Dispatches in Exile

With a few notable exceptions, the stories of people on the move are usually told through dispatches from reporters who drop in periodically to cover the “migrant and refugee crisis”. People on the move are frequently nameless and dehumanised, deepening the rift between them and the local population, creating an atmosphere of alienation and antipathy and too often, violence. The stories are told from the perspective of outsiders, whether humanitarian aid agencies, activists, NGO’s or by professional journalists who are frequently limited by cultural differences, language barriers, and attention span.

 The VII Academy has partnered with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to mitigate this fragmented and distorted narrative by providing migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina with basic media training and a portal through which to publish their own reports and tell their own stories.

Over the next twelve months, VII Academy trainers together with the IOM, Bosnia and Herzegovina, will teach the basic principles of journalism and media production including photography, time-based media, ethics and narrative storytelling to a group of about 60 men and women from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East currently residing in Temporary Reception Centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Participants will produce reports and stories that give insight into their fragile and tenuous lives. These stories will be published on a dedicated online media portal.

The project is led by VII Academy curator Ziyah Gafić. “Once upon a time I was a war refugee. Being a refugee is a transformative experience that never leaves you. The feeling of being uprooted is hard if not impossible to heal. Being on the move, leaving your home with slim prospects of return is a deeply traumatic experience. Owning your own narrative is a human right. Enabling people on the move to take the narrative in their own hands can perhaps help them cope with their troubles and experiences.”

The IOM of Bosnia and Herzegovina writes: “Too often it happens that the voice of migrants is not heard or persons are not given the chance to express their feelings, desires and hopes.

In this way, we want to provide migrants with a space where they can, through photography and stories, address and send a message that should help wider audience to understand their situation and needs. Through the opportunity to participate in trainings in photography, composing and publishing stories, our goal is to encourage migrants to release repressed thoughts and feelings of loss and sadness and learn new skills

We hope that this space for the messages of migrants will be a space for their creative dialogue that will help to better inform and understand their needs and foster empathy, acceptance and inclusion.”