XENiOS | Visual dialogues of people from different cultures

In recent years, and due to intense socio-political pressures, flows of refugees and economic migrants looking for a safer future are steadily rising. The movement of people beyond their natural setting is also a movement of cultures (a movement of all the characteristics determined by history, myths and traditions) and of the skills of the people born and raised in these places. The cultural elements that follow the people, in their movement from their origin territory to another, are expressed differently in the various places of their temporary or permanent stay in an effort to be equidistant to the local culture. What would it mean to explore, share and design by identifying the qualitative features of these cultural elements? In biology, hybrids or crossbreeds are the outcome of the combination of qualities of two different organisms, varieties or species that share a common characteristic, into one new organism. The continual flow of people, that is sometimes characterized by short or long-term stays in a particular place, form the conditions for the creation of a hybrid culture. Temporary at first, these hybrid cultures have vast potential to be explored through design means.

Xenios was created as part of the AstroLab’s training courses towards vulnerable populations (refugees, migrants and Greeks alike) in Greece. The directors of the course, Antonis Kiourktsis and Nota Tsekoura designed a course that would integrate AstroLab’s targeted training and employment in a holistic model. After a series of educational courses for vulnerable populations that they had designed and executed at AstroLab, they highlighted the necessity of integration and social inclusion.

The idea is that participants can immediately start working in the production of the products upon orders. XENiOS has been cre­ated to provide both education and employment generation to vulner­able populations (refugees, migrants and vulnerable Greeks).

In this framework, training is tailored to unleash creativity and lead towards the development of fine quality products inspired by the cross reference of diverse cultures. Each product’s added value is the inspiring stories of people’s empowerment and the building of inclusive communities. Based on given paradigms of societies that have a history in receiving large movements of diverse cultural populations and their successful integration, it is only safe to assume that ethnic culture and community building plays a significant role in the process.

XENiOS brand functions as an integration program that is based on cultural explorations in the very points of convergence between ethnic cultures. A dialogue based on artistic visual expressions, that showcas­es the importance of in­clusion in society through decent livelihoods and demonstrates how cultural dialogues can be­come a valuable tool towards inte­gration.

The name XENiOS has a dual meaning. It represents both the idea of a person experiencing a place as a foreigner (Xenos (EN= stranger, foreigner, alien to, outsider ), in Greek Ξένος = a person with origins from another country, a person that does not feel part of something or a person that is not familiar to the rest) and the idea of hospitality (Xenios Zeus, in Greek Ξένιος Δίας, the god of hospitality). The name approaches the idea of hospitality as the first step towards inclusion that leads to the transformation of a person from Xenos to an acquaintance or a friend.