Friday, 15 April 2022

Human Library

The Human Library was launched in Denmark in 2000 by Ronni Abergel, his brother and two colleagues. Originally, it was an event that was open for eight hours a day for four days. Today, the organisation operates on six continents and hosts activities in more than eighty countries. A book is a person volunteering to represent a stigmatised groups - refugee, deafblind, HIV+, ADHD, PTSD, ... - sharing their stories and experiences, answering questions from readers who want to better understand. A special dialogue room is created in which people can talk who would otherwise never talk to each other, a room in which taboo topics can be discussed and stereotypes are challenged (via).

Some human books...

Deafblind: "I am not angry about my situation. I don't even get angry with cab drivers that refuse to pick me up because of my guide dog. But I think it important to give people a chance to understand what life looks like through my eyes."

Brain damaged: "Being allowed to explain what the world looks like through my eyes helps me feel better understood and I feel my readers benefit from the talk, despite my speech impediment."

"I left my childhood photos of a life I will never get back and I didn't have the choice to leave behind. I left a beautiful place that I called my home."

When there is war and conflict, the peaceful and wealthy countries of the world are called upon to come to the aid of the people fleeing the conflict areas. The latest figures from UNHCR show that almost 60 million people are displaced by war worldwide in 2014. That number has only gone up since. 

The stereotypes about the refugee are many. Most of them not so friendly and building on widespread assumptions that refugees are not really on the run but in fact migrants coming to seek work or social benefits. It is of concern that some believe that they are criminals and ran away because they did something illegal in their home country. As the number of refugees grow it is increasingly important to make available information about the conditions for refugees and the circumstances that they fled from. By publishing the refugee we help safeguard a nuanced voice and ensure that this stigmatized group is given an opportunity to be heard by those willing to ask, listen and learn. (literally via Human Library)

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photographs by Joel Meyerowitz via and via