Rave: “I am not a Terrorist”

Migrantas – Visual Language of Migration

Occasionally, we will share either a little rant (something we dare to criticize) or a little rave (something we love)…maybe even both depending on the kind of juices we have flowing in response to this magnificent concrete jungle of ours. I wrote this particular Rave before having contacted the artistic heroes of Migrantas, before having taken part in the process of telling my migration story and finding myself nearly in tears, not quite knowing what it was I had to share. Storytelling is like that, full of surprises and revelations. Sophia and I were two of the seven participants in the Berlin Migrantas workshop this past week. We are proud to announce that impressions and sketches will be exhibited in the Rotes Rathaus this coming August, three graphic designs resulting from the workshop to be seen on street corners around Berlin, as well. Until then, enjoy this little pat-on-the-back for some locally-based activists…

Recognizing difference in daily life is good for everyone – different conceptions of beauty, different beliefs in the cosmos, different  ideas of home and the familiar, even different interpretations of the classic sandwich. The more we realize that the uniqueness of our own culture(s) is only part and parcel to the city’s greater beat, the richer our lives, even if Käsebrot (a cheese and butter sandwich) will never know the joys of aioli and thinly-sliced tomato.

Today’s applause for doing the good work of “telling” such difference goes to the Migrantas project, whose particular bent on migration-focused creative activism came into my life by happenstance: passing an exhibition of their work in the halls of one of my university’s hideously functionalist buildings.

In Berlin, the dimensions of migration and diversity may sometimes be over-simplified, but groups like Migrantas are changing that, and doing so creatively. The best part: the voice and agency of the “immigrants”, so often talked-about and so seldom talking-back, take center stage.

The child of visual arts, graphic design, and social sciences, the workshop teams of Migrantas transform questions of movement, displacement, adjustment, and integration into opportunities for intercultural visual dialogue. At workshops organized between artists and (im)migrants, participants are asked to draw their multicultural, multi-layered experiences quickly with pencils. Little guidance is provided – call it a stream-of-consciousness meets ink blot approach to finding voice and using it. And then the sharing begins; a narrative catharsis, of sorts, ensues.

In the months following, the graphic designers work to transform these pieces of “voice” into simple but effective designs for the city, essentially designs meant to fit flexibly within the many nooks and crannies of public understanding. Posted like advertisements at bus stops or on prominent corners, public space is transformed. The city itself becomes a  “platform aimed to make visible the thoughts and feelings of those who have left their own country and now live in a new one” (Migrantas.org).

In 2006, Berlin played host to Migrantas exhibitions, seen from the anonymous seats of the U-Bahn to postcard-sized images found in smoky corners of the bar scene. Expect much more to come from this little army of activists in August 2013.

– By Kelly Miller

Keep an eye out for upcoming Migrantas workshops and exhibitions, by liking them on facebook . Registration is free and open to all with a migration story to the city where they now reside. ***And be sure to send us suggestions for rants or raves in the future! We can’t always be so passionately opinionated 🙂 ***

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