RED DAWNS HERSTORY
The initiative for women’s festival Red Dawns began in 2000 in the Autonomous Cultural Centre Metelkova mesto in Ljubljana, Slovenia. A small group of women – members of associations KUD Mreža, ŠKUC-LL, Monokel and the no longer existing Women’s Centre and Kasandra – questioned the position of women in the tangled mesh of art, culture, politics, activism and everyday life. In Metelkova mesto, like elsewhere, the larger part of creative and organizational yet invisible work was done by women. Women were keeping Metelkova mesto alive and lively. We decided to organize a women festival on March 8th, the International Women’s Day, to celebrate our lives and redefine public space in order to make it accessible for creativity and socializing of women on our own terms: in an non-hierarchical, non-exploitational and anti-capitalistic manner.
We have not searched for “the essence” of Woman. The feminist struggles of the past have proved that attempts at defining women by our sex or even by our common features of character are misleading: they worry about metaphysics of “femininity” and “masculinity” instead of dealing with the reality of every-day hatred, disrespect and exploitation of women – and men. Festival Red Dawns does not advocate a further polarization of genders or “war of the sexes”. Instead, the creativity and the mingling of the participants of Red Dawns question the boundaries we take for granted; the isolating boundaries that separate people regardless of our gender.
The first edition of festival Red Dawns presented artists and activists working in AKC Metelkova mesto. In 2001, it connected with political allies from the Balkans and Central European neighbourhood. The assembly of low-budget and voluntary periphery travelled from Metelkova mesto to other locations – MC Podlaga (Sežana), Pekarna (Maribor) and Mostovna (Nova Gorica) – thereby considerably widening the circle of contributors. Since then, many individuals and other associations have joined and continue to support Red Dawns: Alkatraz Gallery, KUD Anarhiv, Radio Student, DZAC, CrossConversationCut, kamera REVOLTA, Cinema iNVISIBLE, feminist debate club of Faculty for Social Sciences, Teater Gromki, MKC Koper, MIKK Murska Sobota and the jugglers’ collective of Menza pri koritu. Even though the groups differ greatly in their beliefs and not all of them can identify with any specific feminist theory they support the continuous efforts of Red Dawns as they believe that women’s work deserves more attention and appreciation.
About the title of Rdeče zore festival
Women festival Rdece zore (Eng. Red Dawns) took its name from a resourceful child of the streets, the penniless heroine of the youth novel Die rote Zora und ihre Bande where children orphaned by the war realise that they can only defy social injustice by sticking together. Die Rote Zora und ihre Bande was written in the years after WWI by German writer (but also carpenter, traveling salesman, book editor, etc.) Kurt Kläber. Die Rote Zora and his other works were published under pseudonym Kurt Held. Kurt was a political immigrant of the Nazi era and being a communist, he had to oblige the rule of creative silence even during his Swiss exile – but was not silenced. After Stalin’s deal with Hitler, Kurt abandoned communism as a betrayed ideology but kept his anarchist ideals. Red-haired Zora and her company of misfits personify those very ideals.
Kläber’s novel also inspired the anarcha-feminist urban guerrilla cell Rote Zora which fought for workers’, women’s and children’s rights by attacking their oppressors with carefully selected tools. The first bomb went off in 1974 at the Supreme Court in Karlsruhe the day after the court supported “Par. 218”; the law that allowed abortion only in certain cases. Rote Zora protested against it as they understood the right for every woman to have abortion as a fundamental right to self-determination over women’s own bodies. Rote Zora have collaborated with Revolutionäre Zellen, joined the anti-nuclear movement of the 70s and have continued with their anti-imperialist actions until the mid 80s. Their bombings were directed against Siemens, Nixdorf and other companies that exploit sweatshop workers from poor countries. They also targeted porn-traders, sex shops, international traders of women, doctors who are carrying out forced sterilizations and drug companies.
Rote Zora chose this name because “until today it seems to be a male privilege to build gangs or to act outside the law. Yet particularly because girls and women are strangled by thousands of personal and political chains this should make us masses of “bandits” fighting for our freedom, our dignity, and our humanity. Law and order are fundamentally against us, even if we have hardly achieved any rights and have to fight for them daily. Radical women’s struggles and loyalty to the law – there is no way they go together!”
Even though Red Dawns festival refrains itself from political violence, it supports Rote Zora in their belief that the struggle for women’s rights is undone, that it goes hand in hand with struggles for social justice, and that we cannot be contended with reformist politics. “The legal route is not sufficient because the usual repression and structures of violence are legal. It is legal if husbands beat and rape their wives. It is legal if women traders buy our Third World sisters; and sell them to German men. It is legal when women ruin their health and do the monotonous work for subsistence wages. These are violent conditions which we are no longer willing to accept and tolerate and which can’t be changed solely by criticism. It was an important step to create a public consciousness about violence against women, but it didn’t lead to its prevention. It is a phenomenon that the screaming unfairness which women suffer is met with an incredible proportion of ignorance. It is a tolerance which exposes male parasitism. This “typical situation” is connected to the fact that there is not much resistance. Oppression is only recognized through resistance. Therefore we sabotage, boycott, damage, and take revenge for experienced violence and humiliation by attacking those who are responsible.”
(Rote Zora quotes are taken from: Dark Star (ed.): Quiet Rumours. AK Press/Dark Star, San Francisco, 2002; p. 101-102.)
»When we Move, it’s a Movement«
If you want to know more about Red Dawns’ efforts at creating a feminist and queer (counter)public in Ljubljana, you can read Tea Hvala’s MA thesis in Gender Studies, entitled »When we Move, it’s a Movement«. Rdeče zore Festival as a Feminist-Queer Counterpublic. Red Dawns fest is discussed within the frame of feminist political theory of counterpublics, juxtaposed with the views expressed by 17 festival (co)organisers whom Tea interviewed in 2009. The theme is framed within the recent history of feminist, lesbian and queer organising in Ljubljana, within the contemporary current of transnational DIY grassroots feminism and within the postsocialist frame.
In Ljubljana, the full version can be borrowed from Elf’s Reading Room (Kersnikova 4) or the Lesbian Library (Metelkova 6). In 2010, academic journal Monitor ISH published a shorter (100 page) version in issue XII/1. The electronic version in PDF can be read or downloaded from here.