Common Ground

Page 1



Sharing spaces. Getting active together. Supporting and understanding each other’s suffering. Overcoming division. Feeling comfortable with yourself and reaching out to others. Giving and receiving. Standing up, making issues visible.

A hidden layer of the world


Neither even nor odd


Renja Nurmi

Thea Marie Klinger

The Missing Voices 26 Nicola Lanciotti

Four Room Diary 36 Salih Basheer

Thin Line 46 Simon Gerlinger

From the Street to the Ring Arafat Bin Siraji


Home At Dark 66 Katie Reahl

Parkour and Momo 76 Azadeh Besharati

Sounds on a winter’s nigth Pranabesh Das



A hidden layer of the world Renja Nurmi



The world is not what you think it is. There is more to it. Even the bushes and bridges might hide the door for new discoveries. This is a story about going on an adventure in a way that is precious to me. DAY 1 I sit down on the bench, look around in the park and start going through all the metallic parts of the bench. I check the arm holders by touching them and glance behind the back. The app tells me the geocache I am looking for is a micro-sized box which is easily hidden (1.5/5) with a quite easy terrain difficulty (1/5). It means it should be accessible even for someone in a wheelchair. From experience, I know micro-sized means anything from a film jar to smaller. The description says it is attached with a magnet. With all this information, I concluded that the bench is the obvious target in the zero point of the coordinates. I notice someone walking towards me and I quickly begin to look at my phone. She passes by and I can continue. I try to act as normally as possible while still examining the bench. Being as unnoticed as possible is one of the main rules in geocaching. All the geocachers have a common agreement that it is vital to do so to keep the

caches safe and not destroyed. I pretend I am lacing up my shoes and look at the underside of the bench. Nothing. I am starting to feel that I look very suspicious if I examine the bench more precisely or expand the searching area. I am scared I might have already drawn too much of someone’s attention. I feel stupid because this geocache was supposed to be very easy to find. I give up. DAY 2 I equip myself with a fully charged phone, power bank, charger and pen. Then I start biking. The first cache is in a middle-class area of detached and semi-detached houses. From the geocaching app map, I can see that the cache is on a private area, attached to the wall of a garage. Because it is there I am allowed to go there but I still need a moment to gain some courage. I unlock a lock next to the mailbox-sized cache with a number combination that is shared in the cache description online. The small box opens and I get a key to open the actual cache’s front side. I take a small log book from there, write the date and my username, put it back and close the cache. This one was super easy to find. Then I log my visit also in the app thanking for the cache.


On the site of the second cache I have to go through bushes into a small forest. I know this geocache is creatively constructed because it has got a lot of favourite points in the app. Soon I find a wooden monkey hanging from a tree and I see the cache up in the tree. I am supposed to move the monkey up and down somehow using the rope to get the small thumb sized cache down, but I cannot figure out how that works. I feel stupid. I try reading the last logs on the app to get a hint of what I should do. I cannot find anything helpful there but I see a four-

meter-long stick close by. It looks perfect for getting the cache down because it has a small branch at the end of it. I get the cache down by threading the small branch through a hook in the cache. There is a small piece of rolled paper inside and I log my name to it. I am always a bit scared of not managing to return the cache on its place, but luckily it goes without problems. On the road to the last cache, I find one cache on a beach, see one too high on a dead tree and find one under a heavy well cover.



The last one is too hard for me this time. I had my hopes up because the previous logs in the app were worshiping the cache. I examine the wooden bridge from above and from below for a long time. Reading the logs and watching the photos of the cache are not any help. I know it is very well camouflaged and added to be almost as part of the bridge but I cannot spot anything sticking out. I wish I was geocaching with my family as I usually do. Help from them would have been needed here. In addition, it would have been so much nicer to be frustrated together. I hate these disappointing moments, but my only option is to give up and go get some food before I lose hope of everything in life. Despite a few disappointments, this was a good day. I love it how the geocaches offer me a good reason to go out and explore the surroundings. DAY 3 I head to the other side of Aarhus because I found out there are two great geocaches. To get to the first one I must walk through a wet grass field and pass a group of

people training dogs. I am sure it looks very weird that I just walk past them to the forest. On the second one I feel the same when I walk next to a highly guarded fence in an industrial area. For both I need to figure out their working mechanisms to get them open with metal sticks. They are like puzzles in which you must think out of the box. All the people giving them favourite points were right: these are truly good caches. I give them favourite points, too. DAY 4 Later I return to the bench. But while approaching I realise I might have sat on the wrong bench the first time. There are other benches very close to the one I examined. I choose one of the benches by random. I start searching by touching all the metallic parts. Nothing. Once again I lean forward pretending to lace up my shoes and I see a small box on the underside of the seat. The box looks just like I expected it to be. I grab it, log the date and my username to the log book, and put it back.


