MILK Voices

September 12th, 2020 sees the launch of the new season at Španski Borci cultural Centre, marked by our latest international music and dance project MILK Voices, co-produced by EN-KNAP Productions and Goethe institute. This is a product of collaboration between EN-KNAP Group, the only permanent contemporary dance group in Slovenia, the singer Irena Z. Tomažin and the women’s choir Kombinat and will tour across three cities, Ljubljana, Rijeka and Berlin.

MILK Voices build upon the story of Aleksandrinke, Slovenian women who in the middle of the 20th century emigrated to seek work as wet nurses for the children of Alexandria, Egypt. It is a story of courage found in abandoning tradition, family, cultural roots and personal ties alike. And in being about overcoming limits, its meaning transcends the individual experience. These women, who sang lullabies to children, instilled in them memories of a motherland which they decades later »returned« to – despite never having seen it before.
Nearly lost to the oblivion of time, this story serves us as a departure point for questioning our identities, our homelands, and our sense of patriotism. Who are we as individuals, as communities, and how do the ideas of identity and allegiance form? Is patriotism inevitably linked to birthplace, to nation and nationalism? The project scrutinizes the dominant perception of patriotism in which the collective identity is defined by division between US and THEM, with particular focus on who WE are not. The exclusionary interpretation of patriotism sees the homeland as grounded primarily in the ethnic, supposedly natural principle of “blood and land”. Project MILK Voices counters this with an inclusive paradigm shift, built upon mutually recognized and democratically accepted social norms, the rule of law and its pertaining symbols. Allegiance to society and homeland is thus demonstrated by respecting the positive traits and norms of civilization. This is what defines us and what we believe everyone possesses. Such an allegiance is inclusive of everyone who chooses to accept it and live by it.

The Kombinat Women’s Choir was founded on the Day of Uprising, April 27th 2008 in Rog, Ljubljana, with the principle aim of performing songs of uprisings from all over the world. The idea for a revolutionary women’s choir popped into existence a mere month before, on one of the founding member’s hen night. First public appearance followed soon on May 23rd 2008 in Menza pri Koritu, Metelkova. An excerpt from their presentation reads: “Out of respect for everyone who raised their voices and gave their lives, we bring back songs that lifted spirits in revolutions and uprisings all over the world. We sing them in their original languages, because to us, these are not mere words, but precious recollections of humanity’s hope for a better world. These songs are for all of us.”

Irena Z. Tomažin is a vocalist, performer and a teacher. After finishing her Masters in philosophy at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana, she has focused mainly on experimental and improvised musical, theatre and dance performances, as well as a series of workshops entitled moved by voice, in which she examines the interactions between voice and movement. She also published three albums: Crying Games, Taste of Silence and cmok v grlu. In her musical experiments she prefers to focus on the development of voicescapes that combine fragments of text, words, melody and an extended vocal repertoire including hissing, clacking and other sounds of the oral cavity with distinct corporeal character. Her recent iT project was featured at numerous festivals both at home and abroad.

The international dance group EN-KNAP is led by its founder, the internationally acclaimed choreographer Iztok Kovač, and is the only permanent contemporary dance group in Slovenia. Since 2009, they are the resident performer at the Španski borci Cultural Centre. So far they have collaborated with more than 30 domestic and international choreographers and directors of distinctly divergent aesthetic backgrounds, bringing to life more than 40 individual stage pieces and films. They present their repertory with more than forty performances a year, both at home and on international tours.

Project idea, Chorography: Iztok Kovač
Social Conceptualization: Aleš Črnič
Musical Composition and Research: Catherine Milliken
Film Direction and Camera: Sašo Podgoršek
Dancers: EN-KNAP Group (Luke Thomas Dunne, Tamás Tuza, Giorgia Belotti, Rada Kovačević, Radoslav Piovarči, Katja Kolarič)
Musicians: Irena Z. Tomažin (Ljubljana), Michael Schiefel (Rijeka, Berlin)
In cooperation: women’s choir Kombinat
EN-KNAP Group rehearsal director: Nohemi Barriuso

Production: Zavod EN-KNAP
Coproduction: Goethe-Institut (International Coproduction Fund)
Partners: Hrvatski Kulturni dom na Sušaku; Kesselhaus und Maschinenhaus – Kulturbrauerei / Consense GmbH
Thanks to Osnovna šola Savsko naselje (Ljubljana), Osnovna šola Ketteja in Murna (Ljubljana), TRY THEATRE (Rijeka)

Executive producers: Karmen Keržar, Goran Pakozdi
Translation: Jure Škerl
Public relations and editing: Nina Smerkol
Marketing:  Goran Pakozdi
Professional Finances and Business Management Associate: Zala Česnik
Program Management and Coordination of Educational Activities: Katja Gabrijelčič
Španski Borci Cultural Centre Director, EN-KNAP Productions – Programme Manager and Head of Productions: Marjeta Lavrič
EN-KNAP Productions Managing Director, Španski Borci Cultural Centre Artistic Director: Iztok Kovač

The programme of EN-KNAP Productions, administrator of Španski Borci, is financially supported by: City of Ljubljana – Department of Culture, which also supports Španski Borci activities, and Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia.