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New edition of Macedonian Twitter Calendar combines nude art photography with humanitarian fundraising

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Macedonia, Arts & Culture, Digital Activism, Environment, Ideas, Photography
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A sample of photos from the Twitter Calendar for 2019 published in Macedonia. Photos by Zvonko Plavevski, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

A new edition of #TwitterCalendar (#ТвитерКалендар [2]), a collection of nude art photography that's typically promoted via the microblogging platform, was recently launched in Skopje. This is the fifth edition of this initiative, which has been donating the money from calendar sales to support various humanitarian causes over the years.

The #TwitterCalendar initiative is in no way affiliated with Twitter as a company or a brand. In the jargon of Macedonian social media users, adding the word “Twitter” to an activity denotes an initiative organized via Twitter and involving its local users. For instance, #TwitterBasket (#ТвитерБаскет [3]) is a popular way to schedule recreational basketball matches involving tweeps.

The author of the 2019 Twitter Calendar [4] is photographer Zvonko Plavevski (@Giotto_mkd [5]), and the models are volunteers from the Macedonian Twitter community who responded to an open call over the social network.

In line with the tradition of previous issues, the funds gathered by selling the glossy, hard-copy version will be donated for humanitarian purposes, and its creators are promoting it through a photo exhibition at a bar in the center of Skopje.

#TwitterCalendar [exhibition space]

In 2013,  [9]a group of activists published the first Twitter Calendar [10] to promote breast cancer awareness. The 2014 calendar [11] promoted sex education and gender equality. In 2016, the calendar offered an array of arty nudes [12], the proceeds of which went towards helping athlete Gorazd Nikoloski [13] in his fight against cancer.

Plavevski continued the tradition with the 2017 calendar [14], which promoted HIV/AIDS prevention [15]. Then, the involved team donated the gathered funds to the NGO Real Acts of Kindness [16], which provides basic necessities like food and clothes to homeless people and families living in extreme poverty.

In a statement for Global Voices, Plavevski said that the process for the 2019 calendar took about two months:

This year the participants were more eager than before to participate in the photo-shoots. Also the attitude of the public has changed, and they don't find the nudity so shocking. The audience seems to have gotten used to art nudity, and was anticipating the calendar and provided criticism of its artistic qualities.

His team explained that for 2019, they’ve printed 100 calendars and hope to sell them for about seven dollars each during the winter holiday season, after which they’ll donate the money to a charity chosen by the participants. For the moment though, they are reticent to announce the cause or specify donation amounts before they actually collect the money.

Twitter community annual events

Besides its Twitter Calendar, the Macedonian Twitter community has established several other traditions and mores — including the annual raising of a Christmas tree made of crowd-gathered plastic bottles, intended to increase awareness about the importance of recycling. The tradition, inspired by a practice from Kaunas, Lithuania, started in 2011. [17]

The participants organize through the hashtag #ЕлкаМК [18], which combines the word “Elka”, meaning fir [19], and the country code, MK. The Macedonian translation of “Christmas tree” is “New Year's tree” (новогодишна елка [20]), and is associated with the New Year's Eve celebration rather than the local Orthodox Christian tradition of Christmas, which is celebrated according to Old Calendar on January 7.

The initiative includes a gathering where participants each bring used plastic bottles in different colors, eventually combining them in the shape of a tree. The event also celebrates a sense of community spirit, with shared food and drinks.

Another annual initiative, #TwitterAwards (#ТвитерНагради [24]), involves communal voting in categories such as Best Hashtag, Best Male and Female Twitter User, Best Designer and other honors. Its very nature makes it somewhat controversial though, as public trust around voting in Macedonian society is low due to abuse of electoral mechanisms by political parties. As a result, many view any kind of voting with suspicion.

Kudos to the organizers of #TwitterAwards for their persistence that enabled this event to survive in spite of so many hateful comments…

Following the online voting process, the awards are presented at a public event which includes some showmanship and socializing among Twitter users, many of whom might be meeting in person for the first time. The awards also pay homage to community members [27] who have [28] passed away [29] during the year.

Yesterday I went to the #TwitterAwards, @vikoheyeah made an effort to please us all, so I would summarize…
– I was the oldest person in the room
– Loads of young and good looking young men and women
– The ‘gods of Twitter’ were not there, like other [elites] in this country they showed arrogance and didn't show up…
– @kamijon007 was gorgeous!

Although the calendar, the Christmas tree, and the awards ceremony do not make the Macedonian Twittersphere unique, they do show the potential that this social network has to create community and positive social change.

Editor's note: this post was updated on December 29, 2018, in order to clarify that the initiative is not Twitter-sanctioned and that the 2019 calendar will be the fifth edition of such initiative, not the fourth as was previously stated. We have also added details about past NGO recipients.