For NGOs and activists anywhere, getting people’s attention and winning their support is a monumentally difficult task. In our region this difficulty is compounded by the realities of the ever-shrinking space civil society can operate in, leading to NGOs looking for creative ways to get their voices heard.
Our art residency programme helps NGOs shine a light on important social issues by pairing them up with some of the best artists from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The artist consults with the NGO to understand the issue and then works in Prague for six weeks in order to create a tailor-made, creative and engaging ways to maximise interest and draw attention to the social problem the NGO is trying to fix.
The five latest art residency projects have now been completed, each one tackling a different social issue in the region. You can read a short summary of each project below.
“Rukazhop” aims to put a halt to Almaty authorities repeatedly hiring contractors that fail to repair the roads.
The project centres on an invented character called Rukazhop, derived from the Russian words for ‘hands’ and ‘ass’. A metaphor for the authorities’ lack of action regarding incompetent contractors, the character will become the mascot of NGO Almaty Sole’s campaign to hold the authorities to account.
Replete with animations, sticker packs and meme generators, Almaty Sole hopes this will evolve into a viral campaign, with the provocative Rukazhop character providing a fresh and playful perspective on a longstanding problem in Almaty.
“Feminist fairy tales for girls” provides a 21st century alternative to traditional Russian fairy tales, creating new stories with strong female characters.
In Russia, traditional gender roles remain prevalent in children’s stories, and fairy tales generally lack any female role models. Traditional gender roles remain embedded in such material, leaving characters that can inspire young female readers few and far between.
This project aims to redress the balance. By creating new illustrated stories that challenge the stereotype of passive, weak and dependent female characters, they hope to create modern fairy tales fit for today’s children and society.
“Fresh Start” is a project to help soon-to-be-released prisoners adapt to a new life outside of jail.
Designed for an Orenburg-based NGO that provides prisoners with so-called ‘equal consultants’ – rehabilitated prisoners who act as mentors and help prepare people for life after prison. The scheme is just one way the NGO hopes to fill the gaps left by a system where those leaving jail receive little support from the authorities.
Artist Leonid Khan helped New Life create a notebook for both prisoners on the verge of release and the authorities, so they better understand the challenges prisoners face. Starting with the story of a woman who has been in and out of prison on multiple occasions, but who ultimately turned over a new leaf, the rest of the notebook is blank, for prisoners to fill the pages with their own story. The back of the notebook also features contacts and other useful information for newly-released prisoners.
“Wake up, sleepy head” inspires Kyrgyz citizens to keep an eye on the behaviour of their elected officials and properly hold them to account.
The campaign, featuring a stop-motion animation by Roman Dzvonkoushyj reminds the public that they have the power to make complaints about lazy and inactive politicians, and encourages them to take aim at those that frequently fall asleep in meetings.
The campaign hopes to spark greater citizen interest in participating in the political process and using mechanisms which allow people to make formal complaints and attend parliamentary meetings.
This ambitious project created a shop to allow members of the public to contribute towards food, clothes and goods for refugees. His aim is to highlight the innovative ways NGOs can run crowd-funding campaigns and encourage public donations.
Using the example of a Russian NGO which supports refugees, the concept puts visitors in a virtual shop, allowing them to browse items needed by refugees. Once the visitor has finished ‘shopping’, they are told how much the goods they selected would cost and are offered the option to donate that amount to the NGO. The experience demonstrates just how much good a relatively small amount of money can do, and builds a direct link between public donations and the work of the NGO on the ground.
The project is supported by a campaign to drive traffic to the ‘shop’. Using a 360-degree photo-ball, people can enter the world of a young refugee in the depths of a Moscow winter. Viewing the snow, strangers and cold through their eyes, people experience a tiny dose of the fear and troubles faced by thousands of refugees who find themselves in a strange and unwelcoming land.