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.
(Photo: D.S. Klix.ba)