Middle Europe's Mecca

Benefit event in Terezin

Terezin - the place that became infamous as a Jewish ghetto in the Second World War - is another historic Czech town that experienced this year's disastrous floods. Among the cultural treasures of Terezin that were severly damaged was Mecca, the Middle European Colony for Contemporary Arts. Although a relative newcomer to the town's cultural scene, Mecca nonetheless plays a very important role in revilitasing Terezin's culture.

Artists, architects and film makers have been coming to Terezin's Mecca -the Middle European Colony for Contemporary Arts - for several years now, and have found a peaceful place that inspires the creative. Yet most people would not associate the name "Terezin" with a colourful community of local and international artists, for it is instead anchored in the European mindset as a Second World War Jewish ghetto. Petr Larva is a painter and glass artist and the chairperson of Mecca's administration:

"The aim of the centre is to build up a kind of creative zone in a town that is deeply marked by history, by memory, a European memory. Terezin has a very important - you could call it - genius loci, which gives a message to contemporary artists to create in reaction to the past. So that's the main idea of having the centre in Terezin."

Mecca aims to keep Terezin's culture alive, and among the successful projects that it organises are an annual summer arts festival. It also plans to establish a centre for culture and human rights in the coming months. Yet, despite its noble efforts in revitalising Terezin, Mecca's work has been severely hampered by the latest tragedy to befall the town: this year's floods. The centre's ground floor, with its library and studios, was completely destroyed - a loss that is even more tragic when we consider that reconstruction of this part of the centre began in 1999, and now has to start all over again. Yet Larva is adamant that the work of Mecca must continue:

"If you think about this town, Terezin, you can think about its future as a dead town, like a memorial, a real, silent memorial. Or you can create whatever for the life of the town. And actually, that is the most important force for us in creating this benefit event. That Terezin is alive. That we were flooded but not killed by the water, or we didn't stop. So we have to continue."

Mecca is now appealing for support in its reconstruction efforts, and it has organised a benefit event in Terezin for Saturday, October 26th. The event will gather performers from the Czech Republic and all over the world, and will show that artists are still coming to Mecca, and are helping to rebuild Terezin's culture yet again.