Zenica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a place with rich history of changes. Surrounded by a unique landscape of green hills and located in the valley of river Bosna it has signs of people living in the area since Neolithic times. In it’s more recent history it got transformed from a town with a population of 5.000 residents to a city of 100.000 due to the local steel production industry. The time has passed and the industrial zone has seen better days. Now largely in decline, but still working and quite visibly polluting, it is a frequent topic of discussion within the local population.
“A Beloved Enemy” workshop as part of the program “The Ways of the Heroes” was a performance workshop based on Henrik Ibsen’s work “An Enemy of the People”. Like Ibsen’s play, the workshop tackled the issues of the mechanisms of Democracy and the balance between public health and environmental issues with profit and economic wellbeing. Not many places could be more fitting as a stage to tackle this subject, with the industry still taking a big part in the local and national economy, while at the same time serious health issues on the local population are a growing problem.
The workshop brought together a unique group of participants, led by theatre director Harris Pehlivanidis and artist Thomas Steyaert. 20 participants from 13 countries and different creative backgrounds were selected after a widely accepted open call to be the living material with which the workshop took shape. They worked together intensely for 8 days in various public locations of Zenica as well as the National Theatre in one of the city’s main squares. The workshop finished with the presentation of the workshop in the heart of the city, creating a path between places of interest, evolving in different urban locations, and engulfing the local population who watched and actively participated in the event.
There are many reasons for which everyone involved in this workshop could be happy with the results. It brought together a very diverse group of creatives to work together on the globally important subjects of the climate crisis and pollution. During its course creative bonds developed between the people involved making fertile grounds for future collaborations. Amidst a series of restrictions and lockdowns caused by a global health crisis the workshop offered an opportunity for people to physically interact and co-create. There is although one reason that stood out, and that was the acceptance and involvement of the local population who had the opportunity to be the audience of the presentation. In the last stages of the presentation of the workshop there was a part which was meant to provoke a public debate. The participation of the audience exceeded everyone’s expectations and made the main subject of the workshop – democracy – take the main stage.