A festival that has connected Sarajevo and Belgrade through cultural events is also attempting to change attitudes.
By Bedrana Kaletovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 31/05/12
Funds raised during the festival in Belgrade are going towards reconstruction of Sarajevo's City Hall. [Bedrana Kaletovic/SETimes]
As always, the Days of Sarajevo festival lasted a full five days, featuring nearly 500 Bosnian artists who spread out across various venues in Belgrade. They offered audiences plays, photo exhibits, concerts, dramatic readings and films. This year, the festival attracted nearly 10,000 people between May 22nd and 26th.
Sponsors continue the festival Days of Sarajevo in Belgrade to renew the links that strongly connected Belgrade and Sarajevo before the dark days of the siege of Sarajevo, early in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). For the past six years, NGOs from these two cities have been trying to strengthen the cultural affiliation.
During the first festival in 2007, "It was quite important to begin the story of the siege of Sarajevo. Today, we do much more with this festival and we do not finish [on] the last day; relations between these two cities continue," Maja Mičić, director of the organising NGO Youth Initiative for Human Rights of Serbia, told SETimes.
This year, the festival was dedicated to the restoration of Sarajevo's Vijećnica or City Hall, the symbol of the capital and one of its most important historical and architectural monuments.
It served as the National Library until August 1992, when shelling by Serb forces destroyed it, torching more than 2 million books. The facility is slowly being rebuilt, thanks to contributions.
"All I knew about the City Hall is that it is in Sarajevo and that it is now gone; but what it meant to the citizens of Sarajevo and what brought about its destruction was never talked about in the Serbian media. This festival has offered me another dimension of that truth,'' Danijela Popovic, a student from Belgrade, told SETimes.
The festival is aimed at showcasing the culture of Sarajevo, connecting people through it and underscoring the importance of stability for the welfare of all countries in the region. The festival is no longer limited to a relationship between Sarajevo and Belgrade, but fosters a connection to other regional cities and countries.
''We are a band who came into being through this festival and we function great, [even though] we connect Belgrade, Sarajevo and Zagreb. Through this festival I got a new band, new friends, a new realisation about war and its tragic consequences',' said Nenad Kovacevic, a percussionist from Croatia, who, together with a bass player from Belgrade, Ivan Mihajlovic and Damir Imamovic from Sarajevo, form the band Sevdah Takht.
Strengthening regional collaboration in the area of arts is no easy task, given the region's political climate. However, some artists want no part of politics and view working in other countries as working in their second home. One of them is actress Mirjana Karanovic of Serbia, who makes movies in both BiH and Croatia.
''Sarajevo has been my life for the past 11 years; I often act in plays there. I am terribly sorry that politics ruins the advancements which we achieve though art and culture,'' she told SETimes.
Karanovic won the Days of Sarajevo award in recognition of her involvement in culture and the fact that she still raises awareness about the consequences of war, 20 years later.
Their forces joined, the youth of Sarajevo and Belgrade continue to work on this festival, but also to influence public awareness about the war that left deep scars on their region.
''I had a few years of war in my city. I don't want to hate anyone, but I would like to be convinced that my generation in Serbia sees the events of two decades ago. This is why I visit the festival and I am proud of all that it has achieved,'' festival attendee Anes Muhic from Sarajevo told SETimes.