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The War Childhood Museum received a visit from museum expert and Museum Europäischer Kulturen collaborator Andrea Vándor at the end of last year. During this visit, Vándor had the chance to delve into our global collection and exhibition activities. The exhibition that left a lasting impression on her was “Speaking Out,” prompting her to pen a piece titled “I am like a phoenix, and you?” (“Ich bin wie ein Phönix, und du?“). This insightful text was subsequently published on the website that oversees cultural practices in Eastern, Central, and Southeastern Europe.

The “Speaking Out” exhibition is dedicated to and co-produced with women survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, who were children and young people at the time and children born of war. It was preceded by several months’ work on documenting these experiences and a body mapping workshop during which the survivors of wartime sexual violence conveyed their life experiences by using art as a medium. The workshop provided the survivors with the opportunity to observe their life in its entirety, and not solely through lived trauma, thus enabling them to work on strengthening their individual capacities and affirming personal values. Featured in the exhibition are the twelve body maps created during the workshop, each one showing a life-sized silhouette of the survivor and their inscriptions or drawings regarding major life experiences and events, as well as personal hopes for the future.

In her text, Vándor particularly emphasized the importance of the exhibition “Speaking Out” today, as the world faces new wars. Reflecting on historical events, the author noted that conflict-related sexual violence has unfortunately been present in our civilization since ancient times. Still, it was not spoken of as a weapon of warfare until the recent war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Only after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina did the topic of conflict-related sexual violence begin to be addressed on a legal level. In 2002, it was first recognized as a separate crime by the Hague Tribunal, and in 2008, it was characterized as a crime against humanity by a UN resolution.”

Andrea Vándor

“Speaking Out” is realized in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration in BiH, the Forgotten Children of War Association, the Wings of Hope Foundation, and the Psiholab Association. The exhibition had its first opening in 2021 at the New Temple Gallery in Sarajevo, after which followed the subsequent openings at the Endzio HAB gallery in Belgrade, the Mostar Cultural Center, the Sarajevo City Hall, and Newcastle University’s Frederick Douglass Center.