Prison Poetrees (RS) Images and Words from the Belgrade District Prison

series of photographs and gift of books of poetry, 2016

Quite different from the conventional academically restrained poetic evenings, Poetree opens up spaces for the voice of the other side, marginalised and susceptible groups of individuals and groups of various social and cultural backgrounds, as well as already established creators who have the courage and curiosity to get acquainted with dodgy themes, a mischievous audience and unmarked spaces. Poetree had two guest appearances in the District Prison in Belgrade, and as a result of the work done together then a book of poetry came out, Chronicles of a Ram and a little insight into the many years of educational and photographic work of Igor Čoko.

By the author – Igor Čoko: This story follows the everyday life of convicts from Block 5-1 of the District Prison in Belgrade. In a direct and transparent way, it touches on the pith and marrow of their everyday activities and rituals, leisure time, work assignments or creative challenges. Of the personal and moral re-examinations, apathy or euphoria, identities and emotions shown through scars, tattoos, or something else that defines and describes the complexity of their personalities and their prison iconography. Where a small square of the sky is the only blue they can see. Till they emerge into freedom. As better people. Or not. The book was created in cooperation with the District Prison in Belgrade, Treatment Division.

By the author – Maestral: I work in the only way I know, I write. Write what I see, what I hear, what I fear, what I love, what eats me up, what I dream, write and where I am, who I am, what people are like around me, I write about what others keep quiet about, write what I should not, write even when I get punished for writing, and all because I have to work. Only in this way can I remain a man when finally my transport leaves my waiting room behind me and takes me to my place.

image authors: Igor Čoko (RS), a selection from the photographic book Behind Bars: the life of Convicts in Belgrade District Prison
word authors: Maestral (RS), Chronicle of a Ram, gift of book of poetry

Prison Poetrees (RS)

Igor Čoko was born in Knin in 1975. He lives, works and creates in Belgrade. In terms of education, he is a graduate ethnologist and anthropologist. From the perspective of a visual anthropologist through photography he documents the life of the street and dysfunctional, marginal welfare groups and individuals. He has written the e-book editions Subversive Aesthetic of the Street – Scenes of an Opulent Reality, City with no colours and Behind Bars: the Life of Convicts in the District Prison in Belgrade. He is preparing the edition Karaburma, my ghetto. He has exhibited at home and abroad.

Maestral, a poet with experience, has a winter break and big holiday from school, lives and works in Belgrade. He has had a lot of prizes for poetry; in 2010, 2011 and 2014 he won the first prize at the Desanka Maksimović International Festival for Offender Creativity in Valjevo Correctional Facility. As representative of Serbia he took part in the International Exhibition of Offender Creativity in Brussels in 2015.