Sarajevo – City in Europe!
Under this motto we propose a ‘diptych’ of two cultural events, structurally autonomous and independent, but coherent and complementary conceptually and content-wise:
1. ‘Sarajevo – Rotterdam – Sarajevo’ (in short:
2. ‘Artists Work in
‘We’ are Willem Besselink and Guus Vreeburg. Willem Besselink (1980) is a student of Visual Arts, now in his graduation year. For the past three years, he has been a participant and co-organiser of annual summer-studios for young artists from across Europe, including Bosnia & Herzegovina and from the rest of the world (SICE – Sarajevo International Cultural Exchange). Guus Vreeburg (1954) is an art-historian, experienced in lecturing and organizing workshops on a variety of topics; he was present at the Sarajevo summer-studios of 2004 and 2005. We both live and work in Rotterdam, and both of us have fallen in love with Sarajevo.
‘Sarajevo – City in Europe’ will be the first project of ‘stichting C foundation’, a non-profit foundation that we are setting up to organize cultural activities to stimulate cultures / contributions / communication / cooperation / creation / currents / communities / cohesion / contacts / connections / continuity / circuits / and other c-issues. General ambition of ‘stichting C foundation’ is to stimulate young people’s active involvement in contemporary cultural issues in today’s Europe-of-many-cultures and to generate their contributions to it.
Sarajevo and Europe and Sarajevo
Talking about Sarajevo with people in The Netherlands – our home country – always triggers strange reactions. The cliché images of ‘a city at war’ – even though that’s been over for 10 years now – are still the most common. The last things people heard here were about the siege of the city in 1992-1995, but after that was over, not much attention was paid to
Hardly ever there’s media-coverage on the ‘other side’ of things:
All this makes Sarajevo, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, and for all that: the Balkans as a region, seem very remote to many people in The Netherlands (and the rest of ‘Europe’…) – almost like a different continent… and hardly a part of ‘Europe’… Although Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and the Balkans in general are closer to Western Europe than Turkey or Greece, they ‘feel’ more remote than the US or Japan… And yet, whoever does take the courage to start out for
After visiting Sarajevo over the last few years on several occasions for several reasons, we found that Sarajevo is, on the contrary, one of Europe’s most interesting cities!
Sarajevo – some background
Historically, Sarajevo and Bosnia & Herzegovina have always been right on the edge of things, right on the border between ‘East’ and ‘West’. Around 300 AD, the split of the Roman Empire into a Western half (Rome) and an Eastern part (Constantinople) cut across the region; later on (1463-1878), the territory of present-day Bosnia & Herzegovina formed the north-westernmost part of the Ottoman Empire, and later still (1878-1918) it was the south-easternmost part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire; in the Interbellum it was a part of the Yugoslav kingdom, and in modern times of Tito’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. At present, Bosnia & Herzegovina is an independent country on the south-eastern flank of Europe.
Always ‘at the edge’, Sarajevo boosts a long history of cultural diversity: it is one of the few cities in which four religions (Islam, Roman and Orthodox Christianity, and Judaism have been living together for centuries. Thus, unlike most other cities in
Whoever visits Sarajevo today comes into a relatively small but cosmopolitan and vibrant city. Sarajevo, host to the 1984 Winter Olympics, it is still recovering from the 1992-1995 siege. It suffered great material damage - not only were infrastructures and buildings destroyed, but foremost its social structure. The fragile equilibrium between the various cultures was brutally shaken.
Seen this way Sarajevo, and Bosnia & Herzegovina as a whole, may serve as a source of inspiration to many cities in Europe, Rotterdam included, that have become culturally diverse only relatively recently. The Sarajevo experience shows that, apart from great threats, ‘many-culturalism’ (as we personally like to dub and identify the contemporary situation in many Western societies, including the Dutch) may offer great cultural potential as well. We regret that ‘9/11’, ‘Madrid’, the events in London of last July, and the cold blooded murder on Dutch cineast Theo van Gogh in November 2004 by a self-proclaimed Dutch Islam fundamentalist seem only to have deepened the gaps in Dutch cultural, social and political life. The very concept of cultural diversity has become an issue of fierce political and public debate, and meets increasing scepticism… Natives’ already critical attitudes towards ‘Islam’ tend to develop into a fear for and hatred of anything and anybody that represents ‘Islam’ as a religion and as a culture – the very concepts of it increasingly being considered as ‘non-Western’ and/or ‘non-European’ – while simultaneously, even consequentially, many young people here of Muslim descent, sons and daughters of former immigrants here, feeling ignored and despised, turn to ‘fundamentalist’ interpretations of Islamic law. No new bridges – essential for any ‘many cultural’ society - are being built; any existing bridges are in danger of being blasted…!
Sarajevo – Rotterdam
For Rotterdam, as for other Dutch civic societies, the Sarajevo experience over the past centuries may be both a frightening example of what might happen here too, as well as a source of inspiration for positive alternatives… A recently published study on Bosnian Islam (see: ‘Bosnische Moslims zijn geen Bin Ladens’; de Volkskrant, 19 September 2005) may help create more understanding. Meeting young artists, architects, designers and others from Sarajevo and Bosnia at large, and seeing and hearing their interpretation of ‘culture’ might be inspirational to young people here, including young people of Bosnian descent whose parents fled here. It may help to understand that, notwithstanding prevailing prejudices about what is ‘European’ culture or the ‘culture’ of ‘
On the other hand, people in
Through the diptych ‘
In organizing ‘Sarajevo – City in Europe’ in Sarajevo and abroad, we hope to show how interesting, how essential and how inspirational the city of Sarajevo is. We feel supported by a wide group of friends, both at home and abroad. We hope to win your support and enthousiasm as well.
Rotterdam/NL; December 2005