« The United Nations refugees agency, appreciated recently that there are 45 millions refugees on the globe.
This is an exceptional figure and an exceptional situation.
How is Sweden, Europe, and the global community suppose to respond to these events ?
In this context has cultural meetings a key role to play ? ».
Published on Intercult / SMart Sweden newsletter
Why birds ?
We look at the maps of birds migrations and human migrations and we acknowledge that the essence of a living planet is not only the establishing of stable nations, but also the movement of its people. This approach can be visualized by artists as translators of social issues of Europe and its different regions through the eyes of art.
What is now seen as problematic can be seen also as a chance. Our plan, which furthermore is also a dream, is that 100 birds of freedom will be made in different places in Europe and probably in bordering countries of Europe starting in Stockholm, Sweden.
Birds will be made of wickerwork (willow) and special silk paper. The birds will be of a rather large size: about 2 meters wingspan, and 2.50 meters in length and they are illuminated from inside.
The technical skill for building the birds has been developed over many years by « Insolite Lights », the artistic team who will instruct and direct the making.
Most important in our project is the strong symbol it puts forward: the freedom to move freely on this planet as a fundamental human right for every citizen of this planet, regardless what country he comes from.
That is why each of these birds will be created at a special occasion and in a public space, a gesture pregnant with hope and human fraternity.
Thus, each bird will be born of the hands of 3 artists of different origins :
- A citizen from the country it is made in, a citizen with roots and history. For example, in Sweden a Swede.
- A citizen from a neighbouring country, this to honour the idea of good neighbour-ship, exchanges and cooperation.
- A citizen who has lost his or her country, and has been driven to exile and emigration by force of war, political or economical reasons or ecological disasters. A displaced person.
The birds will be handcrafted, it means that we will put our hands together, near one another, and when hands meet, hearts meet too. The priceless value of this action of making that piece of art lies in the joy of creating together.
In that way, as artists, we prolong the necessary work down by those who provide food, homes and work to the arriving migrants. Because we don't only need bread and security but also to shared dreams together.
This project will be echoed in schools to involve children about the awareness of welcoming foreigners, the schools being privileged places where children of different origins meet, children who are going to shape the future of this planet.
In this perspective of education through festive events, a team of artists, parallel to the birds makers, will animate creative workshops with kids under a program we have called "Opening doors".
Opening doors : the "Kolende"
During the week when the birds are made, we will have a team whose purpose is to go to meet people in the surroundings of the place we have chosen for the birds making. This action we call "Opening doors" and the team we call "the Kolende".
This team will be as much as possible in direct contact with people in the streets and also in the schools.
In the schools, we propose to give workshops to children and teenagers. Workshops of dance, songs, theatre, plastic art, all in meaningful connection with the theme of our project : the exchange of cultural differences, migrations, belonging to a place.
This team will also experiment theatrical actions inspired by the Kolende tradition. Those treatrical actions which include music, will not take place in auditoriums but in the streets, spontaneously.
The time spent with young people in the schools and with people in the street meetings is a very important part of the celebration which will happen when the birds are finished at the end of this very special week.
Those workshops and actions are the necessary preparation to experience a deep and lively meeting around the symbolic birds because then, many people will have participated actively to come to that point.
Some words about Kolende traditions in Poland:
The Kolende tradition in Poland was very alive during several centuries. Today, it is barely present but some people are working on keeping the tradition alive and transmit it to the new generations.
In the Kolende which takes place between Christmas and Epiphany, groups of people go wandering, often by night, from house to house, knocking at the doors, with songs, to tell the story of Joseph, Maria, Jesus and the three Kings.
But in the middle of that group, there are also less conventional characters : the Stork, the Bull, the Jew, the Gypsy, Angels and Devils, Shepherds and two very important ones: King Herod and the Death.
If the doors open, the visitors enter the house where food and drink is offered to them in exchange of the story telling and songs.
But the skeleton of Kolende is much older that Christian ideas. It take its roots as far back in time as ancient Rome.
The main idea is that it is the time (solstice) when the borders open.
At this darkest time of the year when the sun was dying, it was necessary to make it grow again.
