Photo project brings together Roma and non-Roma teens

Jul 9, 2013

Young Roma photographer shaking hands with renowned Croatian professional photographer Damir Hoyka. Photo: Jadranko Begić

Seven seventh-grade girls from Kuršanec Primary School near Čakovac opened an exhibition of their photographs at the media center of the French Institute in Zagreb on 9 July 2013. The exhibition, entitled Here & there / Ici & là, contains amateur photos taken by teenagers from both Roma and non-Roma communities in Kuršanec, who live in close proximity and attend school together but often have little or no social contact. The event was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the French Institute in Zagreb, as part of a larger project aimed at promoting Roma inclusion in Croatia.  

“Slowly but surely, we see these efforts as helping to break down prejudice and destructive stereotypes,” said UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton.

“Some of these young photographers come from Roma families, and others don’t, but all of them live in Kuršanec, and for a couple of months they decided to participate in this project, as a beautiful lesson in tolerance,” said Michèle Boccoz, the French Ambassador to Croatia. “The exhibition testifies to the exchange of views, the time spent together and the openness towards others and their differences.”

The seven young women who exhibited their work -- Jelena Balog, Maja Balog, Bojana Kalanjoš, Biljana Muršić, Emina Jurinić, Sara Strbad and Tamara Mulac – took part in a photo and video workshops led by the photographer Jadranko Beg from the Omnibus Association. The challenge they were given was to use photography to explore the idea of identity and to capture their environment and everyday routines. Sony Croatia provided photography equipment at a discount.

Other activities designed to build bridges between Roma and non-Roma communities in Kuršanec include drama workshops led by the actor and theater director Zijah Sokolović and workshops on leadership, healthy lifestyles and nonviolence. Sokolović is UNDP Goodwill Ambassador for tolerance and non-violence in Croatia.  Under the same project, which is funded by the Open Society Foundations/Making the Most of EU Funds for Roma, UNDP is working with local and national authorities to improve education and job opportunities for Roma.

All of the young people participating in project activities in Međimurje County travelled to Zagreb for the day, and visited both the exhibition and the Museum of Modern Art. For almost all participants, this was their first visit ever to Zagreb.

The photo exhibition will be on display until the end of July. The photographs can also be viewed at Flickr.