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Memory Walk Sarajevo and Istočno Sarajevo

Project Overview

An educational five-day film workshop to encourage a reflective and critical stance towards the memorial landscape.

Identifying the Problem

A public culture of remembrance serves to shape not only the collective memory of past events, but to guide the way towards reconciliation. Young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to struggle with the legacy of the war that took place in the 1990s. Stuck between a troublesome past and an uncertain future, they are confronted with a socio-political environment heavily divided along ethno-national lines. Widespread distrust and fear continue to be perpetuated in politics, media, education and the commemorative landscape, leaving little narrative space for the youth to voice their own opinions or concerns. Within this repressive atmosphere, it is difficult for the younger generation to develop the critical thinking skills that would allow for an inclusive reflection on past, present and future. 

Laura and Lamija were particularly interested in understanding how public monuments shaped the youth’s perspective of the war. The memorial landscape in and around Sarajevo is highly divided, with monuments screaming competing memories at each other in public spaces. Those born during or right after the war have grown up in a climate that often presents the past in inaccurate or selective ways. Despite being exposed on a daily basis to these memories cemented in stone, the youth often know or care little about the messages behind the public monuments. Laura and Lamija wanted to develop a project that would not only address the lack of knowledge about the country’s past, but would encourage the younger generation to voice their opinions and challenge their own perspectives.

Creating A Solution

Laura and Lamija decided to create the Memory Walk workshop, which encouraged Bosnian youth from different backgrounds to critically reflect on the monuments and contested histories in their living environment. The workshop encouraged a critical stance towards the process of memorialization and promoted a more inclusive reflection on past, present and future across ethnic and geographic boundaries. Laura and Lamija wanted the workshop to foster constructive dialogue about complex issues related to history, memory and the roles and responsibilities of the youth towards public remembrance. 

Thirteen young Bosnians participated in the five-day workshop, which began with a day of lectures on memorialization by several activists and experts. The participants then engaged in creative exercises that required analyzing the monuments in their own neighborhoods through the lens of what they had learned during the lectures. Exercises included asking the participants to draw their “ideal monument,” which encouraged them to be creative in filling the public space with alternative ways of remembering the past. The following day consisted of a guided Monument Tour through Sarajevo and Istočno Sarajevo; the tour included a discussion of the function, message and meaning of monuments. 

Over the next few days, the participants were tasked with creating a short film about a specific monument. They performed in-depth research on the monument, and then learned how to conduct interviews on film. The participants then went out to interview people in the communities, asking them about their perceptions of the public monuments. After collecting their footage, the participants edited their short films under the guidance of professional editors. On the final day of the workshop, the young filmmakers proudly presented their short films in Art Cinema Kriterion in Sarajevo during the annual Film Festival in front of a large crowd of relatives, friends and distinguished guests. The film festival was followed by a panel discussion and reception.

Laura and Lamija believe that the effects of the workshop will be long-lasting, since the activities not only encouraged the participants to reflect on the representation of the past in the present, but on on their own roles and responsibilities towards public remembrance. Following the workshop, the participants were tasked with screening their short films in their own communities, so that they may encourage discussions about memorials in their own personal way. Laura and Lamija also compiled the short films onto a DVD to present as an educational tool for educational organizations. There are also plans to travel around Bosnia and Herzegovina with this workshop and to set up trans-European exchanges. You can view the workshop participants’ short films on the Memory Walk YouTube channel

Lessons Learned

For Laura and Lamija, the most difficult aspect of this project was determining the length of the workshop; they wanted to ensure that the workshop would be long enough to accommodate all of the planned activities, while also conforming with their budget. While they had hoped that five days would be perfect for the workshop, they later determined that planning such a packed program, with activities from early morning to late evening for five days, was too intense for the participants. They recommend that anyone organizing a multi-day workshop event add an extra day to the schedule to ensure the most pleasant and productive learning environment.

Funding

While one of the more challenging faced by Laura and Lamija was securing funding  for a relatively small project in Bosnia and Herzegovina, they raised over $5,000 for this project. They obtained a grant from Humanity in Action, as well as additional funding from Italian, German and Austrian Embassies in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Laura and Lamija attribute much of their success to the support provided by the Youth Initative for Human Rights, with particular thanks to Nina Šeremet and Chloe Grant, as well as the assistance of Senior Fellow Inga Kotlo. All of these individuals helped with the selection of the workshop participants, workshop logistics, translation and taking photographs during the workshop. Two film editors were hired to help the participants to create their short films, and the Anne Frank House provided the filmmaking equipment. 

Awards & Recognition

Memory Walk Sarajevo and Istočno Sarajevo was recognized as an extraordinary Senior Fellow project at the Fifth Annual Humanity in Action International Conference, held in Sønderborg.

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