Festival of Tolerance - Jewish Film Festival Zagreb and UNHCR Croatia have once again prepared an engaged art project focusing on the position of refugees across the world and particularly in Croatia. According to the official UNHCR data, the current global forced displacement number has reached 70 million, over 85 per cent of which in developing countries. During the Croatian War of Independence, 400 thousand refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina found refuge in Croatia, adding to the 500 thousand of our own refugees. This is the connection lacking in the public discourse as a catalyst of solidarity and empathy for people currently experiencing traumas similar to those that befell many citizens of these areas only a quarter of a century ago. Since 2004, when the Asylum Act entered into force, Croatia has granted protection to 920 refugees, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The idea behind the ReD exhibition is to use custom-designed posters set in the most private public space (means of city transportation) to raise awareness, to spark dialogue about the position of refugees, as well as about how we, consciously or unconsciously, treat ‘them’ – in direct contact, by examining and speaking about them. The key of the ReD exhibition are designers. The name resulted from joining the words ‘refugee’ and ‘design’. The word ‘red’ also signifies the level of emergency of this issue, recurring constantly for over seventy years. The number of refugees in the world today is twice as high as it was five years ago.
The designers and design studios who designed the posters are among the most significant names currently active in Croatia: Ana Kunej (Kuna Zlatica), Dejan Dragosavac Ruta, Iva Babaja, Bruketa&Žinić&Grey and Šesnić&Turković studio.
This is an engaged project providing designers absolute freedom in their work, with the objective of raising awareness about who refugees are and where they’re from, as well as show that refugees are people like any other whose lives were torn apart by violence and severe human rights violations. The task the designers got in the initial stage of the project came down to five key questions their posters had to address.
Who are refugees? What are they running away from? How to they run away? What awaits them when they arrive? Why help them?
“There are places on earth that used to be people’s homes. Now life there has become impossible. Fleeing over fear for one’s own life is every man’s natural response and over 70 million of them across the world have been forced to leave their homes because of persecutions, conflicts and severe human rights violations. Most of the refuged people want to return home. I imagine this feeling as a gap in the Earth’s crust, an uninhabitable incandescent abyss, and only the outlines are left to remind of a once familiar place called home, a home only because of them, which they now flee.
“The poster examines whether we as a community have the capacity to become homeland to people who weren’t born here and who belong to a different culture.”
"The idea behind the poster was to show how much refugees have contributed to the evolution of the society we live in. Immigrations and relocations are a part of our history and a way how civilisations evolve. Today everyone is sceptical to refugees, fearing that they would jeopardise their culture of living in a certain area, while in fact great ideas have always come from a combination of cultures and ideas. The names on the poster and both more and less famous, but every individual’s work has greatly contributed to the society they migrated in. Therefore our message is that refugees and immigrants should not be perceived as a threat, but rather as an introduction into a new chapter of the society which will, hopefully, be more tolerant, inclusive and creative thanks precisely to contributions from other cultures.”
"The poster 27000 communicates the number of refugees who perished in seas and rivers on their way to their desired destinations. The list of deceased persons briefly describing the way they died is extremely shocking and transforms this immense abstract number into a series of realistic and personal unhappy endings. We can try to ignore, overwhelmed by bad news, the 27 thousand refugees who drowned, but it will be much harder to ignore the information about a ten-year-old Afghan boy stomped to death on a boat near the island of Lesbos by passengers who panicked seeing a patrol boat nearby."
“Children are the most vulnerable social group in every possible situation, so my focus was on them. The very thought that there are currently thirteen million children fleeing their homes in the world, whose lives are endangered, is frightening and we can only guess what kind of trauma they have to endure while growing up.”
Dejan Dragosavac Ruta
The advertisements inside the means of public transportation in Dubrovnik, Osijek, Split, Zadar and Zagreb will serve as display space and represent a perfect combination of public and intimate space. Public transportation users about their daily routine, in buses and trams spend intimate moments, best described as ‘a solitude period’. Paradoxically, like nowhere else, people in public transportation are completely themselves and completely alone – they think about what’s coming or what happened or what they saw that day; they collect their thoughts and impressions before returning home or arriving to work, school or a place of leisure. This valuable, lost, wasted time shapes us without even knowing it.
"The COVID-19 crisis reminded us we are only as strong as the most vulnerable among us. We can succeed only by standing together. And the posters we share with people across Croatia to mark this year’s World Refugee Day are a call for solidarity.
The creative perspective offered by some of the best Croatian designers helps us see clearly what we might have otherwise had missed: Everyone has a role to play. Everyone can make a difference in the lives of people forced to flee their homes."
Giuseppe Di Caro, UNHCR's representative in Croatia
The ReD exhibition is organised independently by the Contemporary Jewish Film Festival Zagreb Association and with the support of the City of Zagreb and UNHCR Croatia. It will be publicly available in the mentioned cities from 7 to 28 June.
Designers: Ana Kunej (Kuna Zlatica studio), Bruketa&Žinić&Grey, Dejan Dragosavac Ruta, Iva Babaja and Šesnić&Turković studio
Project manager: Nataša Popović
Concept author: Hrvoje Pukšec
Expert consultant: Katarina Juras