Ethnovision is a boutique non-profit agency that exists to protect and promote the human rights of vulnerable and marginalized individuals and groups by raising public awareness through visual storytelling.
Where there are needs, we witness what is lacking, we present solutions and we demand action.
Our advocacy is towards governments, armed groups and businesses, pushing them to change or enforce their laws, policies and practices. Our campaigns foster engagement and build connections across the globe in order to combine efforts into a larger movement for social justice.
We design and implement protection programs for the people whose stories we tell.
Ethnovision represents anthropologists and photojournalists and other development communications specialists working across digital and physical platforms to document social, political and economic issues around the globe.
We have worked in Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Viet Nam, Thailand, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zambia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu for commercial, multilateral and non-profit clients.
ACCIDENTAL COMMUNITIES // SERBIA AND BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The year 2015 has seen an unprecedented amount of forcibly displaced persons, including those newly forcibly displaced by conflict, violence and human rights violations, and those in situations of protracted displacement, who experience long periods of exile and separation from home. The hundreds of thousands of people crossing through the Balkans from the Middle East and across the Mediterranean from Africa in search of protection have revealed a latent moral crisis that has been brewing for several decades, beginning with the decay of the 1951 Refugee Convention’s ideals.
The agreement reached between the EU and Turkey on the 18th of March 2016 marks the collapse of the principles adopted in 1951. It provides that all asylum seekers, whatever their citizenship, who reach the Greek coast will be forcefully returned to Turkey, a country whose entry into the EU had been refused a few years ago because of its violations of human rights, and whose government has since then become much more authoritarian. Additionally, for every potential Syrian asylum seeker deported from Greece, another one currently housed in a Turkish camp will be relocated in Europe. The resettlements cannot exceed 72,000 people, which factors out to approximately one-fifth of the 363,000 Syrians who have applied for asylum in the EU in 2015. Although already practiced elsewhere—Australia, for instance—this externalization of the asylum procedure is unprecedented in Europe. By preempting the possibility of refugee status being claimed by people from the Middle East fleeing persecution, the joint-action plan counts as the ultimate renunciation of the international right to protection established after World War II. With the increasing militarization of national borders along the so called “Balkan Route”, Serbia and Bosnia have become the main transit countries for people on the move towards Western and Northern Europe. However, what was for a brief timespan an open “Balkan Corridor” has now turned into a “Balkan Prison”, dangerous and without exit for those trapped inside
Today, the systematic fortification of borders is still continuing across South-Eastern Europe, increasingly exacerbating the situation for people on the move. The southern borders of Hungary and Slovenia are completely fenced off now. The same applies to the Turkish-Bulgarian border, part of the Bulgarian-Greek border, the Greek-Macedonian and parts of the Serbian-Bulgarian border (see map). Where borders are not yet physically sealed, they are heavily controlled by police who often use violence as a deterrent. This policy of closed borders does not reduce migration flows, nor does it close the route. Instead, people on the move are forced to seek more and more dangerous paths towards Central Europe.
Since there remain very few, if any, legal possibilities to cross the border, many people see themselves forced to go “to the game”. This is the expression commonly used for trying to cross the border irregularly, either alone or with the help of a smuggler, often including long walks in the dark, hiding in lorries or clinging to freight trains. In these “games”, chances for success are dim, and in some cases they end deadly. Those unable to play the game become trapped behind closed borders infinitely waiting. These are their stories.
PHOTOGRAPHS: MARKO RISOVIĆ // TEXT: N’DEANE HELAJZEN
THE BEARABLE HEAVINESS OF COEXISTENCE // KOSOVO
This story, although told from one side only – that of Kosovo Serbs, touches many problems representative and important for all the people living in this sensitive area. The purpose of this work is to present the complexity of coexistence of Serbian minority and Albanian majority in Kosovo today. Like all the other material trying to elaborate this issue, this piece could be a subject to free interpretation, especially in this specific moment. Intention of the author is not to increase or support any nationalistic and chauvinistic ideas, just the opposite! The basic idea behind the whole body of work is that without tolerance and strong urge for peace and acceptable coexistence, acquired through learning about the tragic past, neither of the sides involved has the chance for normal future.
As the politicians are again on the loose, rattling arms over the backs of people, and giving their best to keep us all stuck in the Stone Age by causing irreversible differences between us, there is an urge for showing the real, everyday problems of those who have been seriously endangered by their hasty, selfish and stupid acts, and who have already been the victims of such politics in the recent past.
Beautiful scenery is something that overwhelms those who come here for the first time. The mountains, woods, rivers and plains illuminated by the sun should illustrate scenery of prosperity and welfare. But this superficial beauty hides dark secrets from recent past. When one takes a look at beautiful hills around monastery of Visoki Decani, it could be very hard for him to imagine that they were used as a range for a mortar, targeting monastery after the war finished – in 2000 and 2004. Or areas around cities of Pec, Djakovica and Prizren which hide many graves and tragic stories of prematurely interrupted lives.
In this turmoilous land, Serbs and their neighbors Kosovo Albanian have to find a peaceful shape of coexistence. Serbs, being absolute minority today, live in the northern part of Kosovo and on islands of land surrounded by Albanian territories. In everyday life, this means that they have to engage in daily contacts with neighbors. Sometimes this normal and prosaic act of living is not easy to perform at all, which is partially understandable keeping on mind all the tragic events from recent past. Alienation and isolation can almost be touched in sharp and fresh air of Serbian enclaves among beautiful hills.
But sometimes the light of hope sparks from the grayness, as in the smallest local shop in a backstreet of Serbian village of Velika Hoca, where two friends from the progressive period before the war, Kosovo Albanian Seljami and Serb Stajko, are toasting with home made brandy and cheep beer, remembering in clear Serbian language the time of their lives when ethnicity and religion were not the things of concern here.
These things will certainly not be an issue in the family of Krsta Simic from Velika Hoca. He married Albanian wife Pranvera and in this mixed marriage, he achieved his greatest wish – to become a father. Today he says that he is a satisfied man, while his mother proudly holds her two grandsons in her arms. The troubles he sometimes has come actually from other Serbs living around him and even more from Serbian authorities who have had ignorant attitude towards his needs and related benefits more than once. Diversity is obviously always been difficult to accept, regards the sides.
For Kosovo, which has a high stake in daily geopolitical games, the future is certainly very vague. For Kosovo Serbs, it’s the opaque curtain, and the big question is whether this curtain may need to remain undiscovered forever. Time always finds answers, and until it reshapes disturbed relations from the past, neighbors of Kosovo will live in the atmosphere of bearable heaviness of coexistence.
PHOTOGRAPHY & TEXT : MARKO RISOVIĆ // CLIENT : NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE
UN-WELCOME // SERBIA
Look in the face of the man behind the barbed wire. Look into his eyes and don’t look away! An entire life fit into that look of hope, anguish, shame and defiance. A man, like any other, of flesh and blood, with his hopes, fears, successes and disappointments, small rituals and big dreams, forced to leave his war-torn home and destroyed country, was sitting in the middle of nowhere, and the only thing that he truly wanted at that time was to have wings.
Rivers of people similar to him streamed the roadless areas of the Balkans, demanding every crevice through which to slip so they could join the main stream, the one that led to the promised safe harbor, refuge from the insanity of the war, and to the peaceful nights without the sounds of bombs and screams of the dying.
During the 2015, refugee crisis caused by the war in Syria and the unfavorable political situation in the Middle East has escalated to enormous proportions. As a result, hundreds of thousands of refugees have started moving along unsafe routes, looking for a better and safer life in Western Europe. Balkan countries have found themselves on this route. Although these countries were not a destination for any of the refugees, the human tragedy was followed by many heartbreaking scenes, questionable political decisions and tensions in the region. Many demonstrated duplicity, saying that refugees are more than welcome, while closing the borders and aggravating to the maximum their journey.
The truth, written on the faces of these people, can easily be decoded.
PHOTOGRAPHY & TEXT : MARKO RISOVIĆ // WINNER BALKAN PHOTO FESTIVAL
JOURNALISTS UNDER THREAT // SERBIA // COMING SOON