Ilona Sābera – portfolio

blogging, journalism, semiotics, short stories


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Latvian artists’ performances focus on disputable urban developments in Riga

While central part of Rīga, the capital of Latvia, is a renown tourist attraction with its Medieval Old Town and the largest number of Art Nouveau buildings in Northern Europe, Rīga’s suburbs are not so tidy. Only few bus stops out of downtown and cityscape becomes more confusing – post-soviet industrial legacy blending with new commercial ‘developments’, some of which causing ecological and financial disasters. For example, to provide a new building for the State Revenue Service (Valsts ieņēmumu dienests), the former government of Latvia signed a corrupt deal with private property developers and is now paying 532 thousand euros of taxpayers money in monthly rent (6,4 millions per year). And yet the same institution is asking citizens not to avoid taxes? This can happen only in Latvia.

Latvian performance artists this year decided to bring into spotlight places in Rīga which have seen many alterations during the course of history and recently are facing the inevitable consequences of profit-driven ‘development’ where just governance or sustainable and healthy environment is not a priority. In five performances called “The last picnic” (Pēdējais pikniks) starting in early spring and ending late autumn, organised by sculptor Gundega Evelone and friends, artists called participants for the last outdoor meal in various unusual places before they are completely converted for commercial of residential purpose.

I had a chance to take part and produce couple of videos from ‘the 3rd last picnic that took place between Mežaparks and Čiekurkalns districts in Rīga this July.

Photo credit: Ilona Sābera

Buildings in the background appearing in the middle of nowhere like mushrooms in the forest, the one on the right is the State Revenue Service still spending millions for taxpayers money in rent. Photo credit: Ilona Sābera.

 

Photo credit: Ilona Sābera

In this photo, taken from the opposite side, there are the old and the new building (blue) of TEC-1, the first heath power-plant in Latvia. The old part built in fifties is now a legacy of large scale industrialization taking place across the Soviet Union. Photo credit: Ilona Sābera.

 

In the first performance, Marta Elīna Martinsone is reading poetry by the famous Latvian Facebook cat Tors Traktors about a very emotional and sarcastic pet.

 

In the second performance, Gundega Evelone is telling a story about the sad face of a seagull with detached wing that was dying for three days alone in a harbor. The artist asked participants to make a viking burial boats to remember the heroic seagull.

 

Latvian proverb says: “Don’t cut the branch you are sitting on,” meaning do not damage the useful resources, such as the environment. In the third performance Alise Šaburova falls off the tree as she was sawing the branch she was sitting on. Alise falls into a swamp that was created unintentionally by engineers wanting to dry the surrounding land by closing a rill into the underground water pipes. But the rill violently broke out creating a wild sewerage swamp.

 

Video and photo materials from all five ‘Last picnics’ are displayed at National Library of Latvia in a retrospective exhibition organised by Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art and dedicated to one of the first Latvian multimedia artists late Hārdijs Lediņš. The exhibition, opened to public a couple of weeks ago, is available till 30th December.

Last picnics are buried in this symbolic 'summer coffin.' Photo credit: Didzis Grodzs.

Last picnics are buried in this symbolic ‘summer coffin.’ Photo credit: Didzis Grodzs.


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Erased time

If one my previous reflection on political and social developments in Egypt followed Cairokee rhythm of music and lyrics, the soundtrack of this post will be Dalida. She an Italian Egyptian singer from 60-ties and 70-ties, longing for Egypt and the beauty of Alexandria.

Have you ever experienced a feeling when a certain period of time is erased from memory? When you return to a place that was once part of your well known routine and then all of a sudden the whole year spent away is shift-deleted? Continue reading


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Rescuing children with albinism in Tanzania

husband_martha

Martha Mganga and her husband Edmund Mganga working to end stigma against people with albinism in Tanzania through the video “Watu Kama Sisi” (“People like us”).

Published on Anglican News.

“Peace starts at home. Albino children need to be accepted by their family first, then the village and finally the government,” says Anglican Martha Mganga, director and founder of Albino Peacemakers, a non profit organisation based in Arusha, Tanzania. Martha has been educating families about albinism and rescuing people in danger for almost 30 years. Continue reading


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Christian school in Nigeria more welcoming towards Muslim students

Once more I am writing about religious dialogue. Despite dominating violence discourse I want to share a positive example, this time about Nigeria.

Published on Anglican News.

school

Saint Mark’s Anglican primary school in Kawo Kaduna, Nigeria, is the only church school in the diocese where prayers and Christian religious subjects are not compulsory for Muslims.

