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"For many years, the Ministry of Interiors of the Cyprus Republic adopted the slang word “artista” for women who were brought to the island, often through deceit, coercion and sometimes by force, to work as go-go dancers (see prostitutes) in brothels, euphemistically called “cabarets”. When in the 90s three young musicians, two women and a man, from an Eastern European country applied for a working visa, the bureaucrats failed to distinguish the difference between the word “artist/performer” and “artista”. Gifted though they were, they fell into the same category as “artistes” and had to sign the same type of contract, that stipulated clauses such as participating in all floor shows and staying around in the club until closing time. Their obligation included the humiliation of regular blood tests for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B. Was this an innocent, if idiotic mistake, or the state in collusion with the employer, the agent and the pimp exercising bio-power? What kind of mechanisms were employed? Did this blunder not only reveal ignorance but also a method of controlling what is perceived as foreign, transgressive, the big Other?
Movement of people is as old as humanity. For millennia, even after fixed-in-place organized societies came about, people have always moved about as nomads – such movements, the settling elsewhere, bringing other ideas, products and life/worldviews with them, is what has resulted in great advances in civilization. Nothing can stop it, imaginary walls or real ones, nor is it desirable to do so but the issue is not the inevitability of the demographic flux but the outcome of this fusion. Do we seek a chimerical dream of total homogeneity in our society or do we happily adopt a multi-dimensional structure?
Closer to home which people are assimilated into the social order of Cyprus, and how? What is the role of the state? To what extend do individuals and institutions give in to the siege mentality? Do we see equals in our newcomers or impoverished subordinates and affluent superiors? Can we discern alternative cultures in them, can we learn from them or do we dehumanise them in pure economic relations, selling to the rich and exploiting the poor? When talent and skill come from outside, do we feel blessed or threatened? What do we see in those humans talking in other languages and having a different complexion from ours? Vagabonds and prostitutes? Desperate opportunists? Unlucky or incompetent people who envy our paradise? Dispossessed proletariats who are content to work for almost nothing? Are we happy to relinquish some of our privileges or will we conveniently fortify our power structures with control processes masked as national security, health, labour, tax or safety regulations? What do such prevention schemes serve, apart from a confirmation of the state power over the lives and the bodies of the subject?
Dedicated to those women who have been misled and trapped in inhuman conditions pursuing their dreams.