We encounter displays of Czech xenophobia in the rhetoric of politicians, internet discussions, pub dialogues, and even during family lunches. Manifestations that are subtle, hiding behind the so-called typical Czech sense of humour, and those more extreme, oftentimes breaching the boundaries of ethics, decency, and law. In the country and the city, with the young and the old. Across generations, regardless of the alphabet, era or political regime that defines them. And maybe, partially, unintentionally, unadmittedly – in ourselves. As a family secret, an inherited personality trait that we either highlight or are ashamed of.
An attribute of a nation that has always shared the state with a second party. Maybe third or fourth. And when the autonomy finally happened, it redressed its own identity problems into a certain kind of warped nationalism, fear, and isolation. Isolation strengthened by nearly half a century spent behind the Iron Curtain that cut off Czech society from colourfulness and diversity. This society, used to greyness and cultural monoliths, and with traumas imprinted into its DNA, now thrashes its legs about with the thought of opening its borders to someone else. Someone alien.
The Pandora’s Box containing Czech xenophobia burst open with the outbreak of the 2015 migration crisis. The xenophobic and racist label landing on Czechia, within the international political and medial discourse, will be hard to scrape off. In a country where foreigners make up about 4 per cent of the population, one of the major problems is the absence of a direct experience, which is a breeding ground for fear. Fear for one’s safety, cultural values, or employment.
The direct experience is, in many cases, replaced by the media that oftentimes fail to create the agenda on the topics of migration or foreigners and further reinforce the stereotypes by (not) doing so. The task of breaking said stereotypes and cultivating the society is, therefore, took on by art that wipes away the notional borders between cultures, nations, and people themselves.
Photography & art direction / Johana Kasalicka
Styling / Gavriil Lenchenko
Assistant / Klara Kierzkowska
Models / Ibrahim (Jaro Models), Viet (Pure Models), Almamy (New Aliens Agency)
Text / Anna Jurečkova