Sarajevo is the capital city of Bosnia & Herzegovina; an economic, educational and cultural center of the country. It is situated on the Miljacka River, with a five-century long tradition and half a million of inhabitants these days. You may have heard about Sarajevo as the site of the assassination in 1914, the Winter Olympics in 1984 or the Sarajevo siege between 1992 and 1996…You may have heard that it’s a place where the East and the West meet; where a mosque, cathedral, church and synagogue can be found in the same street. Or, you might have heard about Sarajevo’s well known humor and slang, its old town Bascarsija, delicious cevapcici and burek, its music, film, the Sarajevo roses.. In any case, this is a city where everyone can find their place, their own star in a constellation small but large in its diversity.
If you look at the city at night, from an elevation, it looks like a long, sparkling valley where different cultures and worlds interweave. It looks surreal to me sometimes – a city asleep on clouds, while millions of stars twinkle from the earth.
Bosnia & Herzegovina was part of the ex-Yugoslav state until March 1992, when its citizens voted its independence in the referendum. Consequently, aggression on B&H started, including a siege of its capital. Aggressor deployed about 300 tanks, over 100 mortars and a large number of soldiers and snipers on the hills surrounding Sarajevo. The siege lasted for 1425 days – being the longest one in modern history, and the city’s only link to the world at the time was the Sarajevo Tunnel. Over 470,000 grenades fell on Sarajevo in those days, or 330 per day. During the siege, about 35,000 buildings were destroyed, including hospitals, maternity units, schools, museums, libraries, mosques, churches etc.
One eight-year-old boy was so used to the sound of grenades that he missed it after the siege ended. Several months had to pass to make me learn how to live in peace.
Grenades falling on the city were leaving characteristic scars on the pavements, in the shape of flowers. After the aggression, these scars were painted red. These unique marks of death and heroic defense of Sarajevo were named Sarajevo Roses. They are unavoidable part of history of this city, a stately monument for our dead, engraved deeply in hearts of the people of Sarajevo. They are there where someone was stopped in a line for water, children running to school or just playing light-heartedly. During the siege we were divided into those who grow these roses by their lives and those who survived and watered the roses with their tears. And that was the only difference. Not long after the war we witnessed removal of Sarajevo Roses, which is, unfortunately, being passed over in silence.
The text “Disappearing Sarajevo Roses” written by Jasminko Halilović was published on November, 3rd, 2008 pointing to the attitude of the authorities towards this monument.
A great number of public reactions followed, and among others there was the reaction of the mayoress of Sarajevo Semiha Borovac who claimed that she would personally see to the adoption of an act for the preservance of the Sarajevo Roses, which by the end of her mandate did not happen.
Harun Kujović, a member of the Association, organized a petition for citizens who wanted to support the initiative, and in only a few hours more than 2.500 signatures were gathered. More than 4.000 people joined the Facebook group establish to support this text.
Jasminko Halilović and Vesna Kenjić, members of the Association, together with their friends Melina Kamerić and Ismet Lisica from the studio LISICA designed a project under the name “7 Spots – 7 Sarajevo Roses”. The idea is to connect the roses with true stories of people and thus point to the importance that these roses have for the citizens of Sarajevo.
This project represented Bosnia-Herzegovina at the XIV Biennial of Young Artists of Europe and the Mediterranian in Skopje (Macedonia) in 2009. In August 2010 the project was presented in San Marino as well at the SM International Arts Festival.