The city marks World Refugee Day throughout June

Mon, 03/06/2019 - 13:21


Awareness. The opera ‘La Maternitat d’Elna’ and the concert ‘Mars d’acollida?’ are two of the activities programmed over the coming weeks to stand up for the right to refuge.

The city is marking World Refugee Day by hosting a series of recreational and awareness activities from 27 May to 21 June. A grand celebration of refuge is being organised next to the Besòs river on 16 June, with a packed day of open-air activities for families to enjoy. In the next few weeks, other places in the city will also be hosting theatre plays, music and graphic arts activities by organisations working in the field of refuge. We’re highlighting two at the Museu Marítim: the opera ‘La Maternitat d’Elna’, by the young composer Martí Carreras, and the concert ‘Mars d’acollida?’, by the Coral Cantiga dels Luïsos.

Opera to remember Spain’s refugees in the past

Martí Carreras combined the historical memory of republican refugees with opera for his final degree project at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMUC). His teacher Alfons Reverter was a key figure in him writing the whole opera, music and libretto, which at the age of 25 is impressive to say the least.

Women who were able to give birth at the Elna maternity unit escaped the deplorable sanitary and social conditions at the concentration camps

Martí explains that the idea of covering this subject matter responds to contemporary opera’s need to get away from the classic themes of librettos, such as love and death. His piece revolves around the personal experiences of pregnant Catalan refugees in the Spanish Civil War who were able to give birth at the Elna maternity unit, thus escaping the deplorable social and sanitary conditions for childbirth at concentration camps such as those in Argelés and Sant Cebrià.

Martí explains: “We wanted this story to establish a parallel with the current situation of refuge, of people fleeing wars who have suffered the sub-human conditions of certain camps in Europe. Amid the avalanche of information about refugees a few years ago I recall family conversations about my grandad, who died in the camp at Argelés”.

A story of solidarity for a solidarity opera

The Maternitat d’Elna unit was a place of safety, recovery and dignity for women refugees for whom the alternative was to give birth in concentration camps, where cold temperatures, rain, poor health and a lack of food were the order of the day, making the chances of their babies surviving very slim.

The creator and soul of the unit in the French village of Elna is the only character in the opera based on a real person, Elisabeth Eidenbenz. The two pregnant women and one of their husbands are fictional, yet, according to Martí, “their stories could really be those of any of the people who spent time in La Maternitat”.

Over a hundred musicians, singers and children will be taking part, with no desire for personal gain.

On 18 June we’ll have the chance to experience this opera at the Museu Marítim, as part of the programme for World Refugee Day. The show will be a solidarity event, thanks to the selfless participation of over a hundred people, between choir singers, musicians and soloists: the Orquestra de Cambra de la Garriga, the Cor Infantil de l’Escola Josep Aymerich, five choirs from the Vallès Occidental and Vallès Oriental areas, four professional soloists and the direction of Alfons Reverter. The money raised will go to Adoratrius (Sicar Cat), an organisation specialising in support for vulnerable women, particularly victims of human trafficking. Tickets are now on sale. For more information click here.

A choir between two seas

The Coral Cantiga dels Lluïsos de Gràcia is another choir formation taking part in World Refugee Day with a solidarity concert at the Museu Marítim. On this occasion they’ll be bringing two regions face to face which are geographically very far apart: the Mediterranean and the Baltic. What the two seas have in common is that they are shared by the countries around them, bringing their respective cultures closer to each other as a result. The poetic texts to be read out in the concert will prompt reflection on the reality of refugees. In this case, the NGO to benefit will be OpenArms. Tickets are now on sale. For more information click here.

More activities: music, art, comics, photography…

There’s more than opera and choir singing in the offing though, with a string of other activities to enjoy.

The education sphere also wanted to be involved in offering awareness activities for World Refugee Day, with activities ranging from a living library, organised by Ahead, to two theatre plays in French by Artistes Pedagogs and Barcelona Actua. There’s also a chance to enjoy a display of the APS project “Rec[fugiades]”, by Justícia i Pau and the Col·legi Mare de Déu dels Àngels. The Consell Nacional de Joventut de Catalunya is also taking part this year with a haima in the Parc de l’Estació del Nord, to raise awareness about the situation of Western Sahara.

Finally, the world of art and graphic culture is offering participatory activities such as agiant living comic, brought to life by the NGO Dibuixos per Somriures; an event on social harmony by the Fundació Ficat; the show Amic meu, by the Open Cultural Center, and a talk by OpenArms which will opened by the playwright Helena Codorniu with the micro theatre production Refugis.

All this, besides the grand celebration of refuge next to the Besòs river, in the Parc Fluvial del Besòs on 16 June, on the Santa Coloma de Gramanet side of the river. An outdoor day full of activities organised by entities working with refugees.

See the programme here.


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