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Issue 69 - June 2010

Tuesday 29 June 2010 by Ina Doublekova

“My Grandma and the Wild Swans” presented with two workshops at the Goatmilk Memories Festival 2010

Gorna Bela Rechka is a tiny, remote, village, hidden in the Balkan mountain of Northwest Bulgaria. Since 2004, however, it has become an attractive destination for a growing international crowd, which visits it in May. You may wonder what might be the reason? The annual Goatmilk Memories Festival, at which people come to enjoy the beautiful nature and to indulge to the home-made goat milk of the few elderly inhabitants left in Bela Rechka. More importantly, they gather to discuss and explore together, through the many venues and workshops, the overlaps between personal stories and collective memories.

(JPG) Tossen Ramar children’s book “My Grandma and the Wild Swans” was presented during this year’s Goatmilk Memories Festival. What is more, the story inspired a three days theatre workshop with primary-school students, predominantly with a Roma background, which took place beforehand at “Vassil Levski” school in the near town of Vurshetz. Tossen read the book to the children and afterwards they had to choose their favorite words from it and to develop their own narratives. The account of one of the leading teachers of the workshop says it all: “it all begun with one class from the school, but gradually the whole school joined it and at the very end even children from the neighborhood, who do not attend this school, came to participate!”

To visualize the enthusiasm of the workshop, the author of “My Grandma and the Wild Swans” involved in a game the audience, gathered at the presentation of the book in Bela Rechka. Split in smaller groups, they tried to imagine how a Roma child first feels when entering a mainstream school, what are the common stereotypes he or she faces, and what can be done to change them. This time, however, the game triggered a very serious discussion. Furthermore, it proved that sharing personal stories and dreams in an honest manner, as the one used in children’s book, allows better understanding of each other which helps to work better as a society.

Tossen Ramars’ book “My Grandma and the Wild Swans” was developed and published within the Our Stories project of Next Page foundation.

Young Comics Artists “Migrated” to Haarlem for a Workshop

“When it was time to come back home everybody felt happily sad in that particular way, which shows that something wonderful had happened.” (JPG) This is how Aleksandra Chaushova describes her experience as a participant in the “Migrating Comics. Perspective of the European Traveler” workshop, which took place in the beginning of June in the Dutch comics’ capital - Haarlem. She is one of the four Bulgarian comics artists, selected by Next Page, as a partner of the organizers from “PlatformSpartak”.

20 young artists from Bulgaria, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands who wrote and draw together stories about travel, meeting of differences and the joy of diversity in all kind of journeys: in the future, in the belly of a cook, in a bus full of babushkas.... During the first four days (and nights), spent in the historical fortress Penningsveer, the participants had a workshop on making a travel diary and “comics jam” sessions. In the evenings, the adventure continued with cooking together nationalmeals.

For the next three days, the artists moved to Haarlem, where they participated in the famous Haarlem comix festival “Haarlem Stripdagen”, this year with a special focus on Eastern Europe - Komiks from the other half. The agenda included animated movies from the East, presentations, a lot of drawing and excitement. As a final result, all travel stories, drawn during the workshop, will be published in a book.

New books published

(JPG) Khoury, Elias, Little Mountain, translated into Albanian by Hysen Sinani and Sulejman Tomçini (Zenit Editions, Tirana 2010), supported by the Encounters Program of Next Page

Little Mountain (1977) is the second novel by the worldwide known Lebanese writer, intellectual, and defender of the Palestinian cause Elias Khoury. It is set during the Lebanese Civil War in the Christian neighborhood of Beirut – Ashrafiyya – a little mountain inside the capital city. Through a postmodern piling up of five different narrating voices the author depicts the war chaos, the blast of anger, and the flash of hope. Through a fragmented chronicle of the war events, Khoury gives a shape of his progressive vision of Lebanon, and advocates for secular and democratic values.