Even though this geocache was a very basic one and it did not require any talent, magic tricks or physical achievements, I feel like a hero because I finally found it. On my way home, I log my visit on the geocaching app: “At first I was searching in a bit wrong place but at the right place I found it easily. TFTC.” Thanks for the cache. I have now found 16 of the over 35 000 geocaches in Denmark. So many adventures left. GEOCACHING AS AN ADVENTURE For me geocaching is a way to go on adventures nearby and even in places that I already know. It opens new perspectives to the world around us. The geocaches can be seen as a hidden layer of this world we live in. You do not need to travel around the world to find adventures. They can also be here. By geocaching I have found amazing places in my home town and I doubt I would have found those oth-

erwise. I have admired a foggy scene from a bird tower, climbed underneath so many bridges and billboards, found beautiful abandoned buildings, opened fake drain covers, electrical boxes, dog poops and “do not smoke” signs. My relatives and sisters have climbed up on huge trees, landed and crawled into a rainwater drains, and climbed on top the structures of big bridges. Sometimes the places are amazing, sometimes the best part is the way the cache is made, and sometimes the glory is in knowing that there is a secret hidden and most of the people passing by do not know about it. But sometimes it is just nice to spend time with my family. I have joked many times that geocachers would be very good at hiding drugs. I have heard people accidentally finding hidden drug stashes and once me and my friend found a hidden pipe that someone was clearly using for something illegal. But those were not hidden as well as many geocaches.

Neither even nor odd Thea Marie Klinger





The humming sound of the air-conditioning cuts the silence in the small bathroom where Richi puts on make-up. Two cotton swabs will have to do the job – Richi couldn’t find the brush. Out of the many colors that are placed around the sink, Richi starts with a bright, shiny blue for the eyelids. For Richi, makeup is one way of using the body for self-expression. Richi doesn’t feel comfortable with the gender they* were assigned at birth. Today, they identify neither as a woman, nor as a man, but as non-binary. It has been a long road of getting to know themselves - and it still is.

Growing up in Brazil in a strongly religious family that is part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Richi felt very early that they didn’t fit in the strict boxes that society has to offer. Richi’s family wanted Richi to dress up in a certain way, but for Richi it didn’t feel right, so they often dressed up differently and would sometimes be misgendered by people. But that didn’t bother Richi – it was interesting to try out different genders. But since the world around Richi suggested that there are only 0 or 1, only male and female, Richi is still fighting to find balance within their own body. “It’s a lot of struggle,

* Richi prefers to use “they/ them/ themselves”, instead of the female or male pronouns.

and it’s very confusing. Because you grow up and you feel like there is no place for you in society, and people don’t recognize you as you recognize yourself” Richi says. “A big part of being non-binary is doing this work of deconstructing and understanding yourself. You have to dive deep into self-knowledge, otherwise, you go crazy.”


The air is still humid. There are white little spots in the mirror, where Richi takes a long look at themself. Having finished the blue, Richi adds pink next to it. The binary system Today, Richi is living in Aarhus, Denmark. Although having figured out how they want to be seen by others, there’s still a long battle to fight to make non-binary people more visible in society. Looking at the danish system, there are many changes to be made, starting from something that every person living in Denmark has: The Personal Identification (CPR) number. This number is part of the personal information stored in the Civil Registration System. It is needed everywhere, from making appointments at a doctor’s office to getting books from a library. The last digit in the CPR number indicates your sex: If it is even, you will be registered as female, if it is an odd number, you will be registered as male. Before 2014, people were only able to change the last digit if they had gone through gender confirming surgeries. Now, it is possible to change without that – but there’s still an option missing between odd and even and people must wait six months between first claiming they want to change to having it changed. Trying to fit into these systems although you do not can be very painful. As Richi says, “Many of us have depressions, because we struggle with our identity. But we don’t struggle because we don’t know who we are, we struggle because we are not accepted for whom we are.”



The researcher Molly Occhino works to capture trans and non-binary people’s experiences of well-being and care in Denmark. They say: “Being happy within such a sick system is a radical act. […] Especially trans and non-binary people have worse rates of mental health issues, higher rates of depression, higher rates of anxiety, of suicidal tendencies, drug and alcohol abuse. It’s because trans people live in such a cis and heterosexual world, that it’s really difficult to navigate as a trans person.” Finding balance through experimentation Over time, Richi found their ways of creating balance within themself, mostly through experimenting with different forms of self-expression, such as make-up, clothes or costumes. To make the body match the mind, Richi started to take hormones two years ago. The hormones led to a more androgynous looking body and a voice that Richi feels comfortable with. It is especially Richi’s back that has changed over time and now belongs to the body parts

that Richi likes most. Richi says: “Taking hormones made me less anxious about how people see myself, it made me more chill. If you are confident on yourself and who you are, you gonna be able to connect with people, because connecting is about self-confidence and the ability to feel good enough about yourself, that you can reach out to others.” Also practicing Buddhism, writing and meditation help a lot to find peace - and deal with the challenges that come with living in an oppressive binary gender system. Another close examination in the mirror follows. There’s blue and pink on Richi’s eyelids now, both shiny and bright. Richi adds another color to finish the statement, a glittering silver. It is the colors of the transsexual flag. Pink for women, blue for men, and white for everybody else.

The Missing Voices Nicola Lanciotti

Underrepresented and stereotyped artists show their unique perspectives on what the creative industry is missing. Is the modern society we live in actually modern? Some of the basics are not there yet: equality between genders is a mirage in the sterile patriarchy that, still to this day, characterizes most western societies. A sterile patriarchy that has manifested itself both culturally and structurally. It created barriers that hinder women and non binary people from having the same opportunities as men. In the art industry, where gender should be of absolute irrelevance because of the nature of art itself, women and non-binary people experience discrimination due to the industry being heavily dominated by men. Since art is an activity driven by personality and experiences that explore human conditions such as birth, growth, aspiration, conflict, and morality, there is no doubt that genders express

creativity in different ways. However, that should not limit the field to one over another. Today many creative voices share the goal of equalizing this industry, underlining the beauty that lies in the uniqueness of a gendered or non-gendered creative idea. According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, artwork by female artists represents only 3–5% of major permanent collections in Europe and the United States, whilst only 13,7% of living artists represented by galleries in Europe and North America are women. As a consequence of this underrepresentation, female artists are missing a voice in this field. Not to mention non-binary people that still to this day remain undocumented. Gender inequality does not only persist in the visual arts; it persists in almost all cultural and creative sectors, with individuals experiencing discrimination based on their gender and identities.

Mille Mille Holtegaard, portrayed in the previous page, is a non-binary conceptual artist based in Gothenburg, Sweden. Talking about gender, Mille says; “The interesting thing about gender is that it is something we constructed. Just take the notion of what we think as feminine: It is made up on this specific culture. Pink, for example, changed from being a male to a female colour. In other cultures, it is a lot more normal for women to wear pants and for men to wear dresses, and Christianity, that shaped most of the Western world, is one of the only religions that has created a black and white for what concern genders. It is interesting to think of how much of a difference between the genders is because of biology and how much of it is just something we projected into it.” Mille’s work has been exhibited at the Power Of Women (POW) Festival in Aarhus, an annual festival in Denmark that encourages new facets and powerful perspectives on the meaning and importance of the gender role within art and culture. Mille’s project in the festival consists of an urn with the ashes of some of the clothes that Mille does not identify with anymore. “I was forced to wear feminine clothes for most my life and that created trauma in me, gender dysphoria. I am only displaying the ashes because I want people to think about what could make a person feel uncomfortable in their own body”.


Cecilie Cecilie Stoppa, portrayed above, works on the idea of deformation and physical ideals through photography and sculpture. In her project “Seeking Comfort in the Uncomfortable,” she explores the everyday movement of wearing a bra: An object designed by a man that has become part of the everyday life of almost every woman on the planet. The movement of reaching back became a series of self-portraits where Scoppa emphasizes the awkwardness of this gesture. Cecilie’s work reflects her strong personality. She says;

“I always identify with being a woman, but I have the confidence to negotiate my salary, I have the confidence to stand up and say what I want to say. Maybe it is something I was born with.” Stereotyping often portrays females as the gender with weaker traits. They are often moulded into stereotypical behaviours which not all conform to.

The Blacksmiths The distinctive mineral smell of iron and the sharp noise of the hammer on metal are the first things you notice entering Kvindesmedien in Christiania. A smithy founded back in 1997, which has become a landmark for females passionate about the art of modelling iron. Today the smithy is not only run by women, but has since expanded due to its popularity. The presence of gendered stereotypes in our society prevent individuals from choosing their desired path in life. This is not the case for Sif and Astrid. They have been working as blacksmiths for 2 and 6 years. They move with confidence and grace and seem to be at ease sharing the workspace with men.





Blacksmithing, the art of designing and forging utensils and furniture, has always been a man-dominated profession. Though, since medieval times, widowed wives ventured to this craft to continue the family business in their husbands’ place. Unconsciously, mostly for necessity, they started a path of acceptance for women in this field. As much in the past as in our day, female blacksmiths are not a common phenomena, as this physical profession to this day remains mostly practiced by men. However, in a place like Kvindesmedien, the female presence is thought to motivate girls who might be conditioned by their preconception.


Mathilde Danish writer and editor Mathilde Ravn Melvang is interested in gender influences in art. She wrote an essay for POW Festival about the Swedish painter Hilma Af Klint. She expresses: “I do not believe genders are fundamentally different in their approach to art. They might have different life experiences.” ”For instance, men and women can write about giving birth but, because of the different way they experience that moment in life, they will produce different books.” “We are brought up differently and there are different social expectations to men and women.” Social expectations, in fact, can be oppressive and inaccurate, preventing creatives from following the uniqueness of their nature. Multiple gendered perspectives in art complement and add complexity to our society portraying narratives generated from unique life experiences. The problem related to gender inequality in art lies in our culture and in the role that men and masculinity have played for thousands of years. Acknowledging the issue and empowering all genders is the only way we can move forward towards a society in which we can appreciate the beauty of different creative voices.

