a n t i d o t e s

Bosnia and Herzegovina

| work-in-progress |

With the support of Centre National
de l'Audio-Visuel & Ministry of
Culture Luxembourg

Finalist at the Sarajevo Photography Festival 2023 Documentary Section

Driven by an interest in the aftermath of the Bosnian War and the context of an accident that caused my father's death in 1996 (working for an IGO) I embarked on an open-ended road trip.
Almost thirty years following the Dayton Peace Accords, I became drawn into landscapes of contested memories, lingering traumas and imaginaries of different kinds.
In the framework of a unique, age-old coexistence of cultures and religions, of multilateral geopolitical influences, of youths emigrating to wealthier countries due to a lack of opportunities... ongoing tensions between ethnic divisions, a push for secession by Bosnian Serbs, historical revisionism and the denial of crimes and of genocide continue to undermine transitions to justice and reconciliation.

1. This Seiko Automatic Movement watch was very popular in Bosnia in the 1980s. Several of them were found in mass graves containing victims of the genocide in Srebrenica. Because they operate through body motion (automatically coming to a halt after 36 or 48 hours of stillness), forensic scientists were able to estimate the time and date of the murders. Subsequently they were presented as evidence in various tribunals.

A mysterious space of ‘Cosmic Unity’ at the foot of the ‘Pyramid of the Sun’ in Visoko.

3. This calcite formation lies deep inside the Orlovača cave, 15km east of Sarajevo (Republika Srpska). The second longest cave in BiH, it is also known for the bones of a cave bear estimated to be 16,000 years old. A waiter from a nearby café told me that his great-uncle discovered the cave when one of his sheep got lost, and that it was also famous for a strange creature inhabiting it. I asked him what kind of creature and he replied that it’s a myth and that it’s more likely to be based on a homeless man, or some ‘Crazy George’.

4. A balcony in the heart of Sarajevo’s Grbavica district; former front- line area situated between the Miljacka River and ‘Zmaja od Bosne’ aka Sniper Avenue. Many roses fill Sarajevo’s gardens and parks and in-between spaces. An important symbol in Islam, Sarajevo also hosts a series of roses of a different sort, called ‘Sarajevo Roses’; the remaining circular pattern of exploded mortar shells on roads and pavements that have been filled with red paint as memorial sites. A UN report concluded that at the height of the siege, more than 3,000 shells were falling on the city each day.

I came across several villages in the Romanija region (Eastern Republika Srpska) where bonfires were burning, driving back to Sarajevo following an emotionally charged commemoration in Potočari (where 50 newly identified genocide victims were buried). Bosnian Serbs were celebrating a patriotic fest on the same day that commemorates the Srebrenica genocide in 1995 (regarded by some of them as the “liberation” of Srebrenica).

6. On a slope of the scenic Mount Vlašić (Central Bosnia), a group of teenagers were boxing outside a cottage. Lejla - a promising candidate for the next junior kickboxing championship - was preparing for an upcoming fight in Novi Travnik.

7. Two women are dozing inside the ‘Ravne Archaeological Park’ in Visoko (Central Bosnia), above an underground labyrinth where one allegedly finds an “absence of negative radiations. There are also no mobile phone or Wifi signals. It therefore represents one of the most secure locations on the Planet”.
An air of myth and circus surrounds the existence of three pyramid-shaped hills in Visoko. Since 2005, a Bosnian-American businessman, Sam Osmanagić, has claimed these hills are the largest human-made ancient pyramids on Earth and that the whole area is endowed with cosmic, healing properties. His claims have been refuted by scientists, but he has succeeded in transforming the area into a unique tourist attraction.

8. Above Sarajevo, evening mist settles on Mount Igman, one of the main sites during the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Inside the Potočari Memorial Museum, an uncanny reconstruction of the office of Colonel Thom Karremans who was appointed commander of the Dutch Battalion deployed to the enclave in 1995. Between the 11th and 22nd July that year, Srebrenica transformed into a genocidal death zone with no escape out, all this after the UN had promised military protection, and after the disarmament of all the people. 

A mural painted by soldiers of the Dutch Battalion inside the former battery factory that became the UN base in Potočari.


11. Amela was 11 yro when the war broke out. Lasting for almost four years, the Siege of Sarajevo was the longest lasting siege in modern history and left 11,000 residents dead, of which 1,600 were children.
With her brother Mirza they collected wrappings of sweets they received in packages sent from abroad. They had to go all the way to New Sarajevo municipality to get them, risking their lives because one had to cross a few very dangerous points in the city and one never knew where or when shells would hit.  

Every year thousands of people participate in a three-day commemoration hike called ‘Marš Mira’ (peace march) in the footsteps of a column of at least 15,000 men who fled Srebrenica in July 1995. More than half never reached the free territory, 110km to the north. Kübra, a journalist from Germany, gets ready to walk 35km until nightfall.

" I thread slowly, and silently. With a vertiginous kind of attention - which then throws me into occasional days of a semi-conscious slumber. Perhaps because what is at stake is so big, in part so unconceivable… I need to be in the present; attend to things as they are. But what is? The world in front of me, around me, yes. Physicality in its immense opacity, in its immense delicacy.
Moving to places, listening, placing the body in a certain (dis-)position; seeing/not seeing. With the help of the machinic objectivity of the camera. Then there is that which moves the physical universe, among which beings and their needs, fears, curiosities, desires… There are thoughts and memories that fuel beings and haunt them, as well as their places. Capture that intangible ‘stretching’ within that which is the material world.
Every image is a symbolic threshold (...)”

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