en fy eu mk sl ga

Beatriz Chivite

2017-06-26 16:26 — Maribor

A living library

Everyone has a story. Everyone is a book that could choose to be read or to remain closed. Following this principle, the living libraries create a catalogue of ‘living books’ that can be opened in the corner of a park, unveiling stories of hardship, love, adventures or overcome challenges. In this 10 day long Lent festival there are not just incredible concerts, open-air theatre show and dance, but also many workshops for kids and adults on the park: arts and crafts, music, nature, games and literature merge together in the alternative festival called Art Camp.

Organized by MKC, an arts organization here in Maribor, a living library popped out at the entrance of the park. Although apparently a global movement that takes place in different cities around the world, this was the first time I encountered one, so I was extremely excited to participate, as it has the ideal of challenging stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. On my first day I was just a reader, but what an avid reader! Apparently I was the number one reader of the day! I spent forty minutes reading each of the books, and getting to know different incredible living experiences, backgrounds and stories.

On a string there hang different cards with the name of the living book and the issues or chapters of his life that he/she thought relevant discussing. The visitor could then pick up the one that interested them the most and bring the human book to one of the wooden chairs placed in a beautiful green loan – or preferably sit down on a blanket under tall trees.

I spoke about education and health with a man who came to Maribor from Sudan, he told me what he missed the most from back home, his experience as a foreign in Slovenia and the importance of dance and spicy food in his life.

Another book talked to me about Yoga, tranquillity and meditation, the importance of knowing your body, the difference between the lifestyle in Calcutta and in Maribor, and the power of the chakras and breathing in healing your mind and body.  Another young boy and me conversed a long time about minority languages, dialects, Chinese characters, Basque origins, etymology, European politics, French cinema … Di he read me more than I read him?

In the afternoon I went back to hear more books about living with multiple sclerosis, depression, climbing, anorexia and food obsession, open relationships and LGBT politics, and homelessness and living in the margins of society. They were all very touching stories, and I felt that I was getting to know the people behind the masks much better than in the everyday small-talk situations.

There is something extremely beautiful in opening oneself to complete strangers, sharing the vulnerabilities, fears and hopes. That is why I decided to go back on Sunday as a book. I talked about Basque culture, language and politics, my life as a millennial nomad, as a volunteer around the world, as a poet, as a privileged white woman around the world …

The start of this Lent has been fantastic! I am looking forward to seeing, doing, dancing more!  Smiles from this beautiful town in the middle of Europe!


  • 2017-06-27 Idoia Noble

    Thank you for making us feel that we were sitting on that park last Sunday afternoon!