I was going to do a piece about all the things I saw around Sarajevo but after visiting Gallery 11/07/95, I knew I had to focus on just that. It’s a memorial museum and gallery in honour of the lives lost during the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. In total, the number of confirmed deaths are 8372 and you are strongly confronted by this fact in the exhibition. If you have the chance to visit, please go and get the audio guide because the stories you hear really add more depth to the experience.
The first part is what I found the most difficult; a room where the walls are lined with photos of over 600 people who were killed. All stared into you, in black and white, so you could imagine the pain each individual went through. Sometimes we get lost in the huge incomprehensible numbers, but this made you face each person and know that their lives were taken. Their eyes were haunting and I stayed for a very long time in that room just trying and failing to take it all in.
The following room was filled with stunning and heart breaking photography, each image with it’s own story told by the photographer himself. The photos ranged from the mass graves, to the attempt to identify bodies. But the one that broke me was of a mother stood at her doorway. Many families lost all the men in their lives; fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. The photo was described as the death of hope because it portrayed when woman would be informed that their loved ones had been identified and did not survive. Just imagining the heartbreak brought a tear to my eye.
What I found very jarring was the photograph of a woman on a bus with anger in her eyes. This was because people were being shuttled to mass funerals and the path to the ceremony was being led by police officers. The photographer brought light to the situation by explaining that the very people protecting them during that time were often the ones that previously executed the loved ones they were about to honour. It’s impossible to understand how one’s mind would have to process that fact.
Next there was different forms of art showing the pain of the country during that time. Then finally there was the wall of names, too many to process. Many with repeated last names showing whole families that were lost. It was a heart breaking experience but very important tragedy to learn about and I’m glad I went.