Since the announcement of independence by Bosnia and Herzegovina in March 1992, ethnic, religious and national divisions have become a source of conflict known as the War in Bosnia. The military forces of the United Nations got engaged in the war on the territory of the former Yugoslavia in order to establish UN Safe Areas where the Muslim Bosnian minority members persecuted by Bosnian Serbs found shelter. The actions taken by the United Nations in the highly complex situation turned out ineffective and the new government formed by Radovan Karadžic persistently denied the existence of concentration camps for Bosnians. In July 1995, military forces of Bosnian Serbs led by General Ratko Mladic invaded Srebrenica, a town located in the UN Safe Area. Twenty three thousand people – women, children and seniors were evacuated to the nearby station in Potočari, while boys and men remained in Srebrenica, by force of an order issued by Mladic in consultation with the Commander of Dutch forces, colonel Thom Karremans. In effect 8,270 (8,373 as updated in 2019)Bosnians were killed by Bosnian Serbs. Every year, the ongoing search in the area leads to discovery of new graves. According to researchers, the Srebrenica massacre was the largest genocide in Europe after WW2.
For the last 13 years, on July 11, in order to commemorate the victims of this terrible war crime, more than eight thousand fildžani, traditional china coffee cups, appear on squares all over the world. Each cup symbolizes one victim – ne Bosnian killed in the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. According to the installation author, Aida Šehović, a Bosnian and American artist, the families miss their sons, brothers and husbands most during the traditional coffee drinking ritual. This is how the idea to commemorate them with cups of coffee emerged.
In 2006, Šehović collected 923 fildžani. Since then, every year new cups are donated by families from the Bosnian diaspora and are added to the collection which forms a travelling monument in memoriam of the victims from Srebrenica. The ŠTO TE NEMA monument is intended as a participative action organized in partnership with local organizations in the cities where the exhibition is presented by the artist.
In July 2019, the ŠTO TE NEMA installation was recreated on Serra dei Giardini in Venice as part of the exhibition Artivism: The Atrocity Prevention Pavilion organized by the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation. Both the installation and the exhibition form part of the Venice Art Biennale 2019.
More information about the project available on Aida Šehović’s website.
To learn more about the Srebrenica massacre go to Remembering Srebrenica.