Gender and Memory through the Presentation of Several Recent Artistic Interventions

Apart from a personal angle, there are at least three other ways in which we can remember the war. “The first way entails seeking reconciliation with the former enemy, mitigating conflict, and is therefore inclusive. The second way promotes national self-affirmation by excluding the enemy, therefore it is irreconcilable and exclusive. The third aims to defend against a real or imagined threat and settling old scores – that is why it is exclusive and aggressively defensive.”[1] Although, when watching the daily news or listening to the pre-election speeches of politicians, it may seem to us that the second and third ways prevail, the first type of remembrance of the war has been present in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia for the last 20 years or more. Along with it, there is an interest in the past and the remembrance with a dominant female and local narrative. This type of memory is experienced by the artists, activists, and authors who will be discussed here “as a duty, not spontaneous anymore,” as Pierre Nora explains the conquest of memory by history.[2]

Although this text focuses on several artistic interventions created by women authors in the past two or three years, it would be unjust not to mention the names of several artists who fought against oblivion, faced the past, and dealt with identity issues in various ways. For instance, some of the works of the Croatian artist Sanja Iveković keep alive the memory of women persecuted in the Second World War. Šejla Kamerić’s photographs, installations, and other forms of art offer her social, critical, and intimate comments on, among other things, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The video work from 1998 “I am Milica Tomić”[3] explores how identities are built in conjunction with complicated mechanisms, antagonisms, and gaps. In the words of the author, “How can you believe something strongly, while your body is telling you something completely different?”[4]

An intervention is an action that directly changes an existing condition or process, and several artistic interventions discussed in this text function as successful surgical interventions that help heal the fabric of our everyday life. All the selected exhibitions relate to women and are authored by women. They were created at approximately the same time, and they connect several generations of women, showing their direct experiences: of the mothers of Srebrenica, of the women victims of sexual violence during the war, of the women fighters, peace activists, but also of the women from the Anti-Fascist Women’s Front (AFŽ). Does it make sense to connect these exhibitions?

The reason why these exhibitions can be connected is that actually they all tell different parts of the same story. From AFŽ and “what our struggle has given us” (Šta je nama naša borba dala), through the Belgrade artist who, by her intervention, commits an “act of civic courage” in the Serbian context, to the exhibition about children who were born of rape in BiH, which opens up a taboo topic and disturbs social order, and the exhibition that showcases the everyday peace-making stories of women, but also the warrior faces of women. What connects these interventions? All of them are based on narratives that oppose, to a greater or lesser extent, the dominant narratives of the environment in which they were created. This can be one of the motives for creating these works.

There are several such exhibitions. The exhibition of Jelena Jaćimović ArchiWar: Stories and Memories about the Genocide in Srebrenica; the exhibition Breaking Free about children born because of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, co-authored by Ajna Jusić; the exhibition Peace with a Female Face that was created in cooperation with the peace movement “Peace with a Female Face” and the Civil Peace Service Forum (forumZFD); the exhibition featuring selected materials from the Archive of the Anti-Fascist Struggle of Women of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Yugoslavia, collected by the Association for Culture and Art “Crvena” (“Red”) for the last ten years titled What We Started, You Finish… – AFŽ 1942; and the exhibition Women Fighters of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, created in cooperation with the “Women Fighters 92-95” Association, the Archives of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Archives of the USK, and the Tešanj Museum.

Derrida’s idea that “archivization produces as much as it records[5] the event” can be strongly connected with the intention of the exhibitionWhat We Started, You Finish… – AFŽ 1942″. This exhibition shows specially selected material from the Archives of the Anti-Fascist Struggle of Women of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Yugoslavia, which the Association for Culture and Art “Crvena” has collected over the last ten years[6]. “Crvena” is a feminist and left-oriented organization from Sarajevo, that has, among other things, been archiving historical evidence “about the work and activity of the Women’s Anti-Fascist Front of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the participation of women in the National Liberation Struggle and the construction of socialist Yugoslavia” over the past decade. 

