“At that time it wasn’t easy for me to be in the public with my camera because the country was very sensitive to reporters like me,” photojournalist Hazir Reka tells a group of muralists. “Being in the public with a camera was no different to being in public with a weapon because of how much it could affect reality.” Reka’s referring to a tumultuous time in Kosovo’s history when the region was in the midst of war, an experience he shares with the artists who traveled to the region in September 2020 for Mural Fest Kosovo.
Organized by the art collective Void Projects (previously), which is helmed by Axel Void, the initiative sought to revitalize the public spaces within Ferizaj, a small city desolated by war. Fifteen international muralists—the list includesAruallan, Emilio Cerezo, Doa Oa, Alba Fabre, Maria Jose Gallardo, and Zane Prater—gathered for the project that U.K.-based filmmaker Doug Gillen documents in a new short film.
Throughout “Change,” Gillen follows ten of the artists as they immerse themselves in local life and engage with the city’s youngest residents through workshops and school initiatives that directly involved the children and teens in the creative process. Their resulting artworks are a reflection of these interactions and large-scale depictions of the area’s ecology, citizens, and cultural milieu. While each is distinct in aesthetic—Aruallan and Void produced a photorealistic rendering of an 11-year-old boy they met on the street, while Fabre’s ethereal mural depicts an unknown woman lying in the water in traditional clothing, for example—they’re all infused with themes surrounding the city’s unique environment and more universal understandings of shared humanity.
“The greater this connection, the more effective the work. Exploring the human stories of Ferizaj in this way, at this very unique moment in time, felt like an important opportunity to document meaningfully,” Gillen said.
Watch the full film above to dive further into Kosovo’s history, and see all of the murals and glimpses into the artists’ experiences collaborating with Ferizaj residents on Void Projects’ Instagram.