“Gender refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed. As a social construct, gender varies from society to society and can be changed over time”. World Health Organization




Salih Basheer


Home is no longer home. In the last 7 years, I have

been living abroad most of the time. I go home for one month or less a year. In a way, every place became like home. I lose part of my belonging to home in every new place I live and visit. The journey started when I traveled in 2013 to study for my bachelor at Cairo University. There I had to live with strangers in a shared space. I have since shared four flats with different people and every time I have moved to a new flat in the last 7 years I have met people who are still my friends today, and others I will never hear from or meet again.


I landed in Copenhagen on Monday at noon; my nose was hurting after I wore a medical mask on the four-and-a-halfhour flight from Cairo to Copenhagen. The airport checkpoint employee welcomed me with a sweet smile behind a desk with a glass front. She asked me about the reason for my visit and about my address. I replied I was visiting to study and showed her some documents; she smiled and stamped the entry on my passport. I left the airport and completed a three-and-a-half-hour journey on the bus to the city where I will live for the next twelve months. I arrived in Aarhus at nine o’clock in the evening. One of the students from the school was waiting for me at the

bus station beside the harbor. He drove me to my address and gave me a copy of the key to my apartment located in Brabrand district outside the city center five and a half kilometers away. I was feeling excited and a bit strange, it was nine o’clock in the evening and still sunny outside. I imagined Cairo sky and how at that moment, it would have been dark. I always suffer from insomnia on my first night in a strange place. I watched a movie and looked for something to eat, and then I went to bed late after midnight. I woke up at 6 in the morning the next day before sunrise.


The Sun came out through thick grey clouds for a few seconds and disappeared again. The winter is cold and dark here, yesterday it got dark at five in the evening. I woke up at seven in the morning; the sky was gloomy. I had a strong feeling to pee, I ran towards the toilet, but the door was closed. I went to the kitchen, and I searched for a plastic bottle. I was the first person to arrive at the apartment a month before the others. In a four-room apartment, I felt lonely. I sent a message to my three roommates, attaching some pictures of the apartment and a video recording of the lake view through the forest trees that I could see easily from the balcony on the fourth floor of the building.


Hi guys, how are you doing? This is Salih, your flatmate in Aarhus. I arrived Friday. The place looks stunning and beautiful; the apartment has the best view. Looking forward to seeing you soon in Aarhus.


Oh, Salih, that looks amazing!! I can't wait to meet all of you in Aarhus. I've heard a lot of good stuff about the flat!! And the view looks amazing! I will arrive around the 10th of August! Save me some nice room. Looking forward to meeting you there.


I checked the weather on my phone; it will be a rainy and windy day. I took the bus instead of my bike. I didn’t pay for the ticket. In the evening, while preparing a sandwich, I told Arafat how time flies backward when I drink my third beer. Usually, I wait in front of the broken toaster for a few minutes, pressing it down, and then I get bored. The toast has been burning for a few seconds now. This project is an everyday personal diary. It is the journey of living side by side with new people in a shared space and learning to understand one another through the time spent together, going from being strangers to becoming friends.

It looks beautiful! I think we will be a bit late. Because of the pandemic, the Danish embassy was closed till the 6th of July! Let's see what happens... Hope to see you soon. Take care... Sorry for the late reply. I didn't see the msg. It was in another folder!


Thank You, Salih... It is very nice to meet you... Maybe I need a little longer time to come to Aarhus, but I will meet with you anyway soon... Have a nice day.


I turned my room light off so I could see the moon light getting through the window. It took me back home!




Simon Gerlinger



I am driving in no-man’s-land. The wind is cold, and it just stopped raining. I find myself in a small town alone on the street. I feel displaced, lonely and a bit wrong, doing a project about a border which is closed for tourist at the moment. A line is going more or less randomly through countryside, villages, lakes, and gardens. I find myself in a place where I normally just pass through going from country to country. Who lives down here and how is a fence changing this area? This question brought me down here to experience No man’s land on my own.

Border business

Going from east to west, my first stop is Kruså, which is a city with 1600 inhabitants right above the German City Flensburg. Significant for that spot is the infrastructure

after the checkpoint. On two sides I see a closed Bingo Hall, an abandoned closed Hotel, three closed “secondhand Danish flea markets” stores, two sex shops (one is open), and a Danish hotdog store. Which is also closed. Bastian, who has been working over the last 12 years in one of the sex shops tells me that the area relies on tourists. Currently, they all are suffering from the closed border. They are kind of the only ones who are still open because now and then a few customers come in. Back in the sixties when Denmark legalized the selling of pornography, there was a big boom in the sex shop industry. Back then most of the customers came from Germany where it was illegal to sell pornography. Nowadays there is a little shift. Not only to German tourists come in, but


also a lot of people from Denmark come to get advice on sex toys instead of buying them online.Their customers range from groups of teenagers to Mothers advising their daughters which Toy they should buy. But also, the older generation comes in to just buy an old school DVD instead of searching for hours online for the right movie. Across the street is a massive building with big red letters writing BINGO. In its heydays every night 600 people came to the hall to try their luck. It was packed and you could smell smoke in the air. Today there are still 200 people participating three times a week in the Game but doing Covid19 they are now closed.

