Nanook / The Ability to Truly Hear Each Other is, Indeed, a Victory

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Your new jeans can feel deadly uncomfortable. Or the moment you accidentally spill juice on your colleague’s shirt in that business meeting. Also, there are all the uncomfortable topics you don’t want to engage with while chatting with your grandma or closed-minded type of friends. Because different skin colour is wrong, and that violent neighbor beating up his loved ones doesn’t exist. Actually, we don’t even have time for such discussions. Oh, we don’t have time for anything anymore. We are busy. Always. 

30 January, 2019

by RINGAILE PAPARTYTE

photos: Nanook / Nyla

cover photo story: Alcoholics Anonymous unites 3,000 people in Lithuania and 2 million worldwide. A member from the United Kingdom is not an addict himself, but his wife struggles with alcohol, so they seek help together. The AA community has helped NYLA podcast interviewee Agne (name changed) to stay sober for 10 years. However, every day is a new fight.

Karolis Pilypas Liutkevicius

Karolis Pilypas Liutkevicius

Karolis Vysniauskas

Karolis Vysniauskas

And the magical team behind Nanook – the first Lithuanian multimedia production collective of such kind – is busy too. Busy revealing stories and inviting us to the meetings we never have time for. Busy making us more familiar with the uncomfortable or new. So, make a break from being all busy, join our little date with Karolis Vysniauskas and Karolis Pilypas Liutkevicius – two out of six core journalists, making Nanook happen.

Finding time for friends and a good chat seems like a real luxury these days. But is it the lack of time or are we just being all lazy and overwhelmed with our lives spinning in circles? What do we need more – an extra hour or just to be more willing while managing our agendas and squeezing a real deal of a meeting in it?

Karolis P: German art historian Paul Westheim once said that “Today the eye of modern man is daily, hourly overfed with images“, and that we‘re suspended in this state of constant information overflow. The thing is that his quote dates back to 1932. So, the sentiment that we, as people, are stuck in consuming information and unable to step back is not new.

The trick then is better filtering. Yes, we are all aware of how many pictures are posted on Instagram each day and how many videos are being uploaded to YouTube as I write this. Yet I‘m not exposed to all of them at once because I choose who to follow and what to consume. Taking a step back and having a look at what you read, who you support on Patreon and who you follow on your favourite social media platforms can be beneficial. It will help you establish better filters for your content and thus leave you with more time that is otherwise wasted on sorting through trash.

And if you had more spare time yourselves? 

Karolis P: Personally, I would like to spend more time analyzing the gaming industry and all the major shifts currently happening there. From the discussions on working conditions and game developer unions to an incredibly rapid pace at which it’s expanding it all makes it seem like gaming is becoming THE form of entertainment for the new generation. 

Hip-hop has become the world’s dominant musical genre both culturally and financially. But it reached Lithuania detached from its African American roots. How important to the hip-hop community is the question of race now? Chelsea Reject, a Brooklyn rapper, has included Lithuania in her first European tour. “At the end of the day you cannot criticize creativity“, she says. „Whatever somebody feels is their truth, I’m not nagging it”. Find out more on the  episode .

Hip-hop has become the world’s dominant musical genre both culturally and financially. But it reached Lithuania detached from its African American roots. How important to the hip-hop community is the question of race now? Chelsea Reject, a Brooklyn rapper, has included Lithuania in her first European tour. “At the end of the day you cannot criticize creativity“, she says. „Whatever somebody feels is their truth, I’m not nagging it”. Find out more on the episode.

Imagine, there is this game that teleports you in time. Would you get on such a trip back to the days with no phones and other distractions we got so used to? Let it be Rome Empire or the times of Vikings, you choose. 

Karolis P: My dream would be to explore Vilnius in between the two World Wars. Sometime before the Second World War our capital city was incredibly multicultural, a melting pot of Poles, Jews, Russians and Lithuanians. I would love to see how varied, open and diverse it was back then because I can‘t help but to feel that this part of our history is often shunned or forgotten.  

And now let’s travel to the future. Who would you love to have a sincere talk with?

Karolis P: If I had a chance to interview someone from the near future (say 20 years forward) I’d probably choose Elon Musk. His companies would have been sold off to Saudi Arabia and resorted to selling toys for a few remaining rich Sheikhs or he would be running a successfully established human colony on Mars by then. Either way, it would be interesting to look back on his mistakes and progress he would have made since now. 

Mars, multi-billion corporations, violence, minorities, the reality of those living behind the bars – it looks like you don’t have boundaries presenting (or willing to present) the topics that are uncomfortable for many. What’s the recipe for bringing the awkward stories from dark outskirts straight to the daylight? Is the research or empathy more important?

Karolis V: Research part is essential. You have to know what has already been done covering the topic. But the thing about Nanook topics is that a lot of them are previously uncovered in Lithuanian media, at least not in the way that we are doing journalism. The most important lesson is not to judge. For example, when we did a podcast discussion with Lithuanian ex-prisoners we didn’t ask them why did they end up in prison. That’s not the point. We were interested to know if it’s possible to start again. Is Lithuanian society supportive to people who want to get back to it?

Empathy is crucial in journalism. But don’t confuse it with pity. There are journalists who want their audience to feel sorry for their interviewees. Don’t do that. That’s harmful and patronizing. Treat the person you are interviewing as equal to you. Your audience deserves that.

Lithuanian paralympic athlete  Kestutis Skucas preparing for sports competition.

Lithuanian paralympic athlete Kestutis Skucas preparing for sports competition.

You’ve once mentioned that leaving a piece of doubt is very important in your job. This way you are able to present the story and its hero analyzing them from different angles. But is there a thing that is sacred for you, the one that you are absolutely sure about in your life?

Karolis V: I believe in humanity. In the words of one of our interviewee Silvana Imam, Swedish queer rapper who grew up in a small town in Lithuania, “I believe that people can change for the better. You have to believe. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing anything?”.

How triumphant is that. Just like Nyla – a real winner – whom your podcast was named by. Who is the winner among us these days? What picture of him or her would you love to capture? Maybe some of the winners are already here – your heroes presented in Nanook exhibition?

Karolis V: A recent study in the U.S., which included 20,000 respondents showed that half of Americans view themselves as lonely. The numbers were especially high for Generation Z and Millennials. Today U.S. society is also more polarized than in previous generations. We don’t have such statistics in Lithuania, but I believe that a lot of Lithuanian people struggle with loneliness and tend to see others as enemies rather than as allies.

Having this in mind, I believe that the winners are those who try to escape this trap. Those who engage in a conversation with their opponents or with those people who live a different lifestyle, have different age, skin colour or belong to a different religion. Our exhibition gives a chance to meet different kind of people, see their photos and hear their thoughts on society. As we wrote in the description, “the ability to meet and truly hear one another is, indeed, a victory”. I truly believe that

While living in Moscow, Russian nationalist Daniil was standing against the refugees coming to Europe and Russia, and thought Lithuania was a neo-nazi country. Today, he, a spoken critic of Putin,   himself became a refugee and received asylum in Lithuania, where he defends the rights of other refugees and also participated in the LGBT march. Find his story at  Nanook's  project  “While red burns” .

While living in Moscow, Russian nationalist Daniil was standing against the refugees coming to Europe and Russia, and thought Lithuania was a neo-nazi country. Today, he, a spoken critic of Putin, himself became a refugee and received asylum in Lithuania, where he defends the rights of other refugees and also participated in the LGBT march. Find his story at Nanook's project “While red burns”.

Find out more heroes and stories Nanook brought to life here and also watch and hear them at the exhibition in Martynas Mazvydas National Library of Lithuania until the 15th of March. 

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