Creative expression to promote Human Rights in Verviers, Belgium

I was a guest artist at “Creative expression to promote Human Rights” workshop in Verviers, organised by Centre de jeunes “Les Récollets” and ARCI with the support of ERASMUS + programme. Seven days of workshops that included street art/mural, comics, music, performing arts, gathered young people from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, and a host country Belgium.

Habibi Workshop

This year every workshop had a catchy word that everyone would repeat and use for no particular reason, almost as some kind of collective Tourette syndrome. In Torino di Sangro it was sirotinja because Portugees like words ending on nyaa (this is how cats sounds in Japanese), in Vasto it was vaffanculo because you don’t really want to know and in Verviers it was habibi, arabic for “my love”. It was habibi this and habibi that, it was soooo habibical that grayish foggy weather couldn´t bring us down. Although I worked outside of MJ Les Récollets, and did this beautiful and crazy Great Wave on the wall near the gate, I was lucky to witness work by Nataša Konjević aka Feićka (B&H), Nataša Kragulj aka Puppy Eyes (B&H) and Filipe G. F. aka CreyZ (Portugal), who painted interior wall.

Centre de jeunes “Les Récollets”

Centre de jeunes “Les Récollets” belongs to Maisons de Jeunes (MJ), a network of Youth Houses in Wallonia-Brussels Federation, specifically to the MJ Music group, implying it is a youth house supported by government, and that is the only legal way to run Youth House. MJ Music stands for a youth center that promotes local bends and organises concerts with others MJ. But apart from that it is fully usable youth house. I know, I could taste different artistic expressions from the youngsters who used it. I personally believe in youth houses because one actually helped me during the war in Bosnia to easier cope with “not-normality” of the situation I was in, and it also provided me with different skills that I was unable to acquire through the official schooling system.

Willow, Steph, Fanchon, Charlotte, Paulette, Kévin have this genuine approach to facilitate user friendly space in Les Récollets. BTW Les Récollets stands for Order of Friars Minor, commonly known as the Franciscans, Bosnian favorite.

Giorgio & Mario Show

While I was filming time lapse of Ceci n’est pas un Magritte or the Great Wave of Verviers, Belgium, Giorgio did artistical intrusion of his short piece of performing/stop animation art. Unlike previous two workshops where Giorgio and Mario were 24/7 involved into organising, facilitating, leading workshops or cooking, during this workshop they had time to spend with me and observe my process of painting. One artistic expression lead to another. And as the story goes:

Young Giorgio Micoli dreamed of career in performing arts, but the success and fame of the boy from near by village, Ortona, called Rocco Antonio Tano aka Rocco Siffredi, shattered his dream. Therefore he decided to do socially beneficial work as an activist and later as an organiser in Arci Chieti. But the spark was never gone and it lit up in Verviers. And as on any other project, he was accompanied by his best man, Mario Tubo, shaman-sailor of the land, preacher of Tubismo. Equipped by their timing skills and later on by borrowed outfits they complimented my work by doing short but effective stop motion animation.

Verviers (Route degrade)

Verviers is a small city just below Liège, near French/German border, a transitional city for immigrants and emigrants. Whatever industry it had, it is obviously long gone. Closed shops, empty streets are just signs that Verviers is on Route Degrade. Route Degrade is most common sign on the roads in Belgium. It means that the road is damaged, deteriorated. Although it is a charming place with the history it is still on its way to disappearance. It´s a look of old Europe, unable to move forward, to loosen up, to accept a change.

As I was painting on the street I could sense its pulse. The old blood, white folks, the ones who own everything, on their daily route to Bingo!, ignorant of everything. They will give you space, but they don’t really want you there.

On the other hand, the poor ones, usually immigrants on their daily route to public kitchen or any other humanitarian help. A few of burnout junkies, the ones who didn´t leave city on time.

And the dog shit everywhere! Not from the strays but from the pets. They just let their dogs shit everywhere. A couple of times I had owners letting their dog shit or pee on or near the wall where I was working. They would smile at me and say “Bonjour!” acting like I was graced with the small miracle.

Xhoffraix (both Xs are silent)

We were stationed in the village of Xhoffraix, in the High Fens – Eifel Nature Park, basically in the middle of the fuckin´ nowhere. Everyday we would pass by Signal de Botrange, the highest point in Belgium. With the amazing elevation of 694m, it is still amazingly boring flat plateau. And we would see people fully outfitted and ready for hiking in Himalaya mountains, coming and having a heavy meal in cafe/restaurant like they are full time lumberjacks in the House of Stark in Winterfell. Later on cheerfully hopping on flatland,trying to avoid mud. Just to describe how all that mythology of highest point looks ridiculous to me I will just throw some numbers in next line: Sarajevo 518m, nearby hills and mountain peaks as follows Treskavica 2088m, Bjelašnica 2067m, Jahorina 1913m, Trebević 1627m and Igman 1502m. Enough said.

And for the final words. The workshop one of the bests. Verviers – route degrade, check it out if you have friends there, don’t if you don’t. If you get by the mistake there, check Centre de jeunes “Les Récollets”, cool people there. As for (KS)hoffrai(KS), it is a Belgian thing, unless you would like to get high on the highest point in Belgium. But the mud will keep you down to earth.

Nataša Konjević aka Feićka (B&H)

Filipe G. F. aka CreyZ (Portugal)

Nataša Kragulj aka Puppy Eyes (B&H)

Centre de jeunes “Les Récollets”, ground floor with the stage and caffe bar

Giorgio & Mario, giving a wind to the wave

Shitsweepers Zone sign. It is like Minesweepers, but on the street with doggy poo.

Soon to be shopping mall. Squatted by immigrants.

La Bourse, where Jesus has his second coming.

Both Route Degrade

Fog for 7 days. Listening to the Portishead, thinking about suicide.

If you get on tower to the left, you will be on 700m above the sea level. Wow (not realy)!