Sunday, 21 February 2010

Mixing the Palette.

Leaving Sarajevo is hard to do. It's an almost dreamlike city, where the best of life tries to survive. I could spend longer here strolling amongst the shops in the old town, eating cevapi, having conversations over long drawn out cups of coffee or browsing through the bookshops. Nearly everybody I've met on this trip is cautious, but also in possession of a gentle self -deprecating humour, generous and full of allowance for the beliefs and peculiarities of others. Light strokes, gentle mergers.

After breakfast I headed off to buy a couple of prints and a beautiful watercolour of pigeon square to remind me of the trip. We've got thousands of words of transcript and the Sarajevo Marlboro' stories themselves of course -but the scope and shape of the show remains to be discovered.

I've been trying to find a counter factual parallel in an English context for what happened here. Of course it's impossible to transport the fraught history of the Slavs to the UK. It's also very difficult to project Sarajevo's story onto a city as internationally important as London but...

Imagine if, fuelled by media scare mongering, perhaps over asylum and immigration, perhaps in a climate of increased Islamophobia, the BNP find themselves in a future coalition government and began a similar project of 'ethnic cleansing' to try and reassert the rights of an 'indigenous white population' through the creation of 'pure' areas. To begin with these might be villages in the South, in Surrey and Kent where estate agent are instructed to only sell to white clients.

Then one night, the white population of Leicester pack their bags, leave their houses and move out - claiming that they are a persecuted minority in a predominantly Asian city. The sight of white refugees causes national outrage and the army, under government instruction, lay siege to the city - which is in turn defended by the remaining Asian population. Leicester becomes a test case for the British future.
As an outline it's far fetched and surely the positive nature of race relations in the UK acts as a barrier to this particular doomsday - but it is what happened here eighteen years ago and nobody could prevent it. Bosnia is still living uneasily with the divisions.

'I always make the same mistake when I paint with watercolours,' said Kurt, the smiling Danish lawyer, who's also staying at Halvat 'I dab here... dab there and I nearly always do too much. I always forget that when working with watercolours you need to let the paper be part of the picture. One stroke too many and the whole thing is ruined.'

1 comment:

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