THE BROADER PICTURE / Greetings from Bosnia

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The Independent Culture
ON THE back of each of these postcards appears the following text: 'This document has been printed in war circumstances (no paper, no inks, no electricity, no water. Just good will).' This is no exaggeration. They were designed under shelling in Sarajevo, printed under shelling in Sarajevo and are being distributed only in Sarajevo, because the authors work and live there. They are a duo called 'Trio Sarajevo': Dada Hadzihalilovic is 27, her husband, Bojan, 29. The third member of the original trio, Leila, now lives in Switzerland. Dada is a Muslim, Bojan is a Serbo-Jew, but getting them to reveal their ethnic origin is difficult because they both identify themselves as Bosnian.

The Trio started to work together in 1985 during their first year at the Fine Art Academy in Sarajevo. Before the war they designed mostly posters and record covers, but also tried their hand at television and won the Saatchi & Saatchi 'Big Idea 1991' prize for a television advertisement for a travel agency. When the war broke out, Dada and Bojan's designs began to develop an increasingly surrealistic tone: a letterhead ordered by a Sarajevo maritime company (Bosnia is a land-locked country) or the logo, tickets, uniforms and posters for the Railways of Bosnia (virtually immobilised since April 1992). The railways paid them with packages of US Army rations. While the shelling continued, payment in kind was more meaningful than in money, because shops were practically non-existent. For their design of new ID cards for the Bosnian Army and the police, they were presented with oil, sugar, feta cheese and peas. For the covers they draw for the weekly magazine Dani ('Days'), the publishers bring them alcohol. Other magazines for which they are art directors recently started paying mostly in cash, because shops are reopening - or in reams of paper, more precious to the Trio than German marks.

The series of postcards shown here was produced in 1993, but only two were printed in large format because of lack of paper. The postcards can only be purchased in a UN-operated canteen in Sarajevo and seem a perfect example of art for art's sake. They are not. Like Dada and Bojan, the cultural community of Sarajevo has been very active throughout the shelling and continues now under the quiet siege. There is an army orchestra (it plays everything from military marches to Glenn Miller, but only those melodies that the musicians remember, because all the scores have perished in the war). The Kamerni theatre has six plays in its repertoire, there are fashion shows, rock concerts, disco nights, chess tournaments, photo exhibitions, a Miss Sarajevo contest. Recently, even cinemas started operating again. Every evening the local television has an excellent cultural broadcast called Rat Art ('rat' means 'war'); books are being written, edited, published, read and reviewed.

Sarajevo's artists know that their country is slowly being wiped off the map of Europe. But they treat their creative work as a way of beating the enemy: they are a dramatic and a very literal embodiment of what Andre Malraux meant when he wrote 'L'art est un anti-destin' - 'Art is a revolt against destiny.' (Photographs omitted)