The New Theatre Institute of Latvia (NTIL) continued its engagement with ideas and initiatives during the second year of the “Magic Carpets” platform. These included exploring bilingual communities, fostering dialogues among different communities, addressing the impact of the war in Ukraine, and delving into the complexity of Russian-speaking identities. Specifically, NTIL focused on collaborating with people from the Ķengarags neighborhood in Riga. The emphasis was on building relationships, fostering conversations, establishing mutual trust, and involving more people in activities from the Ķengarags neighborhood, thereby highlighting this area on the map of Riga.
Ķengarags is the second biggest and most populated neighborhood in Riga. Despite its proximity to the center and a long coastline along the central river, the development of this area and the inclusion of local citizens have been neglected in several ways. This includes halting the construction of a local culture center, concentrating cultural events in other areas, and overlooking the possibilities along the riverside. The Ķengarags area is diverse in its landscapes, featuring massive block building areas, a wild nature riverside with different animals, a bird-watching tower, and empty unused pitches of land. By continuing projects in this neighborhood, the aim is to promote community engagement, social inclusion, and cultural diversity while highlighting the unique stories and experiences of the people who live there.
This year, NTIL invited one international and one local artist to work with communities in Ķengarags, focusing on public space. Theatre artist Modesta Jakeliūnaite from Lithuania and video artist Elina Matvejeva from Latvia were both interested in trans-generational dialogues, people’s stories, and their ability to work collaboratively with local communities.
Modesta is a young freelance actress from Vilnius. She graduated from Vytautas Magnus University with a degree in acting on stage and screen studies in Kaunas in 2018, Lithuania. After completing her studies, she interned in Poland at TR Warszawa theater and also in TeatrDramatyczny as a director’s assistant. Since 2019, Modesta Jakeliūnaite has primarily worked in the theatre (Artūras Areima Theater, Kaunas City Chamber Theatre) and participated in various workshops abroad (Jan Fabre teaching group, Griffon Dance company, Nowy teatr summer camp, etc.). She is interested in collecting and working with documentary material, particularly exploring the subject of the body in physical and documentary theater.
Elīna Matvejeva is a cinematographer, video artist, and filmmaker from Riga, Latvia. She works in the experimental and narrative film field, using analogue and digital media. Since 2016, she has actively worked as a video artist focused on “hybrid theatre.” Almost all her works in theaters and music shows have involved live camera performances on stage by herself. In collaboration with other artists, she has worked on video installations for exhibitions. In the same year, she became a member of Baltic Analog Lab, a community of artists and enthusiasts practicing and experimenting with analogue film and photography. In recent years, she has paid more attention to analogue experimental cinema and non-traditional viewing experiences of cinema, where cinema and montage extend beyond the screen. The motif that often runs through her experimental works is the uncertainty of space and existence in philosophical and physical interpretations, with a focus on the transformation of space and reality. Personal experience is portrayed as an illusion.
Modesta and Elīna began their residency with an interest in meetings with local people that were important, meaningful, life-changing, short but memorable, all connected to the Ķengarags neighborhood. Throughout the residency, they had different meetings, both planned and accidental, which formed and directed the process. They started by meeting seniors in the day center “Ķengarags.” Modesta, Elīna, and seniors mutually shared their knowledge, interests, and skills in various workshops.
As both artists were interested in trans-generational meetings and possible exchanges, they also connected with local youngsters from the children and youth center “Daugmale.” The artists attempted to reach youngsters who were not part of any artistic or social groups by organizing public picnics and distributing flyers about workshops. Alongside several workshops of analog photography, movement, acting, and storytelling with youngsters and seniors, Elīna and Modesta also encountered different people on the streets of Ķengarags, listening to their stories and taking photos of them.
By the end of the residency, artists, in collaboration with seniors from the day center “Ķengarags” and youngsters from the children and youth center “Daugmale,” created a poetic map of the neighborhood of Ķengarags using cyanotype technique. This map includes people, places, memories, and stories of the people they met. On August 18, the artists hosted a public visual-performative picnic called “Ķengarags Meeting Map” as the final event of the “Magic Carpets” residency in Ķengarags neighborhood. Modesta and Elīna presented the map by sharing their stories about different meaningful locations in Ķengarags. They also gave a chance for the rest of the people to engage by telling, drawing, writing their stories, memories, associations, and emotions connected to specific places, streets, houses of the neighborhood. The visual-performative picnic included a movement class, a photo exhibition, a short dance performance by youngsters, different snacks, and dishes that were part of some memories and stories of people met by artists.
By mapping different locations in Ķengarags and including personal stories and memories, and by opening up the process publicly, Modesta Jakeliūnaite and Elina Matvejeva encouraged community engagement and social inclusion, helping to create a sense of place and belonging.
In the final year of this Magic Carpets cycle, NTIL looks forward to continuing collaboration with organizations and communities in Ķengarags. They aim to gather all the stories and people who were involved, but also to engage new communities and create a common celebration where people from other neighborhoods would also be invited. They wish to improve the image of the neighborhood by strengthening the sense of their community and encouraging people to make the changes they wish for their own neighborhood.
Curatorial text by Linda Krūmiņa