Art and Activism in Prijedor

Ars Kozara
Ars Kozara

By  Karina Goulordava

Throughout my four years of involvement with various activist organizations I have considered, explored, and learned about various techniques for audience engagement, impact, and communication. During this time I have become a strong proponent of combing art and activism/social campaigns/etc. Through artistic means, activists have an endless amount of media through which to communicate with the target audience. The issues we address are often controversial and sensitive. Words alone fall short of reaching the desired ears. Using artistic methods such as performance, puppetry, sculpture, dance, etc. has the ability to convey a message with more clarity and impact. Through art, the target audience may feel more comfortable interacting with the chosen medium before entering into a verbal discussion. Further, a sculpture, performance, painting, or photo can leave a lasting impacting on spectators long after the event.

Prior to my arrival in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I was very eager to learn about the various artistic endeavours underway by activists in the Prijedor area and beyond. At the beginning of our weeklong workshop we watched a documentary film by our host Kemal Pervanic. “Pretty Village” tells the story of Kevljani, the small village in which we were hosted throughout the week. Once home to around 800 residents, today only 50 reside in the village. Kevljani saw the massacre of around 600 residents and additional ethnic cleansing through forced migration as many sought refuge elsewhere during the 1990s war. “Pretty Village” allowed for many residents, including Kemal, to share their stories, remember those who lost their lives, explore the motives of the war and its perpetrators, and establish a record of what occurred during the war. For further information on the film, please see the following link: https://www.facebook.com/prettyvillagefilm.

Later in the week we met with Nerja Kadic from the Institute for Youth Development KULT, which focuses on educating and engaging with youth on issues such as gender based violence and women’s rights. Nerja shared with us a number of videos that demonstrated several activities of the association. One particularly powerful event took place at a popular mall in Sarajevo. The performance began as a simple dance between a man and a woman but later showed the male performer taking on an abusive, aggressive, violent, and angry role towards the female dancer. The dance performance depicted gender based violence, which resulted in shocked and upset expressions on the faces of many audience members. Through the use of dance, the organization was able to engage with a large audience and share a strong message without the use of a single word. For additional information, please see their website: http://www.kultbih.org/

On our last day of the workshop we met with Nemanja Cado from Ars Kozora, an art in nature laboratory in Kozora National Park. All of the artistic works within the laboratory are made primarily from materials in the surrounding forest, allowing nature to eventually absorb the art. Several of the works engaged with topics related to WWII, the 1990s war, and other social issues. However, it was refreshing to see additional pieces take on an apolitical nature. I especially liked the initiative as it took art away from an urban centre into an unconventional setting in which artists and visitors engage with art and nature simultaneously, allowing the two to become inseparable.  For more information, please visit their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ars-Kozara/133325430046431).

I was strongly encouraged and inspired by the many artists/activist we met during our weeklong workshop. Their endless creativity in tackling sensitive issues particular to their communities not only further informed my understanding of the Prijedor area but also the ways in which artistic effort can be used to discuss and portray social and political topics.

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