme was organized in collaboration with Dialogue Platform, an organization founded and run by Turkish immigrants in Hungary. As the project continues, there are plans for continued collaboration with Dialogue Platform with a tour of Muslim heritage sites and spaces (such as mosques, restaurants, shops and schools) with the intention of starting a dialogue/conversation between the Hungarians by targeting people who can multiply the effects (such as teachers, journalists and tour guides).

In London (UK), representative personal stories are currently being collected centred on the notion of home as audio recordings. These stories are also being transcribed simultaneously. The programme is currently in conversation with the community about further steps for the stories to have a wider reach and impact. These could potentially take the form of an emotional map, tour, or performance which is planned for the Somali Week Festival that is held in London annually.

In Stockholm (Sweden), installation art, workshop and performance were part of the ‘Oh My Home – Lost and Found’ event which addressed the notion of “home” from a general perspective. The piece invited the public to reclaim public space as a meeting point to approach “home” from a geographical, political and philosophical perspective.

The project outputs have been documented online on social media platforms such as Twitter.

Why did we implement this programme?

The cities each have a disparate range of communities. Twenty-seven per cent of residents are of an immigrant or non-Swedish background in Stockholm. In London 55% of the population are non-white British. In Oviedo, (the Asturian city with the greatest number of immigrants) only 7.4% of the population are in this group. In Budapest, immigrants are 19.2% of the population. These figures give a rare opportunity to consider citizenship in relation to varying population sizes.

In response, the programme is being implemented to:

  • create an inter-country partnership which will extend beyond the current project (and may be continued in the next phase of the project);
  • promote intercultural/shared experiences between citizens of the city;
  • increase participation and visibility of excluded groups through cultural activities and also online documentation (through social media platforms) so that any individual or stakeholder can see the public spaces from the eyes of the ethnic/migrant community in question;
  • encourage local artistic initiatives;
  • create space for critical and constructive dialogue linked to citizenship, belonging and rights;
  • create open private spaces for activities which are traditionally public, questioning the borders between the two and their relevance.

Working alongside community members, this project allows partners to get a complete understanding of current practices and impacts of both larger policy decisions as well as individual actions. The project also has elements of co-coaching to strengthen collaborations and build capacity of individuals from minority groups, local ‘artivists’, human rights non-governmental orgsanizations (NGOs) and civil society groups across Europe.

Who delivered this programme?

MRG is implementing this project in partnership with the following organizations whose descriptions you can read below.

  • Intercult is a European pioneer in cultural management and intercultural development. As an independent organization, Intercult engages in international arts projects in greater Europe. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Intercult aims to internationalise Sweden’s cultural life through joint projects, networking and professional development.
  • Ye Too Ponese (meaning Just Do it) are an Oviedo-based NGO that promotes civic participation among people who are excluded from society. Founded in 2004 and inspired by Freire’s “untested feasibility” they work on global education, civic cultural participation, critical pedagogy, creative activism, DIY and open source culture.
  • Foundation for Subjective Values in Budapest, Hungary have a diverse portfolio of cross-sectoral projects. They run local and international projects and focus on the ‘visibility’ of minorities using non formal community led approaches for social change.
  • United for Intercultural Action (UNITED) in Amsterdam are not an implementing partner but are helping the project by hosting the implementing partners at their May (in Malaga, Spain) and October (in Budapest, Hungary) conferences in 2015. This has helped the project in the following ways:
    • network with many organisations planning similar activities;
    • have a hub for our working group;
    • increase the exposure of our event;
    • widen promotion and dissemination regionally, with greater possibility that other organisations in other countries, will hear about the project and can replicate it.

This project was funded by European Cultural Foundation (ECF). This content is the sole responsibility of Minority Rights Group International and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.