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Other research product . Other ORP type . 2015

Blood Memory

Meredith-Vula, L. A.;
Open Access
Published: 01 Mar 2015
Publisher: National Gallery of Art, Kosova
Country: United Kingdom
Blood Memory, shown in the National Gallery of Kosova in March 2015, consisted of 40 images from a body of work I carried out in the politically turbulent years of 1990-91. At that time Yugoslavia, where I was born, was on the brink of civil war, threatening the fragile process begun in Kosova of miraculously transforming centuries of bloodshed into a promise of peace and reconciliation. Since the 15th century, families in the region have lived by the grim edict “spilled blood must be met by spilled blood”. In 1990, sickened by the slaughter and destruction as Yugoslavia imploded, the people of Kosova took the future into their own hands. With no formal organisers or leaders, men and women, young and old, all over the country left their homes and trekked all day or hitchhiked on tractors or vans to witness their elders and victims’ families publicly announce forgiveness. They forgave the unforgivable: the destruction of homes and the destruction of lives. Blood Memory shows the crowds assembling with bodies clinging to every incline, mounted on telephone poles, rooftops and trees. At the heart of the group elders ceremonially embrace, arm in arm, hand in hand. Robbed of so many sons and brothers, the grieving crowds give their assent. This exhibition captures the tension of the moment, the solemnity of this life-changing transformation, and the exuberance as the reality of reconciliation strikes home. A dove is released, a white horse is ridden into the crowd, a couple and a drummer clear a space for an impromptu dance. Landscape and figures coalesce in scenes of powerful emotional beauty. How often does a community turn its back on hatred for the good of individuals and society? In a unique re-enactment of the original moment, Erzen Shkololli, Director of the National Gallery, asked to exhibit this work in 2015, a year marked by both European consolidation and growing instability. Working together with Karen McQuaid, of the Photographers’ Gallery, we installed the work, large and small, to encourage the audience to remember, and to move them to relive the moment of 1990-91. My images document the dignity, courage and compassion of ordinary people in an extraordinary time, and serve to inspire future generations to similar acts of altruism. It is about much more than one point in history and one place in Europe. The event it brings to life has powerful implications for other times and other places. That is why the exhibition attracted extensive media attention and was visited by the Presidents of Kosova and of Bulgaria, distinguished representatives of the EU, OSCE, foreign ministers and ambassadors. However, for me the highlight was when it was visited by the people who took part in the movement, their sons and daughters, their grandsons and grand daughters all remembering in front of these photographs. It brought the community together to remember solidarity over hatred. From Kosova in 2015 a message of hope resonates through the world.

Exhibition, Contemporary Art, Fine Art, Photography, Photographic History

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