Tales of Resilience in Wien

On the 26th of January, we enjoyed the Vernissage of Tales of Resilience at the Aktionsradius in Vienna. The whole exhibition has taken the name of our piece, even though many other artists are present. In balance, they forgot to put our name on the flyer.

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This exhibition will accompany a month long series of events under the name of Arroganz des Helfens, the “Arrogance of Aid”, dealing with the contradictions of developmental work. During the opening Peter Kuthan, who has been co-organising the Arge Zimbabwe Freundschaft for 20 years, talked about the way that Ivan Illich, when he spoke to him in the late 1960s about supporting development in the global south, reprimanded him. “Go home and sort out your own shit” is a rough translation of what Peter was told. In short, the problems of the south are not to be fixed by aid, but by the global north not messing up what the south is trying to do. As Schumacher says, it is not the rich areas that try to become independent in order to keep their value for themselves, rather the poor who do it for the same reasons, to avoid being exploited by the rich, the powerful, the north or the west.

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Discussion round with Peter Kuthan (Arge Zim), Sabine Bitter (artist), Anna Soucek (Oe1) and Tim from Time’s Up. (Photo Marcus Diess.)

In the discussion, we talked about the appropriation of images and stories by westerners, the problems that Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weaver had dealt with in their own exhibited work, and that we had to deal with as we interviewed the women in Siachilaba and others for our radio. The Tonga people of Siachilaba are not and do not need or want to be passive recipients of aid, instead they have made specific requests and want, not aid, but trade: they want support to set up their own photo studio and to run it as a business in Siachilaba, something that will support their community and themselves. This resonates strongly with our current work with Changing Weathers, where we are concerned with the way that international transport and trade is breaking not only local economies and ecologies, but also whole communities. Aktionsradius and Arge Zim have been collecting donations to support the basis of this business, we wish them, and the Women’s Photography Group in Siachilaba, all the luck with it.

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