i’m your best friend, i kill you for nothing: a photo history of genocide in srebrenica

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In the heart of Sarajevo, just across from the main cathedral, can be found a photo and video exhibit that chronicles the horrors of the genocide in Srebrenica on 11 July 1995. Galerija 11/07/95 hosts “You are my witness [Sen benim sahidimsin. Ti si moj svedok.],” which houses a photo history by photographer Taik Samarah of the thousands of Bosnian men and boys massacred in a genocide by Serb forces in Srebrenica in July 1995. It is the first memorial gallery in Bosnia and Herzegovina; an exhibition space aiming to preserve the memory of what happened in Srebrenica and the 8372 people who lost their lives in the genocide [Prva memorijaina galerija u Bosni i Hercegovini, izložbeni prostor kojem je cilj očuvati sjećanja na tragediju Srebrenice i 8372 osobe tragično stradale u srebreničkom genocidu].

This is an art exhibit, not a museum per se. The public relations manager of the gallery explains it this way; “Even though it is our main and foremost mission to mark and promote one of the most tragic events in recent European history through artful photographs and various contents, Gallery 11/07/95 is exactly that – a gallery, and not a museum… Most of the contents exhibited in the Gallery cannot be accessed nor viewed on any website, and it is exclusively available to the visitors. The authentic art combined with access to the highly detailed contents which enable visitors to acquaint themselves with the events and the people of the time provide a rather unique experience which is confirmed by the popular support from the visitors.”

It is a constant struggle for me to understand what brings a people to massacre another simply based on ethnic or religious differences. Having seen genocide museums in Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda and Germany, it amazes me how similar the stories and methodology are in perpetrating genocidal massacres. As visual stimuli seem to have a greater impact in our attention deficit world, “You are my witness” is even that much more important. Samarah’s large format black and white photographs are indeed as beautiful as they are tragic, and a video history chronicling the day to day horrors of July 1995 will leave you wondering how, like Rwanda in 1994, the world was absent and deliberately ignorant to what was happening in Srebrenica.

**The photo at the bottom of the exhibit information shows the Battery Factory in Potočari at which 600 coffins of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre await burial [Tvornica akumulatora u Potočarima 600 tabuta sa ostacima stradalih prije ukopa] – photo among the many in the exhibit by Tarik Samarah.

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