Growing up under a communist regime in the Former Yugoslavia, CalArts student Mersiha Mesihovic never really felt free. Life became even more restricted when war broke out in her country. Although her childhood may seem unimaginable to other Cal Arts students, she thinks the gap between them is not all the wide.
“Many of us struggle with being truly free. We are afraid to express ourselves, to put ourselves in certain situations,” she says, explaining people often feel at war with themselves. “The conscious self confines us to what we should be and our subconscious self tells us to act on who we really are.”
Mersiha is a dance major who likes to work with a multimedia palette. “As an artist interested in social justice, I felt I need more tools than dance to express myself.”
A shared sense of community has helped her find her voice, take risks and break through boundaries.
“On the Subject of Freedom,” performed at Arts In The One World 2011 was a collaborations between Mersiha and fellow students. An exploration of the restraints on freedom, the piece combines dance, live music and projected images. It begins in a conflict zone with a duet about the oppressive atmosphere of war. The dancers gradually learn to carry on their lives with dignity in spite of the fear and hate surrounding them. They begin to confide in each other, questioning whether the war is just. The piece ends with liberation, resolution and peace.
CalArts dancer Lindsey Lollie was one of the collaborators on the dance; she and Mersiha have been friends for three years. Lindsey says the piece is about some of the restrictions people face based on their nationality, gender, race, religion or personality.
“Not everyone is free to walk outside if they are in a war zone,” she writes in an explanatory note to the piece. “Not everyone is free to speak up and address real issues. “We need to believe in something that is not forced upon us but discovered within our soul. Everyone deserves to live in the comfort of their own thoughts…”
Mersiha seems clear about the direction she wants to take her art: “My wish is to make the audience part of my work. I would like to inspire people to act. A sense of community can help us jump over boundaries. We are many and we are stronger that the fear. The positive always prevails over the negative.”