Sanctuary and Sustenance: a powerful multimedia artwork on show for World Refugee Day

Thursday 20, June 2013 BUDAPEST, 20 June [updated 21 June] (UNHCR) – In Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, Ljubljana, Sofia and Bucharest, UNHCR is projecting a spectacular outdoor multimedia artwork on the facades of churches, universities, town halls and other key public buildings to mark World Refugee Day. Sanctuary and Sustenance: the […]

Thursday 20, June 2013

BUDAPEST, 20 June [updated 21 June] (UNHCR) – In Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, Ljubljana, Sofia and Bucharest, UNHCR is projecting a spectacular outdoor multimedia artwork on the facades of churches, universities, town halls and other key public buildings to mark World Refugee Day.

Sanctuary and Sustenance: the story of many journeys is a powerful work of photography, film, music and words, by Chicago-based Art Works Projects for Human Rights, tracing refugee journeys from sudden displacement along the path to sanctuary and the long process of rebuilding lives. The work is being projected between 1 to 3 nights in the various capitals.

In central Warsaw, a noisy group of football fans stopped to watch in silence at the sudden beauty of 12 x 9 metre images (accompanied by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov’s music) projected on the Staszic Palace on 19 June – as if floating out of nowhere. Most passersby watched in silence, exchanging only short comments; some took a seat on the pedestals of nearby statues.

In Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, a subdued crowd – wary of two simultaneous anti-government protests just a few hundred metres away-  watched double projections of the artwork on the National Library St. Cyril and St Methodius. “I got goose bumps,” said one onlooker. “At first I thought it was odd, but then I felt the power of the photos,” said another. The first night’s projection (on 19 June) was suspended at the request of authorities around 11pm, when dozens of riot police were dispatched to the area in anticipation of nearby protestors marching through the square.   The projection continued uninterrupted on 20 June and continues until 21 June.

Budapest’s city centre was crowded at sunset with locals seeking respite in the cooler air from scorching daytime temperatures. Thousands of passersby stopped to watch as Sanctuary and Sustenance (at 10 x 18 metres) was projected onto the Evangelical church at the busy transport hub of Deak Square on 19 and 20 June. The projection continues on 21 June.

The event was launched on the eve of World Refugee Day at Budapest’s Design Terminal, with speakers, music and a photo exhibition of refugees and celebrities with the 1 most important thing. Two very different professional refugee musicians shared their talents with the crowd: Omid Zaher a recently recognized refugee played his own composition on the traditional Afghan harmonium (an Afghan version of the accordion), while Alba Hyseni, an Albanian who has lived in Hungary since she fled the Kosovo’s war in 1998, sung her own distinctive music alongside a string quartet.

Romania launched Sanctuary and Sustenance on the night of World Refugee Day (20 June), with the vibrant Ikhaya Band kicking off proceedings and attracting passersby. The work was projected on Manuc’s Inn (Hanul lui Manuc) at St Anton’s Church square, in the centre of the old city of Bucharest.  “I was impressed by the bit where children were playing and then the soldiers came… indeed, life can change in one minute. And no one knows when this will happen,” said a young man watching the artwork in the square.   The projection continues on 21 June at sunset, following a performance by the GLORIA band.

In Ljubljana, Sanctuary and Sustenance was projected 11 x 8.5 meters large on the Town Hall in the centre of Ljubljana’s beautiful old town on 19 and 20 June, attracting locals and tourists alike.   In addition, the 4th Festival of Migrant Film took place at various cinemas in Ljubljana from 10 to 21 June 2013, organized by Slovene Philanthropy and Zavod Voluntariat, shedding light on issues facing refugees and asylum-seekers.  

Meanwhile in the Slovak Republic, refugee children from the Emergency Transit Centre in Hummene were treated to a trip to the new Dinopark at the local zoo.   They later joined local NGOs and asylum-seekers in Kosice for the Umbrella March – now a European tradition on World Refugee Day – in support of international protection.  A similar march took place in Hviezdoslavovo Square, Bratislava alongside a concert and international food festival. There was also a photo exhibition and documentary screenings at the Community Centre MEKAPRI INNART, on 17 June.

For more information on screening times in various cities, click here.