"Around Europe""Around Europe": a journey, a film, a photo exhibit, and also a book. In the summer of 2013, five students of the Sophia University Institute travelled the roads of Europe to trace some places that were central to the conflicts of the old continent, and to see its wounds and the prospects of reconciliation still to be built. They passed through the cities of Sarajevo, Mostar, Brno, Warsaw, Siauliai (Lithuania), Berlin, Strasburg and Ronchamp, where each of the participants relived a piece of history. From the full coverage of this journey, film director, Antonio Castaldo, produced a documentary which was broadcasted recently on the “Rai History” TV programme.
Maria Hsu Min-Hui from Taiwan was one of the students who had participated in the trip. She studied contemporary art first in her country and then in France, and from there, arrived in Sophia. She works with diverse expressive forms: painting, sculpture, photography, and installations. Very impressed by the “Around Europe” project – she decided to narrate , her discovery of Europe through images: the photos she took along the way became an exhibition held at the Cozydunes Gallery in Berlin and are compiled in a precious volume Maria donated to Sophia at the conclusion of her post-graduate studies, where her comments accompany the images. "Finding the beyond" is the title of the volume: a discovery of what lies beyond, and reveals what is still hidden.
The flashes of life she captured through the lens gave Maria a glimpse of the prospects and promises of peace: a myriad of faces recount conflicts and relationships, and places with a painful past opening out to future integration. Among the touching images are that of the Hill of Crosses in Siauliai (Lithuania), an expression of the patient and tireless faith of the people, the bridges which, after the past tragedies in Mostar (Bosnia), today unites regions of diverse religions, and smiling faces under an arch in Strasburg...
Seen through the eyes of a Taiwanese everything speaks of a Europe that is still torn between old and recent contentions, but which manages day by day, to weave the path to mutual acceptance, dialogue, reconciliation, and fraternity, and looks ahead, to consolidating a future of sharing and solidarity between those who were separated up to recent times, and hopes that peace be possible, despite everything.
The reflections that act as captions to the photos, make the narration of the journey very dynamic: «A man I met by chance on the street– is the caption of a photograph of a man wearing sandals and a long beard. I thought he was Muslim due to his appearance, but he said to me: “Do not mistake me for my looks, I am a tourist, like you.” I wonder just how many times we create conflicts on the basis of our prejudices, and our impatience which so superficially simplifies the world.».
It is an invitation not to stop at external appearances, but to try to find unity behind apparent divisions.
by Federico Rovea