From Discontent to Determination

The mountains looked both calming and sharp, piercing against the clear, blue sky.  Yesterday frustration ruled, yet today, cycling along the Salzach and stretching out upon its heather-covered  banks, I seemed to let go of all that discontent-for a moment.

Nervous about my bicycle`s safety--even though safely locked--I kept checking instead of fully relaxing into this early summery evening.  I casually wondered why such anxiety still came back to torment when only a few moments ago, it seemed to blissfully disappear.  

"K├Ânnen sie mehr helfen"? a dark figure, all dressed in black with a scarf wrapped tightly around his throat blocked my sun and stood over me.  This silhouetted figure sat next to me pointing with his pen to some papers that had been roughly gathered together, I looked to see a page of nervously written German text in blue biro.  Realising his request I replied in broken German that he would probably have to help me and so began a mini-discussion about how hard it is to integrate into Austrian Society despite our best efforts.  He was from Portugal and had been transferred to Salzburg to play football for Red Bull and yet he, off pitch, had felt unwelcome.  Talking about the history of Salzburg as perhaps one of the reasons, seemed to aggravate him further, so we switched to less fraught topics, such as football and dance.  Promoting a piece by Zoe Knights where dancers have collaborated with footballers from the Red Bull Academy, I suggested that football like culture are vehicles for integration and that the access points he is looking for, may already be there.  However, I could feel his frustration.
This came about on a day when I saw Zak who I had collaborated with and starred in Leli Leli an intercultural music video made at Schmiede 10.  Surprised at seeing each other in SEAD dance school office, after he left, I asked my colleague how she knew Zak.  Seeking asylum from Ghana, Zak had been safe in the clearing house dorm.  Turning 18, he had to leave this safety to a host family that took him in, only to be arrested by officials a few weeks later for lacking correct papers.  Zak, actively involved himself in art educational project in Salzburg and Vienna, participating and contributing to Austrian society and yet this meant nothing in the face of authoritarian red tape.     Luckily SEAD`s director,  Susan Quinn used her influence over a mass of dance students at her school to call an emergency meeting and immediately close the school.  Through miserable drisel, over a hundred students and faculty marched in unison to protest against Zak`s captivity.  A few days later he was released and is now able to once again participate in dance classes at SEAD and other projects that are fully contributing socially, culturally and economically to Austria.

Thinking back to our project last September, Zak had asserted strongly his desire to dance and sing, to express himself.  At first he imitated violent gangster rap, which only then reinforced the ideology from a mainly western viewpoint.  Yet Zak, by spending time with Curtis Cobane, a musician from London, as well Georg Valesta and Roman Gerold from Austria, worked through lyrics that meant something to him originating from his own language, it was through this that Zak found his own means of expression whilst fully participating in Austrian society.  Culture and sport are main vehicles for integration yet why is it that they are so often overlooked.  Had Zak not had dance classes at SEAD or been involved in projects such as VIA @ Schmiede, then he would not have gained recognition for his participatory efforts and had protest support that he needed leading to his release.  His fate may have meant being sent back to his country where he would have been in grave danger.  The nexus of support that stems from cultural and sporting activities, however seemingly small or "fun" they seem at the time are an integral part of people`s safety and sense of self, grounding us in the here and now bringing us to become fully engaged participants, free to create our pluralistic society.