Belarus, Striking: Voices from the Belarusian Uprising. Panel discussion with Darya Zhuk, Andrei Zavalei, Vitali Alekseenok, Tanya Kapitonova and Olga Shparaga, moderated by Valzhyna Mort. September 16, 1-3 pm. ONLINE
Since August 9, 2020, when Alexander Lukashenko was “reelected” as President of Belarus, the country has been engulfed by an unprecedented wave of peaceful protests, matched only by an equally unprecedented wave of police violence. Several demonstrators have been killed, hundreds of detainees including journalists tortured in prisons, students dragged out of classrooms, and members of the Coordination Council of the opposition either found themselves under arrest or were forced to go abroad (except for the Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Prize winner for literature, who remains in Minsk). This panel discussion, moderated by the poet and translator Valzhyna Mort, situates the events in Belarus in the political, historical and artistic contexts, bringing together a constellation of activists of the opposition from Minsk and elsewhere in Europe.
The event will be live-streamed on YouTube. To join, please follow this link: https://youtu.be/pee_I7yqCsI
Poet and translator Valzhyna Mort was born in Minsk, Belarus, and made her American debut in 2008 with Factory of Tears, followed in 2011 by Collected Body. She is the editor of two poetry anthologies and the recipient of the Lannan Foundation Fellowship, the Bess Hokins Prize from Poetry, the Amy Clamitt Fellowship, the Gulf Coast Journal Prize in Translation, as well as a number of European fellowships and prizes. Her third book of poetry, Music for the Dead and Resurrected, is coming out in November, 2020, from FSG. Valzhyna has been awarded a translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for her work on Polina Barskova’s collection, Air Raid. Over the past weeks, Valzhyna has been actively covering the events in Belarus for the New York Times, Financial Times and other major media. She lives in Ithaca, NY, and teaches at Cornell University.
Belarus-born director Darya Zhuk discovered filmmaking while studying Economics at Harvard. After beginning her career at HBO as a business analyst, she went on to earn her MFA degree with honors from Columbia University, focusing on Directing. Her debut feature film Crystal Swan was Belarus’ first entry into the Academy Award’s Best Foreign Language category in 22 years. Crystal Swan opened the prestigious Karlovy Vary “East of the West” competition and won many prizes such as Grand Prix in Odessa Film Festival, Almaty International Film Festival, Grand Prix at Tbilisi International Film Festival, FIPRESCI at Bratislava IFF, Youth Jury Award at Cork Film Festival and others. It had its North American Premiere at Slamdance in 2019. She then went on to direct the second season of the Russian-language streaming sensation Soderzhanki documenting the lives and crimes of Moscow’s oligarchs and their lovers. The show was subsequently acquired by Amazon Exclusives as “Russian Affairs.” Short films Darya wrote and directed have been selected to SXSW, Tarkovsky, Atlanta, Palm Springs, Oaxaca, Santa Fe Independent film festivals to name just a few. She received the Nick Louvel Breakthrough Filmmaker award, best female writer-director award from New York Women in Film and Television in 2015 and has been nominated for the best female director by Adrienne Shelly Foundation. Additionally, she is the winner of such prestigious film grants as New York State Council for the Arts, Panavision Emerging Filmmaker grant, and Interdisciplinary Council for the Art of Columbia University grants.
Andrei Zavalei is an LGBT activist and theatre producer from Belarus. For the last 6 years he has been involved in community building, increasing visibility and empowerment projects. At the moment, he is mostly focused on raising awareness about homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, as well as on independent theatre scene amplification in Belarus. He is Coordinator of Delo Pi (The Pischevsky Case) Campaign Against Homophobia in Memory of Mikhail Pischevsky, who was beaten to death after a gay party in Minsk in 2014. The Campaign aims to influence public opinion and give the LGBTQI* people in Belarus the power to act, using the strategy of reclaiming, hate speech reappropriation to disarm haters. “Delo Pi” Campaign organizes cultural and educational events, direct actions and flash mobs. Andrei is also Production Manager for HUNCHtheatre Belarus, which is focused on discovering new bright figures in independent playwriting and theatre, bringing actors together with queer artists, LGBTI+ activists, rehearsing via Skype to overcome cultural, linguistic and political barriers, to be part of international theatre movement. We cooperate with companies, individuals and organizations like Teatr.doc (Russia), Goethe-Insitut (Germany) and many others.
The Belarusian conductor Vitali Alekseenok has been chief conductor and musical director of the Abaco Orchestra at the University of Munich since the 2017/18 season. As prizewinner of the MDR Conducting Competition in Leipzig he conducted the MDR Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Lucerne Festival Strings, the Staatskapelle Weimar, the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonic Orchestras Jena, Gotha, Lviv and Hradec Kralove. In the field of opera, Vitali has worked as conductor, assistant, and vocal coach in opera houses such as the Theater an der Wien, the Bavarian State Opera, the Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, the Graz Opera, the German National Theatre Weimar, the Varna Opera (Bulgaria) and the Teatro Mancinelli Orvieto (Italy). Besides opera productions, he has also worked with several youth orchestras such as the Youth Symphony Orchestras of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Bremen, Saxony and the New Philharmonia Orchestra Munich. Vitali was born in Vileyka, Belarus, in 1991 and received his musical education at the St. Petersburg Conservatory under Prof. Aleksander Alekseev, and at the University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar under Prof. Nicolas Pasquet, Gunter Kahlert and Ekhart Wycik. He has taken part in master classes with Bernard Haitink, Maurizio Barbacini, Bruno Weil, Peter Stark, Marco Guidarini and Rüdiger Bohn, among others.
Tanya Kapitonova is a freelance photographer and journalist based in Minsk, Belarus. Since 2015, she has been covering cultural and activist spheres and making reportages. She works as a contributor to Getty Images and local media such as Belsat TV, Bolshoi magazine, 34mag, Citydog, and others. For the past 6 months she has been working as a news photographer and has been covering election campaigns and protests in Belarus.
Olga Shparaga studied Philosophy in Belarus and Germany. At the European College of Liberal Arts, Minsk, she currently curates the concentration in “Contemporary Society, Ethics and Politics” and teaches courses on a broad variety of philosophical themes. She was a Research Fellow at the Ruhr-University Bochum and Technical University of Freiburg (Germany), Centre for Theoretical Study (CTS, Prague, Czech Republic), Warsaw University of Technology (Poland), and The New School (New York, USA). Olga is on the Editorial Board of the Ideology and Politics Journal and of the Belarusian Journal for the Contemporary art pARTisan, as well as on the Advisory Board for the The Interlocutor. Journal of the Warsaw School of the History of Ideas. She is the author of two monographs: Community-after-Holocaust: On the Way to the Inclusion Society (Minsk: ECLAB books, 2018, in Russian) and Wake of Political Life: An Essay on the Philosophy of the Public Sphere (Vilnius: EHU, 2010, in Russian). She has also edited seven academic volumes. Her first book was recognized as the best monograph in philosophy for 2018 by the International Congress of Researchers of Belarus, and was shortlisted for the “Book of the Year – 2018” by the Belarusian PEN Center.