The archive’s aim is to motivate new struggles on the fronts we need to establish and in the many battles we need to win. “The revolution happened. Let’s start another one!”[7] The mission of the AFŽ, which was abolished after only eleven years, was to be succeeded by women’s organizations of the former Yugoslav republics.[8] The team at “Crvena”, together with the Bosanski Petrovac Cultural Center, set up an exhibition at the exact location where the AFŽ of Yugoslavia was formally established on December 6 and 7, 1942. In addition to archival materials, the exhibition also presented the embroidery “AFŽ, Unfinished Work”, made by twenty women in Berlin and Sarajevo, especially for this exhibition. Andreja Dugandžić explains: “An embroidered message from the past tries to connect today’s era and the long-lost past through weaving.” The embroidery thus becomes an expression of hope, materializing the AFŽ’s belief that jointly, women can patch up the world and hold it together. The fact that the work is unfinished symbolically underlines that the issues that AFŽ has initiated still cannot be considered closed.[9]

Jelena Jaćimović’s exhibition, with the archive term in its title, “ArchiWar: Stories and Memories About the Genocide in Srebrenica”,[10] as the page where the exhibition can be viewed says, was created as a form of resistance against the dominant politics of memory in Serbia that are based on nationalism and militarism, reflected also in the denial of war crimes and genocide committed by the Serbian side, by the glorification of convicted war criminals and the military, as well as the instrumentalization of Serbian victims. The exhibition’s author is a peace activist from Belgrade who participated in the Peace March[11] 2022 and was directly inspired by the story of Amra Begić Fazlić, “a woman who survived the genocide in Srebrenica and who works at the Potočari Memorial Center, whose father and grandfather were killed in July 1995.” Her story about the dream in which she is looking for her father’s bones, about baby Fatima, her best friend, neighbors, family, getting used to death, her father and Srebrenica is one of many personal experiences that must be heard and never forgotten.”[12] Through illustrations and text, the exhibition showcases personal stories from the archives of court documents, video material, photographs, and stories that the Srebrenica Memorial Center continues to collect.

The exhibition “Peace with a Female Face” is the result of the cooperation and efforts of the women’s peace movement “Peace with a Female Face” and the Civil Peace Service Forum (forumZFD) to integrate the female perspective and representations in the processes of confronting the past and building peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), including the female side of the story of survival and overcoming the consequences of war. When asked about the importance of having an exhibition about the war from the perspective of women, Radmila Žigić, coordinator of the “Peace with a Female Face” initiative that created the exhibition, says: “Because of the simple fact that women make up 50 percent of the population. We live in a patriarchal society where great historical events are discussed from the perspective of men, especially soldiers and politicians. This is not specific to Bosnia and Herzegovina only, but also happens in other countries.” Radmila also reminds us that at least one million women had to leave their homes during the war, many were victims of sexual violence, and around ten thousand women were killed. “This reality, as well as individual destinies, should be part of our memory. History belongs to everyone, including women.” The exhibition depicts civil activists and thus breaks the stereotype of women as passive victims of war.[13]

Ajna Jusić and the Association “Forgotten Children of the War” have created an exhibition about mothers and their children born as a result of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The exhibition, titled “Breaking Free” gained international recognition[14] and is inspired by the long struggle and strength of children and the stories of their mothers. It presents photographs of children who are now in their late twenties and were conceived and born due to wartime sexual violence. The photographs also include children of members of United Nations peacekeeping missions and children of humanitarian workers who were engaged in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as their mothers. Ajna Jusić explained that “members of the UN peacekeeping missions and humanitarian workers came to Bosnia and Herzegovina to set up a certain structure for peace and to help, but that some of them, although they were not allowed to do so, through voluntary and non-violent relationships, but also through sexual violence, created descendants who remained completely unrecognized, with major cultural problems and identities that were not clear”.[15]

The exhibition “Women Fighters of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina”[16] was set up on RBiH Army Day, displaying 183 newspaper articles and documents across 30 panels, along with 204 photographs of 40 women, participants and members of the RBiH Army. The exhibition shatters the major prejudice that only men fought on the battlefields, highlighting that more than five thousand women fought in the units of the RBiH Army, many of whom died and some received the highest war awards. Interestingly, it was only in December 2020 that the association of women members of the RBiH Army was established under the name “Women Fighters 92-95”. Their Facebook page states that the association advocates for the preservation of the achievements of the participation of women fighters.[17] A paper from ten years ago explored the experiences of women involved in the army during the war in Sarajevo, of female soldiers of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina[18] who were demobilized and those who remained in military service after the war. One of the issues they faced, along with many other non-soldier women, was neglect in the public space. Consequently, many women whose role during the war had been crucial were now invisible and socially unrecognized, with no support to transition back to normal life after demobilization, such as finding a job and so on. Perhaps due to the stereotype that women are typically caregivers, doctors, or peacemakers, women who fought on the front lines during remain invisible and their needs are not fully recognized even within institutions.