Charline is the granddaughter of the owner of the hall. 30 years ago, her Grandmother bought the building to start doing daily Bingo Games for money. Playing with money on Bingo Games is illegal in Germany. Because of that most of the players are Germans and come with big shuttle busses over the border. Charline told me stories of people who come every night for the last 30 years. It is pretty common that they have their specific seat and bring their personal pillow.




For a lot of these old people, the Bingo Hall serves as common ground with their Danish neighbours to have a friendly exchange.

Who are we afraid of?

On empty streets with fields and the continuous flowing wild pig fence, I drive further east to talk with Hans Kristensen a wildlife author and expert on wild boar migration. He has claimed in several media publications that

there is no documentation that a fence like this one helps from keeping the pigs out of the country. We talk a lot about the change in that area during the last 20 years. He says that it changed in two ways. On the one side, local minority parties moved away from being nationalists, and fight more for local improvements which are in his point of view, good and help in the exchange of both cultures. But on the other side, he also sees that with the fence the approach to the border changed from having it be as invisible as possible to seeing again a clear separation. He thinks this comes with the upcoming more nationalist orientated society and government who are more concerned about refugees than wild pigs coming in the country. He wonders who we are really afraid of?


Finding hope on the other side of the fence

While researching I looked for special places on the way. During that process, I also found SĂŚd which is a small village a bit more west. A lot of these small places struggle with the lack of having an actual community that is connected and works together on projects. Christian Andresen and Lars Thomsen decided to change this. They both are in the Local Council and look for innovative ideas to make life in SĂŚd more attractive. One of their Projects is a house which can be rented out for a year from people who are thinking about moving to the countryside. Just two months ago Vera, who is a German Journalist, and her husband Linas, a Lithuanian Painter, and their family moved from Leipzig, Germany to the house in the community.

They both met in Warsaw and after Vera became pregnant with her first daughter, they decided to move to Leipzig. Since space with three kids was little and the city loud and warm, they looked for alternatives. Their youngest daughter also suffers from Down Syndrome and now Vera is hoping to get a better education for her in one of the small classes at the German School in Denmark. Both are so used to speaking polish with each other that they never really switched to German. It is an interesting experience to learn a common new language together living in Denmark. Understanding how it feels to live in a region next to a border is impossible in a week. However, I feel that I experienced at least a glimpse of the situation which is more diverse than I thought. I was not expecting that an area normally dominated by tourists can feel like a ghost town without them.



From the Street to the Ring Arafat Bin Siraji




The former top boxer and WBA champion Reda Zamzam is back in the boxing room at Tovshøjskolen, where he himself learned to box as a 14-yearold. Now he has founded Zamzam Boxing Academy and is ready to give local youth a new life with boxing.

For several years there has been silence in the former boxing club on Janesvej 2. But no longer - for 40-yearold Reda Zamzam from Aarhus Municipality has been allowed to use the premises. And on Saturday, September 12, he invites everyone in the local community to drop by for the opening reception of Zamzam Boxing Academy. Reda Zamzam still remembers the day he entered the boxing room at Tovshøjskolen as a 14-year-old. He quickly noticed that he had a flair for boxing and experienced success in the first of his over 200 fights in the ring. “I have so many memories from here - it really is a room I love. I am so ready and motivated to now pass on some of those experiences,”he says.

First and foremost is the invitation to the local youth. He offers them an alternative to using their strength on street corners: “Some young people lack healthy role models and are entering a vicious circle. Instead of walking around the street, they should come up to me and use their energy and experience a social gathering. ” He promises it will be both hard and fun. Most of all, young people should feel the fatigue that means they have used all their muscles.

Starting as an association On a daily basis, Reda Zamzam is the activity leader in the Red Cross at the exit center KĂŚrshovedgĂĽrd. He spends his free time getting boxing going again in Gellerup. He has set up team training for 12-18-year-olds and is ready to take young people in for individual training at other times of the day. For the time being he has founded Zamzam Boxing Academy as an association, but the plan is that it will later become a company where he can make a living by providing training and team building for both companies, associations, individual training.





“There is always hope!� Reda Zamzam managed to become a Danish champion several times before he debuted as a professional in 2002. Over the years he was an idol for many in Gellerup, where he was also a club educator and co-founder of Brabrand Boxing Club. As a professional, he won 23 matches in a row and reached a total of 30 matches as a professional. Among other things, he became an intercontinental champion during the WBA. Almost eight years ago Reda Zamzam said goodbye to boxing after only his third defeat in 30 professional fights. For a long time, he had completely lost the desire to box.


