Bartosz Nowicki – The Wall of Silence
www.bartosznowicki.com, co-owner and co-director of Third Floor Gallery and DICE – a project initiated by Bartosz Nowicki, Craig Bernard, David Taylor and Paul Corcoran. It primarily functions as a platform to highlight the thoughts and visual awareness of each member.
Poland never had a colony (although there were attempts to generate them). Human migration to this country never existed on a scale observed in Western Europe. Consequently, the history of Africans living there is minimal. An average citizen of Poland barely has any contact with a black person, especially in small cities or villages. Black people, even if they are born and raised in Poland, are perceived to be ‘the other’ someone from a different reality, different world, different space… An absence of common personal contact and ignorance caused by highly promoted stereotypes, which are clearly visible in Poland’s classical literature and poetry. This has its role in creating an atmosphere of ‘fear’ and lack of trust to ‘Africans’. This is often expressed in verbal or physical abuse.
Today the number of people with African descent living in Poland is higher than ever (but still small relatively). Poles, as a society, appear not to be prepared for this fact; they seem not to be educated enough. There is a wall between the black and white people of Poland and this is not the wall of hate, but the wall of the unknown, the wall of silence. It makes the existence of Polish black people harder than it could and should be.
The need for a change in the nation’s mentality has been recognised. This project is hoping to be a part of the taming process which is already taking place on many levels. There are foundations which organise cultural events raising awareness. In an educational book for teachers entitled How to Tell Polish Kids about Kids from Africa (2009) there are efforts to dismiss the unfair stereotypes. The change is also possible through everyday interaction. As Paul Runiga once told me: ‘through contact with me people here, in this small town, are changing their ideas about black people. They see me with my lovely son; I’m not drinking, not fighting on the street and have a good job. They start to think. Maybe the truth is not as we used to believe’.