Artists from abroad: it is easier to become an acknowledged creator in Lithuania

Art defies borders, cultural and religious differences – so our interviewees say. While one of them creates poetry and the other composes dance and music, both believe it is the way to the hearts of all humans. Can art help you fit in a foreign country, though? According to our interviewees, yes. Through art, one can convey a message without even knowing the local language or understanding the new culture. Creative works convey emotions understood by every human being. We are talking with Firdavs Azam, a poet from Tajikistan who lives in Lithuania, as well as a musician and dancer from Uruguay, Eduardo Gimenez.

Firdavs Azam (from a personal photo archive)

Firdavs Azam, a refugee from Tajikistan, has been living in Lithuania with his family for three years. In his home country, a thirty-five-year-old man worked as a journalist, created poetry. His poetry books in Persian have been published in Iran, and translations are available in Turkey and Afghanistan. Upon arriving in Lithuania, Firdavs did not abandon poetry. Lithuanians took interest in his poems, and several of them have been translated. The immigrant’s dream is to publish a poetry book in Lithuania and in the Lithuanian language.

Firdavs tells that through his poetry he seeks to convey global phenomena, such as war, peace, democracy, and totalitarianism. Immigration is a particularly sensitive topic for the Tajik. It’s not only the people who have experienced immigration who cry while reading his poetry. “In my poems, I try to convey the feelings of a person who is forced to leave his homeland,” says the poet, adding that people who are acquainted with his work are more receptive to foreigners.

Can poetry become a means of communication in a foreign country, though? Firdavs is outright:

“Of course, especially if you read poetry in a language you understand. A lot can be said through verbal expression. Much more than Hello or Goodbye.” Firdavs calls Lithuania his second, safe home, as well as a source of inspiration. The poet lives in Vilnius, communicates with like-minded Lithuanian people, and intensively studies the Lithuanian language. As he jokes, maybe someday he will write a poem in Lithuanian as well.

Firdavs says that because of his talent to create poems, he does not feel lonely in Lithuania. Local writers, translators, all those who are researching migration processes are interested in him, journalists are asking for interviews. “Every immigrant’s dream is to be valued and interesting in the new country,” rejoices the poet.

Firdavs Azam’s poem

Passport

Fly, little bird, fly while you can.
You’ve got the wings, you know the taste of flight.
Majestic wings of yours shall not be chained
Captivity is cruel in a closed tight cage.
On this gloomy black earth, my being is damned,
And all your mind can see are skies – sublime and grand.
The breathtaking heights you can show – 
The vastness of flight I could never know.
Curses and troubles trace me, no end,
Wherever you gaze, sunlit horizons extend.
Lush heavenly window is open to you
You fly, dance here and there, you’re not rushing through – 
Harness the wind, and tread the pedals of clouds
A passport holds open to you all of the worlds!

(translated from Persian to Lithuanian by Gertrūda_Kauzonė, from Lithuanian to English by Gabija Verbaitė

Eduardo Gimenez (from a personal photo archive)

Eduardo Gimenez, who emigrated from Uruguay to Lithuania more than twenty years ago, quickly became a star in Lithuania. The tango dancer, teacher, and singer did not yet speak Lithuanian, yet he was already being asked to give interviews by TV shows and magazines.

Why was he so lucky, you might ask?

“I was simply one of the few representatives of Latin American culture in Lithuania,” says Eduardo.

As he explains, his talent for dancing and composing Latin American music has made him a star. “I wouldn’t surprise anyone in my country, and here I not only receive offers to perform, but I also teach Lithuanians how to dance tango,” says Eduardo.

Today, Eduardo already speaks Lithuanian and earns a living from his own tango dance school. He is also involved in various Latin American music and dance projects.

The Uruguayan advises all immigrants to not be afraid to spread their own culture. “If you are a creator, an artist of some kind, don’t shut yourself in or think your work is uninteresting in a new country. On the contrary, you should understand that you are exotic to the locals. And that always attracts interest, especially in Lithuania. After all, it’s a small country with few immigrants. So, if you’re an Arab, Turkish, or Pakistani – don’t be ashamed. After all, your culture is little-known and intriguing to Lithuanians. Let your otherness become an advantage,” asserts Eduardo.

Both of our interviewees are convinced that you can definitely be successful in Lithuania and even earn a living just because you are a part of another culture and know how to convey it through artistic expression. It doesn’t matter at all whether you sing, dance, create music, poems, paint, cook, or possess other talents. As Eduardo jokes, “It is easier to become not only a prophet, but also a recognized creator in a foreign country.”