But now he feels completely fresh again and has the energy to found Zamzam Boxing Academy . He is ready to once again become the role model for Gellerup’s young people that he has always dreamed of being. He has a clear message for young people: “There is always hope. You just have to get up again! Stop the bad habits and look ahead, there is always someone who can help you. I got the help when I needed it, and now I am ready to help others! ”



Home At Dark Katie Reahl


It’s dark. You’re walking alone on the sidewalk, lit by streetlights and the occasional passing car. You turn a corner to see, far away on your side of the street, a woman walking in your direction. Eventually, you will pass each other. Fears of catcalling, groping, mugging, and rape have long made themselves comfortable in the back of her head. They’re almost like old friends that keep her company in the dark, keeping her mind busy and her pace quick. If you are a woman, she will likely see you as an ally. If you are a man, she will likely see you as a threat. Unfortunately, you’ve already ruined her plan to stay unnoticed and invisible. In Aarhus, Denmark I spoke with women from around the world about their thoughts and experiences walking at night, as well as the related habits they’ve de-

veloped to stay safe. Even though many have never experienced anything serious, to feel safe during a few minutes worth of walking home is a feat in itself. Johanne Luth, an Aarhus local and political science student, explains the different catalysts of fear, “One is being mugged by someone who is desperate and not in a good state. And then there is more of the more like sexist insecurity... it’s not about money, or something like that, but it’s about power and an older guy feeling entitled to approach me or talk to me or something like that.” There was an undeniable common thread. “It’s definitely the presence of men, and especially in groups, but also if they’re alone...and if they’re under influence,” continues Johanne.

Aimée Wallin From Stockholm


Aimée Wallin, a political science student from Stockholm studying in Aarhus, speaks about her relationship to her fear, “Even me, I think it’s irrational...Nothing has ever happened...But I still, I still feel like I need to protect myself.” For Wallin, fear is not something that stays in her head. She is stuck in an energy draining loop. She explains, “sometimes I get angry at myself for like, worrying too much. Because it drains my energy as well... I just know that nothing is going to happen, but I’m still so scared... I don’t know, it’s like your body fucking has to handle that. And it’s not only in your head it’s like very physical.” This feeling of irrationality also brings with it guilt. Wallin continues, “I really don’t have any like rational explanations for being this scared. Imagine then all the other women living in conditions where like, this is just, these kind of crimes are real. And they have a fucking reason to be scared.” Wallin recounts something a friend told her, “‘you can’t do anything about it and doesn’t matter, like, how much you protect yourself or how fast your heartbeats. If something is happening, it’s gonna happen.’” While Wallin often uses this sentiment to calm herself down, this also makes her fear and defenses seem frivolous.

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Alena Rodicheva From St.Petersburg

71 Alena Rodicheva, an international student studying at DMJX recounts her route home in St.Petersburg, “I have to spend maybe five minutes walking from the bus stop to my home. I don’t feel really safe. And I don’t know why because I have never faced some bad guys.” She continues, “I make myself not to be scared because I try to explain myself, ‘No. It’s fine. It’s just your home. It can’t be so bad. Just relax.’” During one of these walks, Alena was groped in an alley right by her house. She recounts, “I didn’t know how to react. Of course, if I would say something, probably he will respond. Probably, he will continue doing something unpleasant for me.” “Why it usually feels like they’re hunters and we are victims,” Alena elaborates, “it’s not normal that in the modern world we have to be afraid of man. We don’t have to care for it. It’s our world and we have to feel safe in it. We are also at home. We have the same right to be here as they do.”

Recommends: Keys in hand Look for security cameras Walk fast

Johanne Luth From Aarhus


Johanne Luth, a political science student and Aarhus local speaks about the amount of power women have in staying safe, “when we’re talking about safety, for women in general, my analysis is that the safety aspect depends a lot on how the persons who would potentially, like target you or do something to you, how they see you. It’s basically a question of power.” Luth explains a different kind of fear, “I’m afraid in the sense that I don’t want them to get away with it. Because there’s not a lot of things that I can actually do about it other than speaking up.” Johanne regularly calls men out when they act inappropriately. She explains, “If I feel safe, I will react to it. Again, to try to, like socially sanction it or be like ‘this is not okay.’ And especially if they’re young. Because it is a little bit of like...raising them publicly.” For Luth, she is not only changing the behavior of perpetrators, but also in advance “protecting someone who’s like, more vulnerable than me.” She actively fights against changing how she dresses and travels at night. She elaborates, “it’s not my responsibility to change my behavior because someone else is acting like an asshole.” Although she feels comfortable walking around Aarhus at night, especially enjoying her walks home from the bar to listen to music and get fresh air, Johanne still gets on edge when she passes a man on the street. She explains, “I don’t want to be an asshole who’s suspecting everyone I meet, like, that’s what I want to get away from. I love men and I love meeting them in the nightlife. I just wish that this sort of like pattern of behavior, like structure, wouldn’t also weigh down on the nice guys.” Recommends: Respond to catcalls with “who raised you?” Give yourself time to think by shocking men if you feel unsafe

