The Travelling Communiqué: Revisiting the History of Non – Aligned Movement

The formal establishment of the non-aligned movement (NAM) was the culmination of increasing convergence of its main member states who sought a path independent of the USSR and the US in the wake of the outbreak of the Cold War in 1948. The term “non-alignment” itself was first coined by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1954. A significant step toward the development of the NAM was the Bandung Conference in 1955 in Indonesia, in which leaders of Asian and African states who had gained independence from colonial rule after World War II participated. Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito took the initiative to form the NAM while Jawaharlal Nehru and Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt were visiting Yugoslavia in July 1956. Following the split with Moscow in 1948, the Yugoslav communists were looking increasingly for cooperation with the postcolonial states in Asia and Africa to counterbalance political pressure from the USSR and the US. The founding of NAM at its first official conference in September 1961 in Belgrade was an important step in the promotion of political cooperation between a number of postcolonial states that included India, Egypt, Indonesia, and Yugoslavia, with the latter being NAM’s main European member. As one of the founder members of the NAM, Yugoslavia was an active participant in framing the movement’s principled agenda of non alignment and peaceful co-existence. Yugoslavia under Tito enhanced its prestige among the developing Afro-Asian countries as it was the only European country which affirmed solidarity with the developing world.
On the 5th of September in 1961, the twenty-five Heads of States and Governments of the Non-Aligned Nations signed and sent off a collective message (in form of a written letter) as one result of the first Summit Conference of the NAM held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Its addressees were John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev in their representational functions of the Great Powers. The letter took the form of a Communiqué that outlined the aspirations of the developing countries and in many senses can be termed as the first manifestation of the collective voice of the global south.
The Communiqué and other documents of Yugoslav foreign and domestic policy that were related to Non Aligned Movement were open for display in an exhibition on June 11 2014 in the Museum of Yugoslavian History (MYH) in Belgrade. The exhibition has been dubbed “Traveling Communique”, a trans-disciplinary project of the Goethe Institute. The project “Traveling Communique” was started by Armin Linke and Dorin Mende from Germany and Milica Tomic that was born in former Yugoslavia, along with a curator team of the Museum of Yugoslavian History. The exhibition at the MYH is realised in cooperation with the Goethe Institute Belgrade and supported by the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Photographic Collection of the Museum of Yugoslav History, Belgrade. The starting point of the Travelling Communiqué project is the idea that the collective statements, images and sounds that marked the First Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement still travel, until the present time, in search of an answer. The organizers of the project have already stated that the current project will continue as an ongoing research of the current potentiality of the Non – Aligned Movement, post colonialism and new forms of cultural colonization through cross and re-reading of school text books from countries of former Yugoslavia.
The exhibition will last till August 17 2014. More than 50 works, including video essays, photos, collages, posters, movies, texts by 60 authors from 32 countries are on public display that serves as a reminder of the collective power of the global South through the articulation of the principle of Non Alignment. Along with some 1,200 selected photographs taken at the initial session of the Non-Aligned Movement held in 1961, the project also consisted of a summer school that lasted from June 11 to 13 and film program with engaged movies from Algeria, Indonesia, Egypt, Bolivia and Cuba.
Authors of the project Linke, Meende and Tomic believe that the new generations should view the Non-Aligned Movement as the third arena of emancipation and an attempt at opening up the myriad of anti-colonial thinking.  The Non-Aligned Movement is understood as the third space allowing emancipation and an attempt to unlock the diversity of the anti-colonial thought. It forces us to rethink the Movement’s basic concepts in relation to today’s paradoxical forms of the politics of exclusion perpetuated by globalization that are entangled with the politics of inclusion legitimized by a state of permanent war.  Viewed in this way, Travelling Communiqué 2014 is an attempt at reinvestigating the legacies of the Non-aligned Movement and thereby a collective assertion of such voices that would otherwise be marginalized into power politics of the global superpowers.

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