Ziyah Gafić, Ozren Kebo, Dragan Bursać
English and Bosnian language
Heartland is a long and tedious journey through my war ravaged homeland. It's been twenty years since the war ended. But peace can't simply be the absence of violence. Bosnia is locked in self perpetuating cycle of ethno-politics, ruled by ethnic elites and rapidly devastated in suspicious privatisation of public companies. The state is so weakened by nepotism and systemic corruption that it may as well qualify as failed state. I aim to capture the quiet, the loneliness and the determination of people trying to carry on with their lives after the very fabric of their community, their rituals and their social life has been torn apart while thousands of missing Bosnians are still being exhumed from mass graves across the country.
When the Bosnian war started I was 12: too young to take part, to fight or to take photographs. I was, however, old enough to be targeted and to be part of the Balkan news circus - as an object. Unlike many other Bosnians, my family was fairly lucky. My disabled aunt was burned alive in her house and her remains were never recovered; my grandfather committed suicide after he recognised the same pattern of ethnic hate he had fought fiercely as Tito's partisan in World War 2; one of my cousins was gang raped. I grew up under siege. I was raised and shaped by war. My teenage years were marked by regular sniper fire, continuous shelling, scarce water and electricity supply and occasional hunger. That was the life in besieged Sarajevo, the longest siege in modern warfare. In rare moments when we had electricity, I watched media reports tell the story of my homeland--while I lived a very different war. There was so much more to war than an old lady, veiled and weeping. I knew there was an underground musical scene, I knew there was a gang of teenagers collecting fresh shrapnels after shelling just to show off to the young girls hiding in improvised bomb shelters. I knew because I was in it. Instead, a reduced, fragmented and distorted image was projected for others to see. As a boy, I had no means or knowledge with which to respond; I watched as truth was corrupted in others' hands and it was worse than a lie. For my truth to be told, I had to find a voice of my own and share it unflinchingly. Heartland is a visual journey and an homage to my ailing homeland.
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