Remembering and embracing our regional activist heritage
Welcome to the thematic website Activist Memory Book which presents the online catalogue of the exhibition „Resistance, Movement, Change: Fragments of activist and Cultural Practices from the late 1980s“, the report from the conference „In Search of a Citizen: Regional Time-machine of Activist and Artistic Practices“ both of which took place on April 13, 2017, on the occasion of GONG’s 20th birthday. It is accompanied by the report from the round table held at the Human Rights Film Festival Zagreb on civic actions in protection of public spaces in December 2016, an overview of GONG’s achievements over the past 20 years and a selected bibliography on Post-Yugoslav activist and artistic practices in English.
The English page of the website is a digested version of a much more extensive material presented in Croatian, meant to serve as an inventory of memories for veterans and a source of inspiration for newcomers to the dynamic and rich world of progressive civic and cultural activism in the post-Yugoslav region, Activist Memory Book is meant as an open-ended space for remembrance, critical reflection and exchanges among activists of different areas of interest, locations and generations, united in their vision of just and free societies, so it contents will hopefully grow over time.
The intention of the exhibition „Resistance, Movement, Change“ and the accompanying public deliberations was to affirm and to critically reflect upon the tradition of progressive social and cultural activism in disputing and reshaping the dominant political, cultural and social matrices in the post-Yugoslav region and constructing the narrative of the post-Yugoslav region as a common social, cultural and civic space both ridden and united by its shared traumas of wars, political and economic transitions.
GONG is a Croatian civil society organization dedicated to the promotion of active citizenship, founded in 1997 by the Coordination of organizations for human rights protection, with the initial purpose to organize citizens’ election monitoring at the time when the Croatian Government, led by HDZ and Franjo Tuđman expressed strong autocratic tendencies. April 13, 1997 was chosen as official birth date of GONG to remember the very first attempt of the Croatian citizens to monitor the local elections, which the Government did not allow. Since then, as many as 20,400 GONG election observers have monitored elections locally, nationally and worldwide. They have also participated in various trainings of election observers and conducted international election observation missions throughout the world (Ukraine, the USA, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, and more). GONG played an important role in setting up a standing and professional State Election Commission in 2007.
Today, GONG works on a wide range of issues related to the promotion human and civil rights, enhancement of citizens’ participation in the political processes, transparency, anti-corruption and development of democratic political institutions and the rule of law. GONG is also a co-founder of Faktograf.hr, the first fact-checking news portal in Croatia. GONG celebrates the culture of dialogue, sincerity, transparency and responsibility in the public domain and promotes human and civil rights through research, advocacy and education often in collaboration with individuals and/or organizations that share its values across Croatia, the post-Yugoslav region and the EU.
The celebration of GONG’s 20th birthday brought together over 200 activists, artists, students, researchers of different generations and journalists from the entire post-Yugoslav region, in joint examination and celebration of our common heritage of progressive social and cultural activism. The celebration included a day-long conference „In Search of the Citizen: Regional Time-machine of activist and cultural practices“, followed by the cultural program: exhibition entitled „Resistance, Movement, Change: Fragments of activist and Cultural Practices from the late 1980s“, organized by the association KURZIV and curated by Martina Kontošić; a play entitled „Postgraduate Studies“ by Vilim Matula and Siniša Labrović accompanied by Igor Pavlica on the piano; and the Activist Music Time-machine by Ilko Čulić.
This playful and inspiring regional exchange was enabled by the financial support of the Europe for Citizens program of the European Commission for the regional project “Civic Activism and Resistance in Retrospect: (post)-Yugoslav region 1980-2016: RETROaktiva” implemented by GONG in partnership with Kurziv from Zagreb (Croatia), Centre for Cultural Decontamination from Belgrade (Serbia), the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Banja Luka (B-H) CIVIL – Centre for Freedom from Skopje (Macedonia), association ANIMA from Kotor (Montenegro).
The programme „Culture of Change“ of the Student Centre Zagreb agreed to partner with GONG on the organization of the exhibition April 13-24 and the conference on April 13, providing the venue, equipment and technical support, comprehensive catering service, as well as direct promotion of the event through its newsletter and website.
Additional co-financing for the April 13 event logistics was secured by GONG through synergy with its Centres for Excellence Programme, funded by the National Foundation for Civil Society Development and its core funding, provided by OSIFE. Both sources of funding support GONG’s civic education activities, hence they contributed to the project outreach to teachers of civic education from Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia who took part in the April 13th event
SOLIDARNA Foundation for Human Rights and Solidarity and association DOMINO, renowned for its Queer Zagreb festival, offered to contribute to the artistic component of the event. Collaboration was also established with the Binocular Theatre which offered to perform its hit monodrama „Postgraduate Education“ at a significant discount during the evening cultural programme on April 13.
Media partnership with community internet Radio 808 enabled the production of the thematic musical programme of regional activist songs since 1980’s, selected by Ilko Čulić, also available online in form of a radio show “Activist Time-machine” and technical support enabling high quality sound transmission of the conference, also covering the exterior of the venue, which delighted the participants.