To invite the sun to grow again and bring warmth to the earth, it was necessary to communicate with the spirits of the ancestors who had already lived through that experience.
The Kolende represented those from the other world, from far, from the other side. That is why they were always strange, weird, even scary people.
In this, the main point, is to say people : “Open your doors to those ones who come from the "other side” because it is they who can help you to make the sun grow again, to renew the life. You can not do it alone".
The main idea appears to be the exchange between two sides. The ones who are settled can offer food and drink. The strange visitors can offer stories and good wishes.
In our project, our desire is to cross borders just as the birds cross borders.
Social borders, borders of fear, of shyness, of cultural differences.
Kolende on their way near the village of Szczebrzeszyn - Poland
Crossroad of people in movement
Now, with the making of the birds, we are reaching the heart of this project.
The birds, migrating birds as we see them, are a mirror of human people, also a migrating species.
Civilizations are born from those migrations of people, from thousand of years until today.
Those One Hundred Birds represent for us the many people forced or simply willing to migrate or emigrate by reasons of war or ecological disaster. Thus enriching the countries they enter with their specific qualities and skills.
As geese fly and migrate over our countries, so people do.
To put it straight, because this project is motivated by the big migration question in Europe today, this project is not against whatever negative attitudes or decisions have occurred since a few years but it is to celebrate :
the extraordinary chance of our diversities,
the building of new roads upon which our children can walk toward a safe and joyful future.
Preparation and action
The technical training or instruction that will be given by "Insolite Lights" technicians to the artists who will make those birds. It needs sufficient approach of handicraft to succeed in realizing something that should be a fine piece of art.
Furthermore, we plan to lead workshops in schools, so that children can take part of this inspiring event by making for instance small lanterns which will accompany the parade of the birds.
Also, we plan to offer writing workshops in the schools, to create poems with the children as an answer to such questions as: What is a stranger ? or How can we welcome strangers ? or What good wishes those birds can bring to the world ? or What do we want for the future ?
The making of the birds is always happening in a public place, preferably outdoor or in a large indoor place with free access to the public. This strong symbolic artistic action will be a moment of celebration in itself. It is the heart of the project One Hundred Birds. There will be live musics, theatre performances, dances and foods. There might be poetry, a very strong vector of such a vision. Poetry coming from the people, from the children, from foreign countries.
Workshop in Stare Juchy, Poland
Workshop in Eourres, France
Workshop in Bytow, Poland
The final Feast : a big street parade in Stockholm
The 100 birds project will start and will end in Stockholm.
While many birds will be made in Sweden, there will be other birds made, as an echo, in several places in other countries of Europe.
Finally, when the 100 birds will be completed, all of them will return to Stockholm. Some of them in reality, others, because of distance will be present, by the help of films and photography because we will realize a video capture of each event. Those photography of birds which have been created far, far away, will be subject to outdoor exhibitions and the videos of cinema screening. In that way, in reality or through images, the 100 birds will be fully present in Stockholm. If all the birds obviously can't come, we will invite all the makers of the 100 birds to be present.
The Stockholm hosts together with the guests will create that feast of humanity, a celebration for freedom of movement, a celebration that will take the form of a big parade on a chosen day, as for instance the Universal Children Day. It will express the joy of seeing or "rivers" meet, of exchanging gifts and stories and we hope that it will trigger the wish to bring this model of artistic and human adventure of One Hundred Birds from Stockholm to other big cities of Europe.
The display of the birds as art in the city
After this event, the big parade in Stockholm, the birds will be installed as art in the city in a significant place where they can stay for a while. This place will be chosen in dialogue with our Swedish partners.
Later on, they can also be dispatched to be exhibited in such places as schools, galleries, libraries and other places where their message can be kept alive.
But we wish that the first installation gather all the birds. There, they can be admired and enhance the place where they have been installed, perhaps a daring place, something spectacular !
Because the underlying but prior concern of the One Hundred Birds project is also to create an event of awesome and inspiring beauty.
Those 100 white birds, illuminated from the inside at night, will make us lift our heads up, see far, dream powerful dreams, and as they open their wings into flight, will our hearts open too !