Performing Advocacy

This performance and discussion follows on from Tanja Ostojić’s emotive Naked Life 6 written specifically for Aberdeen and the UK context. Alongside the performance Jonathan Baxter was invited to facilitate a discussion with a number of key respondents based around the issues raised. He opened with a definition of advocacy and a number of key questions for the audience and invited panel to consider. These questions broadened out the expression of solidarity with the Roma people and the political, social and human rights issues they face to include consideration of other communities with similar but not the same challenges. He asks: What is the role of artists in the performance of advocacy? Given the wider conceptual frame of SCAN what does hospitality mean in both the local and global context where issues of local and national identity are increasingly put under pressure by the border crossings of migrant labour or/and war/climate-change? Who is the host and who is the guest and what power relationships do these definitions either mask or manifest? Is the binary model of host and guest adequate for the life stripped bare by Tanja’s performance?  

Following from this Sonia Michalewicz speaks as a Roma respondent from Poland who lives in Glasgow and performs in Roma Cierhenia and E Karika Djal. She shares insights into the reality for Roma people in the UK including the discrimination they face in employment, where they have to keep their Roma identity hidden in order to stay in jobs and through everyday life where they face continuous suspicion and prejudice. She also shares experiences from her early life moving between Poland and Germany, and the discrimination she suffered at school and as a consequence of these moves. Next to these difficulties she tells a story of pride in her heritage and traditions and sadness relating to the pressures to give these things up. Finally, she brings us to the half a million gypsy people who died in Auschwitz and remain forgotten. After some silence we hear the freedom of traveller life is expressed well in song – the most precious thing to share – a small country and a language for a people who are so often deprived of a sense of home. We are given a powerful song dedicated to gypsy, Roma and all traveller people.  

Following on from Michelwicz’ deeply moving song Baxter invites a panel to respond and take questions from the audience. Panel members are: Tanja Ostojić, Sonia Michelwicz, Juliana de Pena, advocacy worker with Friends of Romano Lav, Jon Davidson, a social worker for the criminal justice department and volunteer with education services with the traveller community in Aberdeen and Nigel Lamas from Aberdeen Solidarity with Refugees. 

Audio Title: 
Performing Advocacy
Audio Accession Number: 
HW. 005
Audio Speaker: 
Jonathan Baxter and Sonia Michalewicz
Audio Annotation: 
A talk given as part of the SCAN series on Hospitality.
Audio Location: 
Society of Advocates Aberdeen.
Audio Date: 
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Audio Duration: 
30'
Audio Type: 
Performance and Panel discussion
Audio Technical: 
Clear
Audio Recording type: 
Sound extract from video