Anna-Theresa Bachmann From Leipzig Anna-Theresa Bachmann, a German journalist currently working in Aarhus, previously lived in Cairo. She explains her journey learning to adapt to increased sexual harassment. “Cairo is world famous for sexual harassment,” she explains, “I also didn’t leave the house sometimes because I didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel strong enough to face this shit.” As Anna-Theresa learned to react, she began to get energy from it. “Sometimes it can also be very powerful to just you know, tell them to fuck off or to even splash water on them or something. I did all of that.” Part of the problem, Anna-Theresa says, is that conversations about women’s experiences at night go unspoken, “Everyone has something that’s happened to them, but because it’s regular, you always think it’s not important…these little things that are likely not solvable become something that you don’t even mention, because you know that it happens to everyone.” Although she is very comfortable walking at night, when she gets in a panicked headspace, to calm herself she remembers “this fear, it’s definitely real, but it’s not logic.” She elaborates, “when you look at the statistics, you see that most of the violence, also sexual violence that women face, is not permitted by strangers who grab you at night and take you somewhere. I mean, it’s the people in your immediate environment, like your family, your partner.” For women walking at night fearing abduction and rape, this is good news. All too often, this fear of sexual assault takes away the joy of night life for women. Anna-Theresa often goes for hour long walks alone at night. Anna-Theresa explains, “I don’t want this fear to control the fun and take away this mystery that I first had with the night.” Recommends: Be confident when you walk Speak in a lower voice Be conscious of the sounds your shoes make



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Parkour and Momo

Azadeh Besharati



For Momo parkour is fearlessness and strength. Moumen Machlah, with the nickname Momo, is 23 years old and full of happiness, power and self-confidence, emotions that he hopes to spread to the world around him. Momo was born in Denmark with his parents having migrated from Syria. He studies political science, but his true passions lies in parkour, which he has been doing since he was 13. A free performance Parkour to him is a free performance art that anyone can enjoy either by themselves or by watching other people doing it. He told me, �before starting doing parkour, I was very insecure and in a bad physical shape. But since then, my shape has become so much better and I realized how much worse my life would have been.�

The parkour community has taught him so much, both in terms of parkour, but also in terms of life in general. Because of that, he wants to help everyone else. When he does parkour in the streets where everyone can see him, he feels like he can channel the positive energy that he feels to the people watching, as if they can feel the rush that he feels. The general response he meets is positive, usually encouraging. However, he has encountered his fair share of elderly people who scold him, although usually they stick to telling him to be more careful.

Being creative One of the elements that makes parkour so exciting to Momo is that every place he visits is a new playground. It is about being creative with one’s surroundings and not just see a wall as a wall, but as an opportunity for art. To help secure a safe and creative future for himself and the world around him, he decided to study political science. He says, “even if I can not do parkour forever, I will always do what I can to help better the world, if not by doing parkour then by way of political science.” Aarhus Parkour Just like parkour helped him, through his work as a coach he teaches fearlessness and strength to the world around him. Momo is a senior coach at Aarhus Parkour. To him, the parkour association is vital. In fact he thinks Aarhus Parkour is the best Parkour Association in Denmark. The Association supports the parkour community by organizing training sessions, gatherings and ongoing development of members’ personal and professional competencies and goals. Training in Aarhus Parkour is the essence of the parkour culture, which in everyday speech means that training is very autonomous. This helps a lot so the training is community focused instead of a single trainer. He says, “When the weather allows it, we usually train outside, but of course we have regular training days inside.”



History of parkour One culturally influential figure upon the inception of parkour is George Hebert. Hebert was a French naval officer who travelled the world pre-WWI and came to have an influence upon physical training within the French military and upon large parts of the western world. Hebert’s ‘Natural Method’ was influenced by the observations he made of ‘native peoples’: “Their bodies were splendid, flexible, nimble, skilful, enduring, resistant and yet they had no other tutor in gymnastics but their lives in nature.” Influenced by Rousseau’s concept of the ‘noble savage,’ he formulated a physical training programme that utilised at its core, the activities of; “walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, equilibrism (balancing), throwing, lifting, defending and swimming.” Heberts’ influence can be seen in ‘adventure playgrounds,’ ‘assault courses’ and other such physical activity apparatus, which utilise ‘natural’ environments. Heberts motto: “to be strong, to be useful” seems to sum up the ethos of his vision. Parkour, as an art form, was established by David Belle in France in 1988 and it revolves around moving freely, as if without obstruction, so that one can reach their destination as fast and efficiently as possible. Text courtesy of Neill Brown, Tony Wolfe.



I believe that every human being will, eventually, want to find a language with which they can communicate with the rest of the world. I remember thinking, in my childhood and youth, that my personal universal language would be poetry. However, I came to realize that in my poetry, there was a natural language barrier. This, I realized, after many years, when I started with photography. Photography, I found, was my language with which I could speak to anyone in the world, my way of expressing my passion, my emotions and my way of life. This made me think that people probably speak more with each other, or at least more effectively, through their actions, their hobbies, passions and dreams. They channel their messages through these, as a universal language.



