I’m jumping straight from the silence this blog page has been suffering from since Lebanon to an article I wrote for King Kong magazine about Estonian creative scene. Trying to make this part of my website more active again.
In order to tell you about the creative scene in Estonia, it is important to know some of the background of it.
I was born in 1993 to the newly independent Estonia. It is this beautiful tiny country with a population of 1,3 million people, flourishing with green nature one half of the year and is freezing cold, dark and grey the other half.
Throughout centuries our home was under many foreign occupations. Our neighboring countries forcing their beliefs and ways on our people, making estonians voiceless and suppressed. No arms to fight with, our deeply rooted pagan spirit, patience and level-headedness helped us to rise as an independent nation from Soviet Union in 1991.
As a mass, we look like a very grumpy crowd of people who are forced to have bad sex all the time. Seeing a stranger smile to you on the streets is more bizarre than seeing a flying pig.. But getting a closer look, one can see the extremely loyal, hard working, kind hearted forces of nature. Witches. Wolves.
I think it was just a couple years ago that I started noticing a change in the creative world of Estonia. Suddenly we accepted that fashion and trends arrive late to us if they even do, so we dress to match our characters, thrift store gems are making kids look fresh as fuck, we have girl rappers presenting some badass lines, djs performing in forest parties.. Slowly but surely we are less self conscious and more brave to be our true selves. Lets put it this way - Instead of Kim Kardashing our appearances, we Princess Nokia our fat bellies and lil titties with some glitter action.
Our parents, forefathers were living by the rules of the oppressors - no room to dream, just work hard to have bread on the table and do as told, the walls have ears. Free at last, we are still learning to unlearn the rules. Today, we live in a completely different Estonia though, it is unusual for older generations to comprehend that the young travels, works abroad, doesn’t follow the old structures of what living should be like, makes living by coloring faces and taking photos of them..whaaaaat.. My grandma says jokingly ‘’stop playing a fool’’ while my mom tells me that i’m living her dream. Besides that, interestingly, some call us a ‘’fatherless generation’’. Most of us didn’t grow up having an honorable, loving father figure, they are/were either criminals, drunks or just playing a 25 year long hide and seek.. Instead, we have been raised by the endless love of our heroic mothers. Growing up witnessing the strength of love that makes a woman, a mother, move mountains in order to provide their children a fair chance of a healthy future is what has made us to be the people we are today.
So yeah, it’s definitely been challenging to find own voice for the creative scene, when western worlds movies show life from a completely different angle, with different values than ours. We have gone from being offended by the label ‘’Eastern Europe’’ and trying to prove our western ways to really embracing our roots, finding our voices, understanding that what makes us different, makes us special. We are continuously deeply spiritual. We worship the nature, we talk to the sea, we hug trees, we follow the moon. We work hard towards perfection and trust in our Mothers Land. Our creative industry is massively lead by awesome multi talented women. Designers stay environmentally conscious. Photographers take photos of women as warrior, goddesses instead of over sexualizing them. We are not afraid of looking androgynous nor unicorns. We are keeping reality in our fantasies, empowering one another, caring for one another. United.
March 6, 2017
I haven’t written as much as there’s so much happening while I’m getting more used to the life here everyday.
I haven’t really shed a tear much before but after reading about the stories my girls wrote of their lives before war and now I haven’t been able to stop tearing up.. I guess it takes a minute to get used to the life and once you’ve gotten to a certain understanding, you start hearing more what is said around you.
The more I get to know about the lives of the people who I’m surrounded by, the more admiration i have for them. This feeling is accompanied with deep sadness, like a rock sitting on my heart. Their stories are difficult, there’s so much loss, but their outlook to life is about moving forward and making the best of all. They are so strong. The war took their homes and people close to them and it didn’t stop there, now they are imprisoned in countries where they don’t want to be, where they are treated with such disrespect, separated from their families and friends.
I have grown to understand that the ones who can reason why they don’t care of giving their helping hand to a refugee are the weakest of them all. They have let media brainwash them to think Syrian refugee’s are not people, that Syrian children are not kids, that muslims are bad and all terrorists, that Syrian want to take over countries.. yet they are kindest people i’ve met. They give and give and give even though they don’t have much..
They had it all before.. and now so many are forced to live like dogs. It could be you. If we let war keep happening, it could be you one day, or your child, or your grandchild.
It’s very hard for me to work on the images i’ve taken of the people in Saida. I’ve captured a lot of these moments where they look so happy. It’s this moment I pressed the button on my camera, this moment I’m eternally grateful for. As SB’s slogan says ‘’Give Hope’’, their smiles on the images give hope to me. My heart is broken and yet I feel so much love looking at them.
How do you judge a kids behavior if all they’ve grown up with is violence?
Today it was an easy breezy day for me teaching the sweet girls while rest of my team took two buses full of little kids to take the Lebanese school system exam by unicef. Well I didn’t expect to see my crew as shocked and traumatized after as I did. They didn’t expect to experience what they experienced. Due to different little errors, once they got there, they had to wait before let into the building. During that break a hell broke loose - kids throwing rocks and bricks, jumping out of bus windows, fighting,fighting, fighting, our male volunteer got punched in the face, another teacher got bit.. wild. But what to expect if these kids grow up in war, when looking for refuge, they are placed to neighborhoods that’s streets are filled with guns, drugs, dirt and violence. How does one punish a child if they haven’t even been given a chance? There’s only so much we, the volunteers and teachers, can do.. though growing up I saw some of this environment as the kids here, I was given a possibility to experience love, care and kindness as well.. when I started writing this post now, I felt quite helpless but thinking back to my upbringing I just realized that it only takes one person to make a child see a lighter world. Every child deserves a fair chance. But war has made animals and the kids are born into wilderness. With every inch of my body, with all my soul I ask the sun to shine to the children, the wind to breeze like a gentle stroke on their cheek, for the trees and flowers to bring a scent of hope, the kitties playing around to bring joy to their faces,people to show them love, kindness and respect. Though human doing is why these children have to experience this struggle, thanks to the people I work with I haven’t lost hope in our kind and haven’t let bitterness take over.
I think the more I get used to the life here the less I know to write.
I spend my days teaching English and preparing for classes.
Oh, how I love all my students. Some classes I give are as basic as pronouncing “how are you” and asking “what is your name?” which response is “what is your name” and then I say “no what is your name” and then they say “what is your name”.. but my groups are very eager to learn and I love seeing them learn.
Today we walked through the Shatila refugee camps again. Men with guns sitting around, little tiny beautiful angelic kids smoking cigarettes.. like seriously 5 year olds.. there was this very old lady who passed me with her walking stick. The thought that she has had to grow old in this place, saddens me deeply, that she hasn’t seen the world becoming a better place. I hope the little kids running and playing around will get out of there! Someone even shouted “take me with you” to us.
I wrote to my grandmother about the life here and she told me she couldn’t even fall asleep that night and tears up every time reading my letter again. She is a person who has lived through many wars which is why she also has empathy to the situation here. One of the many wise responses she had “seems like human kind hasn’t still developed as far to know what is freedom”
The air in Shatila made me feel physically sick - headache, dizziness. I’ll attach some images below