89 Pathways of Migration
Personal stories, pure emotions and humanism cannot be restrained by borders and fences. Wherever we go in this wide world, we invariably bring with us objects of more special value – a mark of the pathway we’ve walked hitherto. The jewel your grandma gave you before you left; the dusty diary from your first days abroad; the family photo in front of the symbol of the city where your parents visit you on every single birthday. The pathways of migration have many different faces, but there are also similarities in the peaks and the obstacles facing all those who are away from their homeland.
89 Pathways of Migration is a special exhibition whose main author will be Bulgarians who have emigrated following the democratic changes in 1989. Our compatriots abroad represent an inseparable part of the Bulgarian people and the biggest investor in the national economy. They are the artists who we address with a plea to send us objects reflecting their emigrant life – emotions, experiences and cultural peculiarities of the life abroad. Each of the objects should be accompanied by a brief story of the item and its owner. Looking at migration through the personal prism of its main actors, we will explore the various nuances of this natural process where nothing could be simply black or white.
The exhibition “89 Pathways of Migration” was open from the 11th to the 20th of June 2018.
Here you can find the exhibition’s facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/236502670228906/
On the 19th of June, there was a discussion held with the title “The Multifaceted Migration – Stories, Fears, Potential”
/Public discussion, part of Outcast Europe in Sofia, Bulgaria/
The Outcast Europe public discussion in Sofia, Bulgaria took place on 19th June 2018 in the same venue as the exhibition 89 Paths of Migration. The moderator Dimitar Dimitrov introduced three panel speakers – Dessislava Hristova, an expert at the Citizens Participation Forum and an activist for the voting rights of Bulgarians abroad; Martin Dimitrov, a journalist at Balkan Insight and Capital; and Ivan Gospodinov, a teacher and an educational expert at Khan Academy Bulgaria. All three participants have spent considerable amount of time living and working in different European countries, and two of them also participated in the exhibition.
The public discussion was attended by 35-40 people. There were many different points and recommendations being raised, and the panel speakers did not hesitate to disagree with each other on certain occasions. Despite the recent trend of more and more young Bulgarians (35,000) returning back home after gaining professional and academic experience abroad, Martin Dimitrov suggested that the vast majority of the 1 million Bulgarian diaspora will never return. Not before the economic conditions in the country improve considerably. According to the figures presented, 30% of the Bulgarians living abroad have only primary education. Therefore, the apocalyptic warnings of “Brain Drain” are not necessarily the most accurate. Still, all three participants agreed that the Bulgarians abroad could be a crucial asset to the country, as they are the biggest single investor in the Bulgarian economy. Bulgaria’s diaspora politics were criticized as lacking strategic vision for long-term engagement of Bulgarian migrants. It was recommended that the government ceases its attempts to curb the voting rights of the Bulgarians abroad.
All three panel speakers agreed that Bulgaria has not experienced a true migrant crisis in the last few years. Instead, the “migrant issue” has been fabricated by the Bulgarian political class, the President included, in the different electoral campaigns and the widespread anti-migrant rhetoric which seems to be popular with the public. The anti-migrant stance of different sections in the Bulgarian society stems from the education system and the identity factors it promotes. Vital school subjects such as Literature and History are largely based on anti-Turkish / anti-Ottoman identity. In addition to this, there is a profound lack of adequate knowledge of Islam and Muslim people. Ivan Gospodinov, as a teacher and an educator, suggested that namely education and greater knowledge of the Muslim religion, culture and people could serve as an antidote to prejudice and hatred towards the different community. Dessislava Hristova pointed out that the opposition towards “The Other” in the Bulgarian society is not so much a function of the different religion or ethnicity. Rather, the Bulgarian society focuses its opposition on whichever social group is considered a rival for social benefits, support and care. In the poorest EU country, even the mothers of disabled children are currently vilified because they dare ask more than they actually get. Asylum seekers and refugees, it is widely believed, would be yet another burden for the drained social system.
The panel speakers expressed disagreement regarding the potential for Common European Asylum and Refugee Policy. Ivan Gospodinov expressed his hope that despite the complexity of the matter and the multiple factors involved, it would be possible for the EU to devise such a policy and achieve further and further levels of integration into an even closer federal union. Martin Dimitrov, on the contrary, raised some criticism towards the European Union hypocritical policy of migrant repulsion evident in the deals with authoritarian leaders like Gaddafi and Erdogan.