Sounds on a winter’s night Pranabesh Das

The nuances of life suddenly shifted as the calendar page turned to November and the clock struck one twice. While my social media was filled with November rain posts from home, I stayed cold in my 6 by 8 room. The need to hibernate became apparent. The leafless trees, the lifeless streets, and the dimming sunlight played agents to my growing agony. Travelling from a tropical country to land that is 3,870.44 miles north of the equator, I now often spend sleepless nights.


In one wakeful night, I lit a cigarette and found another fading fire close by. It was my roommate Simon, a German-born photographer who is also my classmate here. Sitting on chairs and stretching our legs on the railing, we watched the night fall. Daylight escapes in a blink of an eye now. A bronze Chevrolet at a distance was covered with a grey plastic sheet. The silence was deafening.


I broke it with the sound of a full puff, and the following conversation introduced me to the winter blues. Two months back, he had come to the train station quite late at night to greet me. My brown body froze in the Nordic cold. He wrapped his jacket around me; the warmth of his gesture eased me out of the shock. The spices that I brought from home got him excited. He proposed that we should have a cooking extravaganza soon.


The end of fall when the days get shorter, he feels a change in his mood. Shaking the bottle of vitamin D pills he said, “I’m not sure if they work but I feel a little better.” He gives a chance to yoga, seeing friends, cooking to fight the dullness he feels inside. “My mother has the same problem, she understands me,” he shared his experiences. I naively asked if the return of the summer made him feel better, his cigarette was almost at its end and he stood up. “Depends, he said on the circumstances as well but as a whole, I definitely feel better because most of my interests and hobbies are outdoors.” He patted me on my back before walking back to his cubicle to indulge on his laptop screen to edit photos.

Serotonin, melatonin, circadian rhythm– words that are closely associated with the condition began to enhance my vocabulory. To my surprise I found individuals within my circle who faced similar troubles. I eagerly wanted to know their stories, but the consequent cancellations of confirmed meetings were disheartening. “But isn’t withdrawal from social life a part of the blues?” I asked myself. I have encountered the feeling of sadness and depression myself. The effects are real, and people who go through it know its intensity. Time was too short, so I thought I’d talk to the closed ones.


Brimming with energy and enthusiasm, I met Mathias Fredslund Hansen in Dhaka. Now that I’m in his country, he has been excited to show me around. When I asked him about the winter depression, he told me that he is one of them.


Mathias has been keeping detailed records of his mood change for the last two years. He experienced sleeplessness, draining of energy and difficulty in achieving all his tasks once the days draw short and dark. As the snow melted, his energy would return. “The colours and temperature of the fall is a perfect fit for me, but it’s the darkness that has a really strong impact on me,” Mathias in his ever casual body language uttered the words.


Sharing an anecdote he said, “When it was really bad I started drinking on my own. It’s probably the worst way of dealing with such problems. Nonetheless it was working on short terms. A few beers a couple of days through the week was helping me then. Later on, I realised I needed to seek help from a doctor. He prescribed antidepressants.I bit too fast I thought. It felt like he took an easy way out. He also told me light therapy and vitamin D would help. I never tried light therapy but vitamin D really helped. You could say the real- easy way out!”

The orange tint of the city is slowly turning grey gloom, I was lost in my thoughts. I needed one more case. I met Sabry Khaled, a freelance photojournalist based in Cairo through a common friend. Coincidentally he is also my peer at DMJX. Learning about my intentions he shared his story.


Sabry encounters a drop in energy level when the daytime is cut short. “I become a different person with a strange mood swing and very little motivation to respond to my obligations.� Hibernating is one technique I opt for during my gloom days and Sabry annotated the same. The increased number of short naps are a way out, however they still do not feel enough to restore the energy level. Normally enjoyable things appear less interesting to him along with decreased sex drive and difficulties in concentreating and completing tasks. He craves for simple carbohydrates like sugar and comfort food during his blues. Through the round-framed glasses his sunken eyes and the crease on his shawl like origami papers testified the entire story.


The arid nature seems to echo a similar gesture. Though the festive season is on its way, the heavy, swelling cobalt dust clouds hover outside the window for many.

Simon Gerlinger @simon_gerlinger

Nicola Lanciotti @nicolalnc

Pranabesh Das @pranabesh

Arafat Siraji @arafatbinsiraji

Renja Nurmi @renjaeerika

Salih Basheer @salihbashier

Katie Reahl @itsreahlykatie

Thea Marie Klinger @thea.marie.klinger

Azadeh Besharati @azadeh.besharati

COMMON GROUND Š 2020 Photo 1 students Š 2020 Danish School of Media and Journalism Print: Ecograf Gruppen Printed in Denmark 2020

Thanks to: Line Hassall Thomson Lars Prevelakis Bai Mads Greve And many thanks to all the people who have shared their stories.


Sharing spaces. Getting active together. Supporting and understanding each other’s suffering. Overcoming division. Feeling comfortable with yourself and reaching out to others. Giving and receiving. Standing up, making issues visible.