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Chris Keulemans

My name is Chris Keulemans (Tunis, 1960). I am a writer and journalist, living in Amsterdam. In the summer of 1994, I visited wartime Sarajevo on the invitation of Haris Pasovic, the theatre director who had produced 'Waiting for Godot' with Susan Sontag that winter. Ever since, the way imagination survives war and crisis has fascinated me.

During the nineties, I worked in De Balie, centre for culture and politics in Amsterdam. We hosted artists and intellectuals from countries going through war and dictatorship like Bosnia, Serbia, Kosova, Algeria, South-Africa, Indonesia, Cuba, Rwanda, Byelorussia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Burma. People with a kind of moral nobility, very often, matched by a surprising sense of humor. Innovative artists, too, or deep thinkers. Since 1999, I changed from being host to being visitor.

I traveled to many of these countries, often visiting the people I had met in Amsterdam. Some of them were no longer alive, some had fallen into depression and alcohol, some were trying to forget the crisis that lay behind them, others couldn't stop working on the traumatic memories. Wherever I went, I wrote travel stories for Dutch or international magazines and websites. I am not a frontline journalist. I am interested in the ability of artists and intellectuals to reinvent society after the peace has been signed or the dictator has been toppled. How does their work reflect the horrors of the past? How do they reclaim public space in their cities? Do they contribute to or criticize the new collective identity of their society? How do they communicate with the world outside?

This website will accompany me on my trips. This year I hope to visit Prishtina, Tirana, Jakarta and Kabul. Next year: Tblisi, Luanda, New York - Baghdad? I will use the site to jot down observations along the way, present audio and video of the people and work I encounter, give a sense of the hot spots on the new city maps. And by presenting these cities and their artists, I hope to discover corresponding themes in the ways art after crisis presents itself across the world. The people and places I run into along the way will all appear on this website, including the travel stories that I am publishing in Dutch weekly Vrij Nederland. Most of the photographs are by my girlfriend and photographer Riette Mellink. Use the material as you like, and if you're interested in publishing the travel stories, please let me know. Enjoy! Chris

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