Celebrating Diversity- Fighting Othering through Street Art took place in Erfurt, the capital city of the region of Thuringia in central Germany. Rich in history and natural beauty, it was a wonderful place to explore during our week there, from the imposing cathedrals, to the riverside, to the open air trampolines at the central playground.
The project included participants from Armenia, Italy, Bosnia, Germany and Greece. During the first few days, we focused on team building exercises and discussed the theoretical aspects of our subject: what is diversity? How do we feel diversity is treated in our respective countries? Historically, which were the turning points in our cultures? This was achieved in many different ways: role playing exercises were we were divided in two groups of aliens and were told to scout and connect to the other, discussing and forming a timeline of the most important historical events in our countries’ and the world’s history, thinking of expressions in our own languages that include negative, positive or neutral references to other cultures and contextualizing them for the other groups; various different tasks that helped us deliberate on the subject of diversity and connect more as a group. And then of course, the intercultural evening and the wonderful chaos that it produced: around 25 people constantly coming in and out of the small kitchen, the sounds of chopping, grating, frying and in various combinations of languages being heard for hours, all ending in a buffet of different kinds of food we all shared by the end of the evening.
Then, came the second part: Street Art. At first, we all presented photographs from our own cities and countries that depicted pieces of street art and murals, with the difference in styles and subject matter for each place making for a very interesting presentation. Then, came the practical part of the exchange, the one we had all been waiting for to get creative. Two different artists came to present to us their personal form of artistic expression and then we were told to pick the one that sounded the most interesting to us: graffiti or installation. We made our choices and then we got started. For this part of the activities, we were working in a local community center, which allowed us freedom of movement in the indoors space as well as the garden area. This was very useful especially for the graffiti team, who took over the garden with testing out their stencil work and created a small gallery of experimental graffiti posters and stickers everywhere. The installation group worked on their idea of creating boats of different sizes and colours connected by strings as a reference to the current refugee crisis while in the community center, and then realized that idea outdoors, by hanging their boats off a central bridge and into the Gera river, so that passers-by would notice and engage with the installation. There was even collaboration between the two groups, with spraying different illustrations on paper that was then made into the little boats that served as part of the exhibit.
The project concluded with a journey to Berlin. We all travelled there on the morning of the last day, and got to experience the East Side Gallery, which was located right next to our hostel. What better ending to a project related to street art and cultural diversity?
Text: Stavroula Mystridou
Photos: Georgia Karakosta
Soziokulturelle Initiative Erfurt e.V.