- Objective: Empowering female refugees
- Target group: female refugees
- How: book and theatre play
- Where: Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Serbia, Sweden
Letters to Europe – Female Refugees Telling Their Stories set out to combat stereotypes about refugees in the public discourse through the empowerment of voices of female refugees in Europe. To do this, the team collected stories from female refugees and on the basis of these stories, published the book ‘Letters to Europe – Refugee women write’ and created the theatre play ’refugee woman : )’. The play was performed in September 2017 in both Brussels (Belgium) and Berlin (German). The target group were refugee women that were interested to reflect on the topic of identity as well as anyone interested in modern European identity and its development.
- Konstantin Buchholz (Berlin, Germany)
- Yolanda Trujillo (Valencia, Spain)
- Albert Meijer (Groningen, Netherlands)
- Tom Schmidt (Lüneburg, Germany)
- Darija Maric (Adviser from FutureLab Europe generation 2014)
Why this project?
A major problem in our societies is that minorities, including refugees are not able to express their needs, which makes them invisible and an easy target for oppression and exploitation. Female refugees often don’t have access to fora or platforms that could empower the voice of their communities. They are underrepresented in the public discourse all over Europe as the main image that people have of a refugee is that of the ‘young, male Syrian’. In reality, refugees are a very diverse group, with many different needs, expectations, experiences, identities and lifestyles and it is their right as citizens to be represented. The team wanted to make their voices heard.
“I expected the German audience to remember their refugee roots while watching the play. At least some of them. But I didn’t expect the audience in Brussels, people from Finland, Italy and Sweden having the same experience. It showed me that a lot more people in Europe have refugee roots than I expected.” – Konstantin Buchholz
In the first phase of the project, the team contacted refugee women to tell them about the project, reaching out to refugees in Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Serbia, Sweden. Sometimes the members of the team conducted writing exercises to help the project participants start writing down their stories. This process led to a collection of 15 stories from female refugees in nine different countries. Some of the authors had escaped war or fled gender-based discrimination, while others sought refuge from countries where being transgender is not an option. They come from Jamaica, Colombia, Afghanistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Iran, Serbia, Bosnia, the Sudetenland and Syria.
Once the stories were collected, the team worked closely with editors and translators. The team reached out to Member of the European Parliament Terry Reintke, who was enthusiastic about the project and kindly agreed to write a foreword to the book. In the meantime, the team contacted the Berlin-based design office FORMLOS and developed, together with a lector, a special design for the book to support the content in the best possible way. The final product included drawings made by children from Afghanistan who are living in a Greek refugee centre. The children were asked to draw their past, present and future as part of the Colours of a Journey project.
In parallel, project team member Konstantin Buchholz – actor and director – developed the theatre play ‘refugee (woman):)‘, which is inspired by the stories in the book and which features readings and performances. In September, actresses Enana, Gudrun Buchholz – whose stories are also featured in the book – together with team member Konstantin Buchholz rehearsed the play ‘refugee woman : )’ during a two-week process that included physical rehearsals, music rehearsals and reading exercises.
On 16 September 2017, the team finally presented their results at a public event in Berlin that combined the official launch of the book ‘Letters to Europe – refugee women write’ and the premiere of the theatre performance ‘refugee (woman) : )’. The theatre play was followed by an open interview and discussion between the writers, project members and the audience about the content of the book, the performance and the project work. Every participant received one copy of the book. The event was very successful, and the team received invitations to bring the play in other German cities and in Spain.
Shortly afterwards, on the occasion of the 2017 FutureLab Europe Autumn Conference, the team brought the book and the theatre performance to Brussels where they were offered to bring the play to Finland and Norway. The participation was great and the event was covered by the press.
- Call for Stories: Collecting stories of refugee women in Europe
- Editing and translating stories jointly with refugee women for the book
- Developing theatre play based on stories
- Book launch/ Theatre performance in Berlin
- Book launch/ Theatre performance in Brussels
Calendar of activities
- Call for Stories – 24 April 2017 to 5 June 2017
- Editing stories and book printing – June-August 2017
- Developing theatre play – July-August 2017
- Book launch/ Theatre performance Berlin – 16 September 2017
- Book launch/ Theatre performance Brussels – FutureLab Autumn Conference, EPC, 21 September, 2017
The project has been invited by the Fritt Ord Foundation in Norway to display the theatre performance at their premises in Oslo in the spring of 2018 (possibly February). Two more events are planned in November and December in Germany. The team is now searching for funding to print another edition of ‘Letters to Europe’, as almost all the books are distributed. The team wishes to show the theatre play to a broader audience and further distribute the book.
For more information, booking, questions or support please contact Konstantin Buchholz, email@example.com, +49 (0) 176 244 44 628.
Formlos Berlin – design office – http://www.formlos-berlin.de