Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Ludic Lido and The Bronx.

It's been a crazy couple of days. I flew out to Zaragoza via Madrid on Monday and straight into Spiral's hectic world of activity. We're working in Marta's home town of Cascante in the very south of Navarre exploring ways to create an inter cultural dialogue between immigrants, who make up 14% of the town's population and the Spanish families, many of whom have been in Cascante for generations. The tongue tying working title is 'What have you always wanted to know about me, but have been too afraid to ask?'

The concept is fairly straight forward, but already a couple of days in the results are extraordinary.

We've created two 'beaches' in the town - one in the barrio where most of the recent immigrants to Cascante live (affectionately called the Bronx) and another in the grounds of Termoludico, an expensive swimming pool complex on the edge of the town where, in the 40 degree heat, the Spanish pay to sun and swim. It's a site of cultural and economic apartheid; the immigrants use a free lake a mile and a half out of town.

In the Bronx Carol and Arabic scholar Juan are encouraging immigrant families, drawn mainly from Nigeria, Morocco and Ecuador to ask questions about their neighbours, writing them out on large parcel tags. A similar process is being led by Marta and Victor at the pool where questions about the new arrivals are being collated. Tomorrow the questions will be swapped over and answers sought.

Meanwhile in the Casa Cultural Chris and Carlos are helping volunteers from both communities to build large translucent lanterns and frames - the aim is to present the the results of the project in some form of lit installation amongst the trees of the park on Saturday night. The how and what of this is still being explored.

Towards the end of today we were realising, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the children of the town on both beaches were asking the questions - Why do Spanish women speak so loudly? How hard is it to get hold of he food that you normally eat in you country? Does everybody like bullfighting? Do you dream about the place you left? Are there wild elephants in your town? Whereas often the adults questions carried a hint of accusation - What do you feel about the murder of a young Spanish boy by immigrants, just to get his mobile? (a recent case in an adjoining town.) Why don't you learn Spanish? Why when we've been here for 800 years and given so much to your culture do you hate Arabs? What do you think there is for you here? Why do you cross the street to avoid us?

We've begun to examine the notion that immigration is a universal. Even if we have not had or chosen to leave our geographical home - all of us have experienced exile through growing up. I cannot go back to my childhood. It is a time long closed to me and all its wonders are, now, fond memories rather than living realities. With this in mind we've started to ask respondents - not just to ask questions, but to draw images of a place that they would like to go to - but can't. I'm not sure any of us know exactly where the work will land, but it's fascinating to gather the material.

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