Fortune gave me the opportunity to visit Bosnia a few years ago and I spent one summer holiday travelling around the country. It was around the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide and it wasn’t lost on me that I was visiting a country two decades on from a war that tore through it.
While the signs of war was evident in every city I visited, what was more apparent was the length the country had travelled in its recovery. This war shocked the continent and in Sarajevo, in particular, plaques are raised in gratitude to the countries that have contributed to the rebuilding. The reconstruction of the oldest mosque in the city was near completion when I visited, while houses and buildings were still riddled with bullet holes affirming Bosnia’s own never forget anthem. I stayed in the old Yugoslav block of the city and amongst the brutalist structure of the apartment blocks opposite my hotel room stood strong equally brutal mortar pockets.
I remember hearing about the war in Bosnia in real time, I was the same age as my daughter is now and in primary school we were learning about the Holocaust and rightly, with conviction, saying never again. I don’t remember hearing about the religious strife, but I remember the ethnic tension being mentioned and drew my own conclusions on the Hegelian trope of history being doomed to repeat itself. I watched the Starri Most of Mostar being bombed and, afterwards, I saw the weeping, in the voyeuristic way that the news shows.
Travelling to Srebrenica was unintentional. I had planned to visit the memorial, but ended up first in the small town that was stripped of its male inhabitants over the course of ten days in July 1995. The mosque there was near completion too, but this is a new mosque, towering above the houses nearby. It was hard to look at the women there and not wonder how many of their male family members they were mourning.
I wanted to capture the vastness of the memorial to the Srebrenica genocide while simultaneously portraying the personal loss each tombstone represents. The land the memorial sits on is immense, the tombstones continue into the horizon when you enter across all sides. It’s difficult to image 8,372 missing people, but when you’re there you really feel it.
My Srebrenica print is carved on Speedball’s large 6×12” speedy carve rubber block. My style of printing has changed from the Banksyesque relief printing effect since I carved this but I don’t know if I have it in me to produce something that is so emotive.
This print is for the 8,372 murdered of Srebrenica and for the women who mourn them
I used the tombstones aligned at an angle for the viewer to experience the vast and continuous line of marked graves. The solitary mourner in the foreground is not apparent immediately, especially in a relief printing format but it was important to me to have a figure there, one who is wearing a hijab as an outward declaration of her faith, the same declaration that causes her to mourn for a lost father, brother, uncle, son, as a virtue of their own faith.