The Fallen Angel
The project The Fallen Angel explores the phenomenon of the so-called war souvenirs produced by Bosnian craftsmen, who transform artillery shells into vases through traditional metalworking techniques. The shell-vases seem to be the only true solution for many people to deal with their own personal tragedy – they express people’s inner conflicts and feelings by transforming the reminders of death and destruction into harmless every-day objects. By creating objects that actually consume memory, they have contributed to the development of war tourism, a controversial but powerful factor in Bosnian economy today. I relate these souvenirs to the destroyed building of the newspaper “Oslobodjenje” (Freedom), one example of the urbicide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Considering the ruin of this building as a monument, this project poses questions about the notion of the “memorial” in general.
The Bosnian war souvenirs have transformed traditional products into new artifacts using the language of war. They can be seen as an overlapping of war and national identity. Yet, these monuments for mass consumption still embody human emotions and personal memories of war, contributing to a completely new notion of the monument. These are flexible creations, continuously reacting to the new needs of their consumers, and adjusting their testimony accordingly. This flexibility is the emergence of a new kind of monument, which no longer needs to be a permanent edifice. By merging patterns of national identity with patterns of destruction, derived from a photograph of the ruin of “Oslobodjenje,” the project involved design and production of new Bosnian war souvenirs in wood, metal and textile. I gave my abstract patterns designs to the hand-craftsmen in Sarajevo to produce new war souvenirs referencing the traditional coffee drinking ritual: Ottoman furniture, dishes and stitched table cloths. Additional information material and designed business cards aimed to support the hand craftsmen financially, but also contribute the preservation of the traditional manual labors, an important but disappearing component of the Bosnian cultural heritage.
Azra Akšamija, The Fallen Angel, 2003
Mixed media, room-size photograph, wall text, two chair-tables in carved wood (45x40x40cm each), tray in carved wood (30x45x2cm), coffee set in zincked copper, hand-stitched table cloth
Produced for the group exhibition Introducing Sites / Cultural Territories, Gallery for Contemporary Art Leipzig 2003, curated by IIlina Koralova. Project manager in Sarajevo: Drina Karahasanović. Collaborators: David Rhöse, Nadja Akšamija. Manufacturers: Sakib Baščaušević (copper souvenirs), Bedra Izetbegović (textile souvenirs), Sejo Sejfudin Vila (wooden souvenirs).