THE REINCARNATION OF BURNT BUILDINGS // 01. 1993.
AFAN RAMIC // PAINTER
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

January 1993

Afan Ramic
Painter
THE REINCARNATION OF BURNT BUILDINGS

‘Since I didn't have any painting supplies whatsoever, I was forced to look everywhere: buildings, ruins, and institutions that had been important during times of peace, and which had completely lost their status during the war. You see, an artist has this drive that forces him to create, to work, to confirm the time and space in which he lives, and of course himself in relation to that. And so I found my materials in destroyed buildings, in institutions such as the Museum of the XIVth Olympic Games, the Oslobodjenje newspaper building, private houses, the Oriental Institute, St. Joseph's Church, and I was even forced in some places to peel wallpaper or posters in order to make collages. Then I found some charred beams, and some fiberglass insulation material, and I applied them to pieces of hardboard that I would try to find among the charred remains of buildings in Sarajevo.’

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JANUARY 1993


• UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali arrives in Sarajevo. Sarajevans protest the Presidency over UN policies in Bosnia.
• MUP begins issuing new identification cards. The expiration dates of the ID cards are dependent on the course of the war. They are printed in BiH. To obtain an identification card one needs two witnesses if during the war documents attesting to your identity had been destroyed.


• In 1992, the average Sarajevan survived on bread. To compare, the average European in a single year eats 55kg of bread; an average Sarajevan in 1992 ate 180kg of bread.
• Geneva, January 2, 1993. In Geneva a peace conference is held on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Participants at the conference include: Mate Boban, Alija Izetbegovic, and Radovan Karadzic, as well as military leaders Sefer Halilovic, Milivoj Petkovic and Ratko Mladic. Also present at the meeting are Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and President of the SR Yugoslavia Dobrica Cosic.


• UNPROFOR publishes figures on Sarajevans crossing the airport runway in order to flee the occupied city: in November 1992 there were 3,879 attempts; in December 1992, 6,653 attempts, on New Year’s Day 1993, 339 attempts; and on January 2, 1993, 346 attempts.
• At the Sarajevo maternity ward, deliveries are performed by candlelight. No one comes for them; no one helps them.
• In the Sarajevo neighborhood of Dobrinja branches of a “Credit Bank” operate. Envera Karkin, a bank clerk, says: “You do whatever you can not to fall into a depression, it‘s all a defense mechanism. With a driver I broke through the barricade between Dobrinja and the city and I came back to barricaded Dobrinja. It was the first shipment of money that made it past the blockade in Dobrinja. I feel safer in Dobrinja than in the city because I know every corner.”
• The residents of Dobrinja print issues of the newspapers “Vecernje novine” and “Oslobodjenje” themselves – and preserve copies for the museum. These are faxed copies of the 20/30 issues received from papers in the cities.
• Weather forecast: COLD.
• Geneva, January 4, 1993. Peace negotiations in Geneva: the president of Yugoslavia, Dobrica Cosić, together with the president of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, commit to a BH confederation composed of three parts. The President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, and the leader of the SDS, Radovan Karadzic, negotiate for three hours with mediators, but without progress. Alija Izetbegovic announces: “I want you to know that we never advocated for the principle of ethnic division.”


• Personal deliveries of Politika arrive from Belgrade. At the "Partizan" theatre, lists are posted of their recipients.
• The Soros Foundation donates $50,000,000 in humanitarian aid for assistance to BiH.
• Meanwhile the names of the city’s streets are changed.
• The UNHCR releases a report on the extent to which Bosnian Serbs have themselves taken from every humanitarian convoy that has arrived in Sarajevo.
• A promotion is held for the conceptual designs of the first BH postage stamps.


• Celebration of Orthodox Christmas.
• Daily report by the UNHCR on crossings over the airport runway: 558 attempts, with some people attempting to cross every night.
• The weather turns cold. Trees are felled in Sarajevo for firewood.
• Sarajevo neighborhood councils carry out the rationing of humanitarian aid in cycles. For example: In order to close as soon as possible cycle IX and move on to cycle X, communities take lesser set amounts of food to distribute and in doing so harm the citizens, because they’re not compensated in the next cycles of aid.


• The President of the BiH government Hakija Turajlic is killed on the road to the Sarajevo airport in a UN vehicle. He is killed by Bosnian Serb troops. The Presidency holds UNPROFOR responsible because President Turajlic was under their protection. UN Colonel Sartre, who was in the vehicle behind, is not made available to MUP in Sarajevo for their investigation.
• The Peace Center receives a “Direct Action” team who hand out aid directly to the citizens, without mediators, leaving them on poor terms with the UNHCR. Mobility is their greatest quality.
• Exhibition by the painter Affan Ramic: “War documents '92”. The painter in his own works incarnates the burning of the Post Office, City Hall, Olympic Museum, and the “Oslobodjenje” headquarters.
• Pensions increase by 32.3%, with payments depending on (the availability of) electricity or oil, so that clerks are able to process them.

• Geneva, January 15th 1993. At the peace negotiations in Geneva, the Bosnian Serbs are given a deadline of six days to accept the peace plan.


• Bosnian Serbs fire shells at a line waiting for water at the “Sarajevo Brewery.” World TV stations release only sound, but no video of this terrible massacre.
• A vote is held for the song that will represent BiH in the “Eurovision '93” contest. The jury listens to demos.
• A water pump is set up in Novo Sarajevo.
• On their 32nd anniversary, the “Bosna” chess club holds a fast chess tournament.


• French philosopher Henri Bernard Lévy and French humanitarian official Bernard Kouchner are presented with honorary doctorates from the University of Sarajevo for their help and commitment to BiH.


• The General Staff of Croat units in BiH, the HVO, decide to implement the Geneva agreements, creating imaginary lines for provincial borders. Through these measures the Army of BiH becomes an enemy. The OSBiH issues guidelines on conduct in response.
• “Oslobodjenje” is published in French, as support to the extraordinary efforts to have the paper printed daily in the besieged city.


• Croat leaders and all Croat officials in government agencies leave the city over night. This decision is based on their interpretation of the implementation of the Geneva negotiations.


• Vinko Puljic, head of the Catholic church in BiH, calls on the Pope to come to Sarajevo.


• The Bosnian Serb Assembly accepts the Geneva agreement.
• Bill Clinton becomes the new president of the USA.
• Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran seek cooperation with the West on the situation in Bosnia.
• A convoy is halted in Ilidza.
• An exhibition of paintings opens.
• Dire conditions at the oncology clinic in Sarajevo.
• Director Nedzad Begovic prepares the animated film “Cupavac”. He creates his hero by drawing him on foil leaning against his window.


• The delegation of HDZ BiH arrives in Sarajevo, with international mediators Robert Owen and Cyrus Vance, to sign a ceasefire between Croat forces and the Army of BiH.
• The Prosecutor’s Office in Sarajevo requests that immunity be dropped for Louis Mackenzie, former UNPROFOR commander.


• Juka Prazina is on Igman, harassing the OSBiH forces, before going on the run. A warrant is issued for his arrest.


• A letter from the “PEN center” BiH to the world “PEN center” seeking assistance through writing articles or visiting Sarajevo.


• Prices at the Sarajevo marketplace:
One month’s pension = 2 eggs
OSBiH fighters are paid 20,000 dinars = 4 coffees at a cafe or a box of cigarettes
1 kg of beef = 50 DEM.
• Damage to the “Heating” and “Waterworks” centers.


• The parents of fighters in the special units of Juka Prazina protest in front of the Presidency, asking: “Where are our sons?” They had been arrested and detained in the OSBiH barracks in Tarcin.
• Ceasefire between the HVO - ABiH
• UNPROFOR transfers the Franciscan Slovenian archive from 1357 to Ljubljana, with numerous difficulties and hazards. The archive had been part of an exhibition at the Franciscan Monastery before the city was besieged.


• Juka Prazina, with a HVO militia, sets up barricades in Jablanica and Konjic.
• Geneva, January 31, 1993. Negotiations in Geneva: Mate Boban, president of so-called Herzeg-Bosnia, signs all three proposed maps. The state delegation of BiH does not sign on to the maps dividing the Republic of BiH into 10 provinces and the military agreement. The Bosnian Serbs sign nothing.

Exhibitions

Once a week in the partially destroyed Red Cross building in the “Sniper Alley”. Exhibitions by the local sculptors, painters and “conceptualists”. Hot tea is also served. The gallery owned by “Scena obala”.

CULTURAL SURVIVAL

Sarajevo is a unique city on the planet. It is the site where our civilization has been dismantled in the course of intentional violence.
But Sarajevo is also the symbol of civil defense, the site where violence has been fought back with tolerance, fascism with art and culture, destruction with rebuilding, death with humour, the outburst of rural culture with the one that's urban terror with stubborn maintaining of normal city lifestyle.
Sarajevo has been deprived of all the civil, existential and social rights. It has been deprived of the right to live. Everything that makes normal urban living has been taken away from Sarajevo and its citizens, everything that could have been taken away has been taken away, all except for the right to survive by maintaining the right to culture.
But among all that destruction and dying, kids are being born, birthdays celebrated, weddings carried out. In the city surrounded by the deadly circle of primitivism the exhibitions are being opened, movies made, festivals organized, theatre plays and musicals performed.
Sarajevo lives the post-cataclysm. It is the picture of civilization emerging out of cataclysm, making something out of nothing, giving messages for the future.
Not because the future is necessarily a future of wars and disasters, but because humans are growing older and being born into a world which is ever less secure.
All that has been left under the ruins of Sarajevo, all that has survived the shelling of our civilization is the spirit of the cultural survival. The reconstruction of that spirit, the spirit of Sarajevo must start – now. Otherwise – Sarajevo will become the graveyard of the principles of multiethnicity and human rights.

Afan Ramic
He was born in 1932 in Derventa, Bosnia. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade in 1957. He had 35 exhibitions, including the ones in Sarajevo, Zagreb, Belgrade, Ljubljana, Novi Sad, Krakow (Poland), Brno, Banja Luka, Cairo and Vienna. He received many awards for his work.

THE SIEGE
Two hundred and seventy of his books burned in his studio in Grbavica. He could not do his job and paint for a long time. “I feared the war would let loose what is worst in man: aggressiveness and hatred. The enemy wants to destroy us physically. He wants to break our spirit.” His first war exhibition was called “War Documents 92”. He also created costumes and the scene for the play “In Love”.

It there were life after life, in what shape would you return?
In an amorphous shape.

How do you describe perfect happiness?
I cannot describe it.

What is you biggest loss?
The death of my son.

What is your biggest gain?
A certain friendship.

When and where were you happiest?
This is becoming too intimate.

What are your lost illusions?
I still have some illusions.

Describe your day at work.
I don’t have time, I’m working.

Sarajevo?
I believe it will survive.

What words don’t you use anymore?
They are all in the game. It depends on the situation.

In your opinion, is morale a virtue?
Yes, it is even a virtue for immoral people.

Where would you like to live?
In an honest world.

How have you survived?
By lack of proof.

What are you afraid of?
Of fear.

Does the past exist for you?
It is the only thing that exists.

This is the end of a civilization. What will the next one be like?
What will the next one be like? May God help us.

Can you give us a recipe for mental health?
Work and art.

How would you like to die?
With my shoes on, standing up.

Do you need hope to live?
To which “hope” are you referring?

What did ’92 look like, and ’93, and ’94?
As twin sisters.

How would you call this period of your life?
A working period, even if it happened in war.

Your message from the end of the world, from a country of last things?
Get rid of hatred.

Do you like life, and what is life all about?
Whatever it is, I do love it.

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