“Why are you not here?” Exhibition on Srebrenica Genocide to be opened in Venice

July 6, 2019 10:00 AM

When Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1992, ethno-national divisions plunged the country into war. In July of 1995, Bosnian Serb forces invaded a United Nations Safe Area that included the town of Srebrenica, where thousands of Bosnian Muslims had sought refuge from the surrounding violence. While Bosnian Muslim women and girls were forcibly displaced from Srebrenica following the invasion, the remaining 8,373 men and boys were systematically executed. In 2006, the International Court of Justice officially ruled that these events qualified as genocide. Today, ethnic divisions still divide the region. Serbian and Bosnian Serb leaders continue to deny that the Srebrenica Genocide ever took place.

In response to this denial, Bosnian-American artist Aida Šehović created ŠTO TE NEMA [lit. “Why are you not here?”], a nomadic monument commemorating the 8,373 Bosnian Muslims who died in the Srebrenica Genocide. Šehović has been collecting the porcelain cups traditionally used for coffee service in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the goal of having one cup for each victim. For the past 13 years, on July 11th – the anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide – Šehović partners with local communities around the world to organize the ŠTO TE NEMA monument in the public square of a new city.

Each successful annual rendition of the monument represents a triumph over the forces of rejection, exclusion, and denialism that encourage societies to look away from past atrocities and prevent vital communal remembrance and healing processes from taking place. Reflecting the inclusive and universal spirit of the monument, passersby are invited to participate in the construction of ŠTO TE NEMA by filling cups with Bosnian coffee and leaving them in the square, undrunk, in memory of the victims of the Srebrenica Genocide.

This year, ŠTO TE NEMA will be held in Venice, Italy, as a part of Artivism: The Atrocity Prevention Pavilion, an ongoing exhibition organized by the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation , an international non-governmental organization devoted to the prevention of mass atrocities.

The 2019 edition of ŠTO TE NEMA will take place on July 11th in Venice’s Serra dei Giardini. All members of the public are encouraged to visit between the hours of 10am and 8pm to participate in the construction of the monument. Throughout the day, trained guides will be on site to educate the public about the project, its history, and significance to contemporary efforts for atrocity prevention and refugee resettlement around the globe.

Running concurrently with the 2019 Venice Art Biennale, Artivism: The Atrocity Prevention Pavilion highlights the work of artists and collectives who have used the arts as an instrument for confronting identity-based violence and legacies that it leaves behind. The exhibition features artivists whose work responds to six different cases of genocide and other mass atrocities, each representing a different region of the world: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan, and South Africa. Beyond the ŠTO TE NEMA installation and its five sibling exhibits, Artivism works to transform its visitors into agents of change, highlighting the power of every individual to play a role in the prevention of atrocities, both at home and around the world. To accomplish this, the final room of the pavilion introduces attendees to the work of AIPR and three other international human rights organizations, each of whom have created a series of actions that visitors can take in 60 seconds, 60 minutes, and 60 days that make an immediate contribution to the prevention of identity-based violence.

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