When the first anthropologists headed the expedition to the Torres Straits in 1989, they had no idea what kind of impact it would have on the procedure which they applied back then – working with people who belong to distant cultures. Of course, a lot of things changed since then. We don’t live in a colonial world anymore, but rich and powerful countries still control Third and Fourth World countries. There are no more slaves, but people work in conditions which destroy basic human dignity. There are no more kings who rule the world, but few people who are the elite still rule those who don’t have power. We anthropologists, an extinct species in a postcolonial world, are still trying to achieve social justice and get close to people who belong to those distant cultures.
While working in Miksaliste, I’ve made a lot of friends who come from the Middle East and Africa and now they are in a pursuit of a new life. Those people don’t live somewhere far away anymore – they are now among us and they are a part of our community. Every day we mutually share knowledge and experiences. We paint and create new characters, we decorate each other’s hands, we make jewelry which kids proudly wear, and sometimes they put jewelry beads in their mouth, so their moms scold them. We talk a little bit in English, a little bit in Serbian, a bit in Farsi or Arabic. The language in Miksaliste is a language of love and friendship, which breaks through all borders. During creative workshops or ordinary conversations, which are filled with jokes and play, not only do we learn about Middle Eastern cultures and traditions, but we make true friends who sometimes make our day and make us laugh when we are not feeling our best. Values such as multiculturalism and social justice come to the fore everyday in Miksaliste. As coordinators, we were assisting those who want to help (volunteers, people who donate humanitarian aid and clothes), refugees, but also other employees in Miksaliste.
We mutually support each other and we create the community which speaks no particular language and which doesn’t have a nationality, gender or class – but it has the strength to show how little you need for instant happiness. Maybe all of our anxieties disappear for a moment, when we put a smile on a child’s face who vivaciously runs through the Miksaliste, not knowing what is really happening and where he’s going.
Teodora has been working at Miksalište since October 2016. After working with women and coordination of activities, workshops and distribution, she currently manages Miksalište. She graduated from the University of Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy with a degree in Ethnology and Anthropology and now she is writing her master dissertation.