Art and the Balkans

Though art is said to inspire life, what happens when one is witness to only the dance of death instead of life is a question that needs contemplation.  Extremely brutal and horrific deaths by way of genocides, massacres, holocaust, nuclear bombing – the list is endless.  While rest of the so-called sensitive world offered lip service, even regretted, and even justified these brutal elimination of innocent men, women and children, art has taken a more stoic stance to expose the reality and brutal soul of the man. Art has always condemned hatred and even attempted to heal the scars.

Holocaust alone has inspired many films, music, drama and art. Concentration camps, industry of death, Hiroshima, Nagasaki all have become real life exhibits exposing the dark side of human civilization. There have been many lesser known genocides like the ones in former Yugoslavian states. Srebrenica massacre, Sarajevo, constant bombing of Serbia and Bosnia have left deep scars on the people of these nations.

While war and Art are inextricably connected, it is the irony of expressing oneself creatively in times of torture and battle that makes art related to war so compelling. Former Yugoslavian countries have bled for years, after the fall out in the late 1980s. Each of the former Yugoslavian states have their horror stories to tell. It might be disappointing to the world, but the blame game filled with hatred helped perish thousands of lives in the most gruesome manner in modern history.

Like most wars, the conflict-hit region of Balkan is slowly fading away fro the memories of the West and that of the larger International community. This denial of the suffering or erasure of memory would pave way for more genocides and bombings, ultimately culminating the colossal human suffering. The men, women and children massacred in the former Yugoslavian states hold a special place in various forms of art.

It is impossible to make sense of the brutality of war. Art has dared to hold an honest mirror to it all. It also continues to depict inner struggle of man to come to terms with the dark side of human civilization, which is hell bent upon using destructive means to find solutions. Art itself is testimony to man’s attempt to humanize society and mobilize people to condemn violence and give up the hatred.

Art helps the world to keep these terrifying memories alive, for any erasure of these deaths and suffering would only heighten the chances of such events occurring again. The river of blood that flowed through the soil may dry, and be washed away by rain. Flowers might grow in the place of mass graves, but photographs, sculptures, paintings, movies and text would remain eternally, unless one sees a repeating of the book burning.

In fact, the most reliable source of the suffering of victims is the art that is created by the very same victims. These first hand accounts of war and torture live on, and come from the conscious and unconscious spurts of creativity. The world may turn its back on war crimes, and indulge in blame game and politicize everything, but the suffering of those left behind with scarred bodies and minds shall remain eternally in their art.

There have been hundreds of artists documenting and expressing the brutality of wars and battles in the Balkan. These masterpieces help in keeping the terrifying memories alive and show respect to the victims who laid down their precious lives. Perhaps the victim finds his strength in art and thus art becomes the only platform to express unconscious and conscious needs and fears which otherwise cannot be said freely in a hypocritical world. These masterpieces stand as testimonies to human follies and the futility of war and unadulterated hatred.


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