At the end of this text, and as an introduction to a new one, I asked Melina Sadiković[19], who helped me a lot to write this text, for a brief explanation of the difference between the concepts of “culture of remembrance”, “politics of remembrance”, and “memory studies”, and for some recommended reading:

“Here it is difficult to find simple answers and there are no definitive and uniform definitions. In the public space, as well as in intellectual circles in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other post-Yugoslav countries, we talk about (selective) forgetting, ‘wars of memory’, and opposing ‘cultures of remembrance’. Some researchers believe that one of the causes of opposing views in intellectual discussions is precisely the insufficient engagement in the development of sensitized theory and methodology for researching the post-war culture of remembrance and other related concepts, as well as a small number of translated theoretical and methodological works by authors who have shaped these academic fields.  

One of the good examples is Kuljić’s book Memory Culture[20], which offers a critical account of the theoretical debate and the development of various scientific explanations of the use of the past. There are also (translated) works by Aleida and Jan Assmann, as well as other important authors in this field, such as Maurice Halbwachs, Pierre Nora, Jeffrey K. Olick, Paul Rickoer, and Astrid Erll. Additionally, there are some websites of organizations that support research and publication on memory culture or otherwise deal with issues of memory culture, memory politics, and memory studies that are worth visiting, such as Documenta[21], the Fund for Humanitarian Law, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung[22], forum ZFD, and others. For those interested in how individual war traumas shape collective memory, and whether there is a specific female narrative of memory in the construction of culture and politics of memory, the texts of Nirman Moranjak Bamburać[23] and Damir Arsenijević[24] provide answers.”

Understanding the manifestations of reality through gender, peace, labor, cultural, and other studies is developed through the cooperation of humanistic and social disciplines and their creation of interdisciplinary theory and practical action. These studies can change academia, just as action through the arts changes people.

Jasmina Čaušević graduated in literature and language on the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade and obtained her master’s degree in social sciences in the field of gender studies at the University of Sarajevo in 2008.

[1] Holm Sundhaussen, „Jugoslavija i njezine države sljednice. Konstrukcija, destrukcija i nova konstrukcija ‘sjećanja’ i mitova“. U: Kultura pamćenja i historija, priredile M. Brkljačić i S. Prlenda. Zagreb: Golden marketing – Tehnička knjiga, str. 277.

[2] Nora, Pierre. 2006. „Između pamćenja i historije. Problematika mjesta”. U: Kultura pamćenja i historija, priredile M. Brkljačić i S. Prlenda. Zagreb: Golden marketing – Tehnička knjiga, str. 29-30.


[4] Milica Tomić: Bili smo tamna avangarda globalnih promena – Portal Novosti

[5] Derrida, J. i Prenowitz, E. (1995). Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Diacritics25(2), 9-63. Dostupno na:, a prevod citata preuzet iz: Renata Jambrešić Kirin, „Rodni aspekti socijalističke politike pamćenja Drugoga svjetskog rata. U: Kultura sjećanja: 1945, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung BiH: 2009.

[6] Više o izložbi pročitajte na: 

[7] Web stranica ovog Arhiva je:

[8] Preporučujemo za čitanje knjigu koju su uredile Andreja Dugandžić i Tijana Okić  Izgubljena revolucija: AFŽ između mita i zaborava koja je dostupna na stranici:

[9] Pročitajte više na:




[13] Čitav intervju s Radmilom Žigić dostupan je na:

[14] Tekst Ajne Jusić dostupan je na:

[15] O izložbi više možete pročitati na: https: //

[16] Više o izložbi možete pročitati na: kao i na:


[18] Dautbegović-Bošnjaković, S. (2013), „Zaboravljena dimenzija rata u BiH – vojnikinje“. U: Kojeg je roda sigurnost, Sarajevo: Sarajevski otvoreni centar, str. 84-85.

[19] Melina Sadiković doktorirala je na Univerzitetu u Brightonu, interdisciplinarna je istraživačica iz Sarajeva. Oblasti njenog obrazovanja i interdisciplinarnog istraživanja su kulturalne studije, kulturalno pamćenje i mirovno obrazovanje.

[20] Todor Kuljić (2006), Kultura sećanja, Beograd: Čigoja štampa. Dostupna na:



[23] Naprimjer: 

[24] Posebno preporučujemo tekst „A public language of grief: Art, poetry, and transitional justice in post-conflict Bosnia“ koji su napisali Damir Arsenijević, Jasmina Husanović i Sari Wastel, i koji je dostupan na:  Ostali tekstovi Damira Arsenijevića mogu se pronaći na: