ADVICE FOR SURVIVAL // 12. 1993.
NUSRET PASIC // PROFESSOR AT THE ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

December 1993

Nusret Pasic
Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts
ADVICE FOR SURVIVAL

‘I live 7 kilometers from the Center, which means that every day I had to walk for 7 kilometers more hungry than full, a bit frozen, so that the walk, to call it that now, a bit ironically, was a form of morning gymnastics, plus that within those 7 kilometers there were 4 to 5 places that were under sniper fire, so that there was a bit of running, sprint, some going around buildings, not to mention even some crawling. And it was a path that was pretty risky; it was risky to stay in Sarajevo, anyway, but to make that journey every day, that was an added dose of risk. But the wish to do something, to communicate with people, not to stay alone in a building without communication and not to stay alone in the sense that you don’t do anything to keep your mind intact, and your body after all. I went to the Academy every day, where I work as a teacher, and to the Obala Art Center. And walking along that path thinking how this is a day of leaving a trace because I might not manage to do so the next day or I might not be among the living and do something.’

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DECEMBER 1993


• Peace negotiations in Geneva: negotiations on maps and percentages of territory. The BiH delegation requests: access to the sea, to the Sava and to a harbor.


• Yasushi Akashi appointed Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for the former Yugoslavia.


• UNICEF helps establish a radio-school. Classes are held over this medium.


• Rounds of humanitarian aid to the citizens of Sarajevo include: a liter of cooking oil, 300 grams of beans, 200 grams of sugar, 400 grams of mackarel, 200 grams of detergent, and 2 candles per household.


• “Opresa” opens a small store in the city with the slogan “Life is about the small things”.
• The Soros Foundation donates a piano to the organization “Nasa djeca”.


• Mate Boban, President of “Herzeg-Bosnia”, promises to close camps holding Muslims.


• Founding of counseling for psychological help: “Staying Sane in Bosnia”.


• The theft of electricity in the city goes on in different ways: setting up of illegal connections, underground cables, connecting to prioritized sources and transformers.
• The Soros Foundation finances the production of 10 tons of rat poison. The active toxin is “Sanofarm”, but because the poison is not registered by law it cannot be distributed.


• “Oslobodjenje” receives the “Sakharov” award. Zlatko Dizdarevic, journalist and editor, receives the award at the European Parliament.
• The fairytale “A Dragon in Love” is shown in one of the apartment blocks in Alipasino polje.


• The bobsled team trains for the Olympic Games in Lillehammer, but do not know how to leave Sarajevo. They train every day, lift weights and run, depending on the shelling. On average they lose 5 kg of weight. The team must borrow a bobsled because theirs is burnt.


• The Russians reveal their own peace plan. Foreign Minister Vitali Churkin travels extensively in major European cities.


• Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman, and Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, present a plan on the division of BiH. 33.33% would go to the Muslims and 17.5% to the Croats. Lord Owen must convey this plan to the President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic.


• The Sarajevo Tobacco Factory wraps cigarettes in book pages. “Toward the History of BiH Literature” is next in line”.


• In Sarajevo Cathedral a ceremonial Christmas concert is held.
• On the occasion of Catholic Christmas, the Pope sends a message: “Let light shine on upon the suffering peoples.”


• The city lacks electricity, water and salt for bread.


• The Festival “Sarajevo Winter” organizes screening of cartoons for children.
• A kitchen opened for people working in the public and culture sectors. UNPROFOR gives them food.

Cultural survival

The besieged city defends itself by culture and thus survives. Groups and individuals create whatever they used to create before the siege In impossible circumstances they produce films, write books, publish newspapers, produce radio programs, design postcards, stage exhibitions, performances, make blueprints for rebuilding the city, found new banks, organize fashion shows, shoot photographs, celebrate holidays, put on make up... Sarajevo is the city of the future and of the life in the post-cataclysm. In it on the ruins of the old civilization a new one is sprouting, an alternative one, composed of remains of urban elements Sarajevo lives a life of futuristic comics and science fiction movies.

The „Obala Gallery“

Once upon a time, before the war, „Scena Obala“ was known as the stage for the cult performance by „The Tattooed Theatre“ and as a place where many signified theatre, movie, art and multimedia events took place.
The ruins of the former „Sutjeska“ cinema and the Red Cross building, which was to become the new „Scena Obala“ venue before the war, have been turned into a war gallery in which the artists of various sensibilities and aesthetic preferences exhibit their wartime work. Almost every week there is a new exhibition which avoids any propaganda of war, but is made-up of war-related material. There is no paint nor canvass in Sarajevo. One paints using burnt automobiles, broken glass and the bricks taken from the ruins.
The first exhibition opened on December 2, 1992. It was „The Witnesses of Existence“, an installation by Nusret Pašić, a Sarajevo painter. That day it was very cold. That day seventy four citizens of Sarajevo were wounded and three were killed. It was the only exhibition when there was electricity in the city.
The artists involved with the „Obala“ gallery were invited to this year's Biennale in Venice. However, they did not show up in the Giardini. The UNPROFOR refused to take them out of the city. The gallery also exhibits the guest artists. The latest of those was an exhibition of photographs by Annie Leibovitz.

Nusret Pasic
He was born on March 1, 1951 in Sarajevo, where he graduated from the Art Academy. He finished his postgraduate studies in Belgrade. He took part in a group exhibitions in Lodz, Ferrara, Venice, Ljubljana, Zagreb and won many awards. He works as a professor at the Art Academy in Sarajevo.

THE SIEGE
The atelier and the house are one place. He lives and works there with his family. He took part in numerous exhibits, of which most were humanitarian actions. He displayed his own exhibit in the destroyed movie theater as a part of “Witnesses to Existence” – by Obala Art Center.

It there were life after life, in what shape would you return?
In the same.

How do you describe perfect happiness?
I am hoping I will recognize it if I live to see it.

What is you biggest loss?
Nothing worth special mentioning.

What is your biggest gain?
Nothing worth stressing.

When and where were you happiest?
On the Hungarian border during the first meeting with my wife and son after two and a half years of separation.

What are your lost illusions?
The illusion about the existence of a global human brotherhood.

Describe your day at work.
Getting up. Walking to the academy where I work as a professor of drawing and painting. Chatting with students who had the guts to come to lectures that day. I must include gathering firewood in my daily activities. It is usually made up of old frames and similar junk. Everything I find I stuff into my backpack, without which I don’t leave home. Every time I go out it’s a risk. Once I get home, I eat lunch with my son and wife, and then work at the atelier until the cold runs me out, or daylight allows it. In the past several weeks my wife and I have been working on smaller paintings, so we could also work in the kitchen, which is the only place in the apartment that we can keep warm. After this, I read under candlelight, and then sleep. A Sarajevo night lasts really long.

Sarajevo?
A city of great temptation. Life in all of its shapes. Incredible vitality.

What words don’t you use anymore?
Not one.

In your opinion, is morale a virtue?
Yes.

Where would you like to live?
I fulfill my wish daily by living in Sarajevo.

How have you survived?
With difficulty, but by acting in a positive way.

What are you afraid of?
Sometimes myself.

Does the past exist for you?
Yes, and it often surprises me with its actuality

This is the end of a civilization. What will the next one be like?
I don’t know.

Can you give us a recipe for mental health?
Acting positive towards others and yourself.

How would you like to die?
I would like to die while painting.

Do you need hope to live?
Yes.

What did ’92 look like, and ’93, and ’94?
Hellish, but awakening for us, black holes in time and space.

How would you call this period of your life?
The period of self-mental crystallization.

Your message from the end of the world, from a country of last things?
Welcome to Sarajevo.

Do you like life, and what is life all about?
I am temporarily really satisfied to be present.

THE ACADEMY OF ARTS

The Academy of Arts is located in the former Evangelical Church. Throughout the siege classes were held in the Academy and many art exhibitions took place there.

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