“The Big Homecoming” Installation and Discussion on the Revival Process in Bulgaria

November 29, 2019

In June 2019, the Sofia Platform, in cooperation with London-based artist Bayryam Bayryamali, gathered about 140 high school students in the south of Bulgaria to discuss the history and legacy of the so-called “Revival process.” The topic is more broadly related to the totalitarian communist regime´s policies on identity and minorities. This is the issue that we deal with in our ESSR lesson plan (available above on this blog).

The 3-day event, which we called “The Big Homecoming” (inspired by the term “big excursion,” which was commonly used to describe the events during communism), took place in the picturesque scenery of the Rhodope Mountains in the abandoned village of Oreshari (Krumovgrad municipality). This was an area that became the scene of violence committed by the communist regime against the Bulgarian Turks in the period of 1984-1989. Their names were changed, their culture and language forbidden, and parts of their community were displaced to Turkey. Oreshari has been completely depopulated over the past 30 years. It lost all of its citizens, the houses collapsed, and the only thing left behind is the disappearing memory of life that once was present in these houses.

By bringing students “on site,” we chose a different approach to engaging them in topics related to Bulgaria’s recent past. Here, reviving memories offers space for reflection on the sociological, psychological, geographical, and political consequences and helps to them engage with and understand the events much more deeply. We received very positive feedback from both students and teachers.

Through research in the Bulgarian national archives, interviews with survivors, and putting together a collection of portraits and personal items – like books, clothes, carpets, music and photographs – Bayryam constructed a narrative of those past events that, instead of focusing on the traditional perpetrator-victim dichotomy, emphasizes  solidarity between ethnic Bulgarians and the Bulgarian Turkish community. The walk through the installation in the village evolved into an interactive game, where everyone shared their knowledge on the Revival Process – what they learned about it from their families, school teachers, or other sources. Combined with the installation, we organized two rounds of interactive discussions on each of the three days focusing on the topics of memory, totalitarian regimes, and the Revival Process in particular. The discussions were led by the Sofia Platform, Bayryam Bayryamali, plus teachers, researchers and other experts on the topics.  

Further information can be found here: