Travelling photo exhibition in Montenegro throws light on refugees
PODGORICA, Montenegro, July 5 (UNHCR) - A travelling photographic exhibition in Montenegro is literally throwing light on the living conditions and suffering of refugees in this Balkans country and elsewhere in the world.
The unique UNHCR-organized show - "The world around me: what makes me happy, what makes me sad" - is staged in complete darkness with visitors given torches to view the images. They were taken by 50 refugee children around Montenegro and while some are uplifting others are sad.
The unusual setting helps give visitors a sense of what it is like for people who have to live in cramped shelters without basic utilities and amenities after fleeing their homes - especially in the early days when many have little or no light at night. Millions of refugee children live in such a twilight environment. The dark and light theme also reflects the photo subjects of sad and happy moments.
The UN refugee agency provided cameras to the refugee children and told them to take pictures that showed happy and sad moments in their lives. The results form the bulk of the exhibition, which opened on June 20 - World Refugee Day - in Podgorica and will travel the country from next week until October. It also features portraits of the young snappers taken by acclaimed Montenegrin photographer Maja Djuric-Djordjevic.
"This exhibition is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the issue of refugees and displacement. When people are forced to leave their homes, they lose almost everything," said Zeljko Sofranac, director of the Montenegrin Bureau for Care of Refugees, which is co-presenting the exhibition with UNHCR. "I want to believe that all of us will continue to think of these people and their destiny," he added.
The photographs taken by the children are touching: the sad images include a group of refugee children bullying a Roma child; Roma children rummaging through rubbish containers; old people with ancient furniture; the only toy a child managed to bring with them to Montenegro.
The happy ones - a girl's beloved pet calf; a new apartment building that a refugee family is moving into; a beautiful house with a rose garden that a handicapped refugee child covets; sunset in a coastal town where a refugee's father finally found work.
"This exhibition is a very interesting visual mission," Djuric-Djordjevic told the local press. "I am impressed with the focus of their photos and I find them to be an excellent ground for sociological analysis," added the photographer, who teaches photography at the Faculty of Visual Arts in Podgorica.
Some of the photographs have been hung on artificial trees to symbolize how the children have laid down roots after several years in Montenegro and to express the hope that they will grow strong and tall and bear rich fruit.
Montenegro, which declared independence on June 3 last year, currently provides shelter to more than 23,000 refugees from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
By Gordana Popovic in Podgorica, Montenegro