The Netherlands, an outsider's view.

The Netherlands, an outsider's view.

In Belarus, art becomes a means of political resistance

“Art of Resistance”, an exhibition of Belarusian artists has arrived in Amsterdam, hosted by the Arti et Amicitiaein on Rokin. The exhibition ended on the 7th of November. More information can be found on the website. 

The show revolves around the unique position of Belarus today, with a special focus on the  protests that took place this summer. To admire the artwork, it’s necessary to book an online visit and remember to bring your face mask.

The large rooms of the art center featured works of different artists, each seeking to bring a new perspective on the Belarusian protests. Concepts such as resistance, democracy, and revolution were given particular emphasis.

During the country’s presidential election in 2020, Belarusians began to express themselves in new and surprising ways. In a country long stultified creatively and politically by authoritarianism, people are now using art as a medium to express themselves while avoiding confrontation with the violent police forces.

What do Belarusian want?

Tasha Arlova, one of the artists that started this project, told 31mag about the values behind the exhibition and its purpose.

“Belarusians don’t simply want the end of Lukashenko. We want an end to violence, the release of political prisoners, new elections, and investigations of those crimes that took place under the dictatorship,” explains Tasha.

As the website states, “[t]he artistic expression of opinions is one of the instruments of non-violent protests and a way to show solidarity while there is no escape from injustice.”

Inside the exhibition, seeds were sown which could point to the blossoming of democracy from the ashes of Lukashenko’s dictatorship. For this reason, “Belarus: Art of resistance” is truly a manifesto for liberty, a call to collective action and solidarity.

“The exposition shows how art is a mean of protesting, a mean to increase the voices of the oppressed citizens,” Tasha explains. “During the protests of July, we witnessed an exponential growth in artistic expression, something nobody would have ever expected”.

Stories about the protests in Belarus in the media have focused on the violence of state and the apparent intransigence of its dictatorship. Western reporters have largely neglected the country’s citizens. “In Europe, we need a new narrative. We can’t simply say, ‘oh these poor oppressed people’. These people who are protesting are not ‘poor’, they are strong and they are fighting for their future,” Tasha declares. “We must show solidarity to Belarus.”

Art= resistance

Art has been essential during the protests. Citizens communicated by painting murals, putting up decorations and penning songs. These were messages that the dictatorship could not silence. They were the emblem of resistance. Tasha says that in the first days of the protests, when the mood was particularly low and the oppression violent, citizens were scared that the protests might lose spirit. So freedom-loving demonstrators started to express solidarity in a new way. They put up lights close to their windows so that everyone could see each other’s resisting.

The flyer for the Amsterdam exhibition states that one part of the show is dedicated to “Ploschad Peremen” (the square of change). According to Tasha, when the protests started, multiple neighborhoods throughout the country underwent real transformation. They became places of discussion and cultural exchange. “Ploschad Peremen” is in Minsk, it’s a small garden where people meet to talk about politics and more, a place in the hands of the citizens.

The show featured a host of artists. The project was started by Lena Davidovich, Tasha Arlova and Hanna Adzinets, three Belarusian activists and artists in the Netherlands.