Serbia in style

His art is not only ‘for the disabled’. He was just not able to exhibit his works for almost 12 years because he had acquired progressive multiple sclerosis when he was just about to start studying his masters at the University of Arts. He is Darko Babic, a 46-year-old painter from Pozega, Serbia.

As passionate as him is Jelena Jakonic, a 28-year-old woman struck by a subdural hemorrhage during her birth. It caused an atrophy on the optic nerve of her eye so she is almost totally blind. She is mildly retarded yet still “sees the world in colours and not in shape.”

Even though suffering from a form of muscular dystrophy, Milesa Milenkovic has persisted to author the documentaries “Between the lines” and “Moment of Joy” (2014). She is the current director of the festival, “Uhvati samnom ovaj dan” (“Seize this day with me”) and is completing a doctorate at the University of Novi Sad Center for Gender Studies at the present.

“It was strange and insidious. One day I would be able to work but the next day not. I would tire quickly for reasons that were unknown to me at that point,” Babic has been quoted saying in a report in Balkan Insight. He has just enrolled for a master’s degree in visual arts in 2001 then when he realized that “something strange was happening.”

Only until one day in 2013 was Babic given a chance to stage an exhibition by someone from his hometown. He chose to portray children with disabilities and entitled the painting displaying human endurance and dedication “Restart”.

Babic’s struggle also became the theme of a film, also called “Restart”, directed by Dejan Petrovic. But apart from the exhibition and the movie, Babic would hold painting workshops sponsored by the Association for Disabled Persons twice a week to children and youngsters between eight and 30 from Pozega. He would also do so in Arilje, where he received a similar offer from the organization Impuls.

“Situations like this make you realise that art among people with disabilities is marginalized; they do not have the same chances as other artists,” Dragana Latinovic, a visual artist and an art educator, shared about her student Jelena Jakonic in the same report. The latter, despite her medical condition, is cheerful and full of life, spending her days painting in her northern hometown of Kikinda.

To date, Jelena continues to exhibit works at shows for people with disabilities, including at the first creativity fair for the disabled, which was held in Belgrade late last year. It drew the attention of the director of the Museum of Naive and Marginal Art, Nina Krstic, who selected her works for the exhibition “Art in spiritual exile”.

“Having in mind that I am a disabled person, with no art school education, the question of my reliability was brought up – would I be able to do it?” Milenkovic also used to ask herself. “But my mentor convinced them that I am persistent, which made the filming possible,” she added in the very report.

“People with disabilities have various talents, but there are many areas where it is hard for them to achieve affirmation and become visible. This is especially the case in dramatic arts, among actors, directors, where there are no disabled people as far as I know.”

“People with disabilities are rarely shown in a positive context, and mostly as part of stories that deal with social issues. Sometimes sensational headlines glorify the courage of individuals with disabilities, but there is no continuity,” ~ Ruzica Skrbic


Video taken from the YouTube Channel of John Leslie 

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