Instead of closing the only church and the attached school when Christians fled the region, the diocesan bishop, newly appointed Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, the Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has insisted on a more welcoming approach towards Muslim students. Continue reading


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Infografika: Zolitūdes lielveikala tapšanā iesaistīto status kriminālprocesā

While working as a social media editor for national news agency LETA in Latvia, I developed an infographic on criminal cases against companies and individuals involved in Maxima shopping centre roof collapse that killed 54 people in November 2013. I used the information made available by the news agency. I used an online app Piktochart for the design.

zolitudes-tapsana-iesaistito-statuss-atjauninata

© LETA


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How to fit in a different country? Communicate, get over disappointment and reinvent identity.

SONY DSCWhen Margarita from Happy Abroad, a website giving tips on living in a different country, asked me to write about Egypt, I could not decide where to start. After three years in the country and a marriage to an Egyptian, am I the right person to give general advice? Can I still retrieve the feeling when I first came here without any work, study or personal commitments? I must admit the more time passes, the more my eyes and mind get accustomed and it takes effort to remember what impressed or amazed me before. While the first year was the hardest, it was also the most intense experience. I want to focus in this post on internal struggles I had to overcome to fit in a new place, taking into account that each experience is deeply personal. I want to talk about psychological states and social factors I had to consider to live in balance and peace in Egypt. Continue reading


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Autobusa uzvara Ēģiptē: Gribas uzsprāgt

Publicēts Veto Magazine 33, pirmo daļu lasi ŠEIT, otro daļu ŠEIT.

Met pie malas intelektuāļu bariņus, izej uz ielas, tā tev pateiks taisnību.
Nekādas audzināšanas, nekādas izglītības, nekādas kārtības, nekādu likumu.
Pasaule griežas, kamēr nekustam ne no vietas un strīda karstumā sabļaustāmies korķa vidū.

سيبك من النخبة المثقفين،  هو الشارع هقوللك الحقيقة فين
مافيش تربية ومافيش تعليم، مافيش نظام و مافيش قوانين
العالم بيجري واحنا فى مترحنا، و بنتخانق فى عز الزحمة

Pēdējā albumā Cairokee nonākuši līdz atziņai, ka jebkas, kas pašlaik notiek Ēģiptē, tiek darīts pretēji, nekā tam būtu jānotiek – it kā vienkāršas lietas ir jāizcīna ar milzīgu piepūli. To var saukt par briedumu, kad atzīsti problēmas, necenties idealizēt, bet nekrīti arī depresijā. To novērtēja arī klausītāji, diska pirmo laidienu izpērkot trīs dienās un padarot ierakstu par reģiona līderi iTunes veikalā. Albumā iekļautajās dziesmās saklausāma Kairas ielu kņada, neizturamais karstums, gājēju un braucēju sastrēgums 20 miljonu pilsētā, ielu bērni, kas par vienu naudiņu pārdod papīra kabatlakatiņus, ēzelīši ar milzīgām atkritumu kravām līdzās miljonāru džipiem, foul un taameya (cūku pupu putriņa un falafels, ko parasti ēd brokastīs) pārdevēju ratiņi un pieczvaigžņu hoteļi Nīlas krastā. Tā ir ikdiena, ar kuru jāsadzīvo, jāprot izkarot sava vietā lielajā pūlī, lai netiktu samīts.

Arī es biju gatava mūžīgajai cīņai. Tiklīdz izgāju ārpus mājas, privātā telpa beidza eksistēt. Bija jāsamierinās ar to, ka nekad neizdosies iejukt pūlī. Tiku pamanīta, uzrunāta, izsekota, novērtēta un aprunāta, sliktākajā gadījumā necenzētu komentāru pavadīta. Tomēr biju izgājusi ārpus komforta zonas, un par to nebeidzu sevi slavēt. Izgāju no gaisa kondicionētās, sterilās darba biroja vides, kur nevalstisko organizāciju darboņi cenšas risināt globālas problēmas, bieži neprotot saskatīt tālāk par savu degungalu. Nolēmu, ka nebūšu baltrocīte – man jāzina, kas notiek ielās. Viegli izgrūstīju apkārtējos un iekāpu bremzējošā autobusā, pēc tam centos nenoģībt bezgaisa metro vagonā, izlauzu ceļu tirgus drūzmā, nokaulēju saldo apelsīnu cenu, izjaucot pārdevēja plānu un pierādot, ka nepiederu pie naivajiem (lasi – cērpjamajiem) ārzemniekiem un atsvaidzinājos ar glikozes devu svaigi spiestā cukurniedru sulā – tipiskais ēģiptiešu gardums, ja neskaita gāzēto dzērienu invāziju. Biju sevi pierādījusi. Continue reading