In 2021, the WCM opened its new temporary exhibition – “Speaking Out” – dedicated to and co-produced with survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and children born of war in BiH. Through stories, exhibits, and video testimonies, the Exhibition created a platform for the CRSV survivors and children born of war to share their experiences, while highlighting both the manifold issues they face in everyday life and their hopes for the future.
WCM begins researching and documenting the experiences of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and children born of war. In the initial stage of the project, specific needs are assessed and the WCM’s methodology is modified in cooperation with the project partners, the Forgotten Children of War Association, the Wings of Hope Foundation, and the IOM BiH, enabling the recording of first video testimonies of CRSV survivors and children born of war.
Full scope of the project and stages of implementation are determined, signaling the beginning of several months of documenting the experiences of CRSV survivors and children born of war in three distinct ways: by recording video testimonies featuring both survivors and children, by collecting personal belongings and documenting stories of children born of war, and by facilitating the creation of artworks at a “body mapping” workshop, with CRSV survivors as participants.
Project team, consisting of the WCM team and Museum’s long time associate, clinical psychologist Lejla Smajic, receives training on the body mapping methodology, a form of art therapy that provides alternative means for survivors to share their traumatic experiences, which was provided by experts from the International Coalition of the Sites of Conscience (ICSC). Following the training, and under the ICSC guidance, this distinct methodology is, for the first time, adapted by the project team for work with survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and children born of war, as well as within a specific regional context.
Body mapping workshop is held over the course of four days, resulting in CRSV survivors creating 12 distinct artworks, which depict life-sized representations of themselves, surrounded and inscribed with their experiences from different periods of life. Simultaneously, the project team is finalizing the processes of documenting video testimonies and personal stories, preparing to select materials to be featured in the Exhibition.
“Speaking Out” Exhibition opens to the wider public for the first time on June 25, at the New Temple Gallery, in Sarajevo.
Exhibition travels to Mostar Cultural Center on September 20. For the duration of the Exhibition, the WCM’s educators hold a range of peacebuilding workshops for secondary school and university students from nearly a dozen educational institutions in Mostar.
On October 2, “Speaking Out” travels abroad for the first time, opening as the central event of the wartime sexual awareness week marked at the Endžio HAB in Belgrade
Body mapping is a form of art therapy that provides individuals with alternative means of processing their traumatic experiences. A total of 12 women survivors took part in the body mapping workshop that preceded the “Speaking Out” Exhibition, creating 12 distinct body maps that tell their life stories.
Workshop mediators guided the participants through the process of sharing their recollections and experiences, providing an environment where the CRSV survivors could trust both the project team and one another, forging new and strengthening existing bonds. By recalling different, in some cases very positive, experiences, as well as turning their focus on the future, the survivors were able to see their life in its entirety, rather than identify it solely with their lived trauma.
How To Read Body Maps
Each body map is made up of several different elements, which should be observed starting at the top left corner, and moving counter-clockwise, and these include: the survivor’s main message or motto, the symbol they associate themselves with the most, their recollections presented in a chronological order, their hopes for the future and the symbol they associate with it.
The central part of each body map is made up of two outlines or silhouettes, which serve as a life sized-representation of the survivor – the main outline shows medical conditions and effects of trauma on the body, while the shadow outline includes the names of all people who make up the survivor’s support network.
Some of the most important recollections from different periods of life – early childhood, adolescence, period of the traumatic event, and life today – are added around the outlines, starting with the top left corner, in the form of writing or drawing.
All 12 body maps are available in the gallery below.
When we talk about fighting stigmatization, I think our starting point should be our local communities. Our society is patriarchal, and this is even more pronounced in villages than in the cities. For those of us who live in smaller communities, it is a given that everybody knows our story – we are misunderstood and without support. We are also missing support from religious communities, because they never publicly acknowledged that we exist and all that we've been through.A. (Vareš)
I wish I were a bird, so that I can fly away and leave all the bad things behind me.B. (Bratunac)
Many women made sacrifices so that we could be here today. It took courage to be the first one to stand up and speak out. Let's raise our voices and empower each other while lifting up other women. Let's make this world a better place for those women who come after us.A. (Doboj)
My pain is not my shame. It is my courage.M. (Goražde)
It took me a long time to speak out, and now that I have, I will no longer stay silent.M. (Zvornik)
Twenty-six years later and I still can't enjoy my rights.B. (Kozarac)
Through my work in the Association, I have the opportunity to teach and empower other women. That helped me realize that even after all that happened, I still have the strength to go on and to give my support to others.S. (Foča)
I am proud of myself and all that I've achieved so far. All this time, my family was with me – my children and my husband. They are my greatest support.S. (Kalinovnik)
I spoke out – you can speak out too.Z. (Foča)
I decided to speak out so that the future generations wouldn't allow the same evil to happen again to anyone, anywhere.S. (Zavidovići)
I had no problem speaking out about what somebody did, because that is his shame, not mine. I reported my father's killing and my rape in 2016, but there hasn't been any progress since. Five years later, and I am still waiting for justice and starting to wonder if I had made the right decision.R. (Rogatica)
I am proud that I didn't let my most difficult experience stop my life.Š. (Foča)
Personal Stories and Belongings
Personal stories and belongings documented in the course of this project center on the experiences of children born of war. The WCM’s research methodology was modified in the initial stages of the project, while the stories’ presentation for the “Speaking Out” Exhibition was reminiscent of the Museum’s permanent exhibition.
This is my birth certificate. I was born in Koševo hospital in Sarajevo, where I was left as a baby and with a seemingly bleak future. My adoptive parents, a British couple working together in Bosnia-Herzegovina, found me when I was only nine days old and took me to safety. Even though I left Bosnia at a very early age, my parents arranged for me to have a Bosnian birth certificate so that I can always have a relationship with the country. I have maintained that relationship to this day, even though I am still in the process of obtaining full citizenship.
I am Lejla and I do not want to be a symbol of hatred but a part of reconciliation in Bosnia. I know and have love and respect for the woman who gave birth to me after a cruel and brutal ordeal. She and many others like her are still waiting for justice.
Oral histories of women survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and children born of war were recorded in the form of video testimonies and over the course of several months, with excerpts from several testimonies featured in the Exhibition. Audio and image distortion was added upon contributor’s request.
”I had bad nightmares and shortness of breath. I sought help from my neuropsychiatrist, but I didn’t reveal the real cause of my nightmares, because I didn’t know it was something you were even allowed to talk about.M, Survivor of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence