The photo I have chosen for this post is one of a sort of zoo located at the Mercur bus station in Budva, Montenegro. Even though it isn’t one of specifically Bosnia, to me it was a good representation of the entire experience I have had while here this summer. Like discovering a smattering of rabbits, deer, turtles and peacocks at a bus station, some of the things Bosnia presents are at times confusing. It feels like a hodgepodge sort of thrown together without a larger cohesive vision and at times seems out of place. It isn’t bad but it seems like a temporary placeholder rather than a permanent arrangement.
It’s kind of how I feel about the museum where I intern. There is no single overarching narrative being displayed and the resulting effect for many is one of general confusion. The exhibits themselves may be interesting but the storytelling is not necessarily linear. Since my field of study is in conflict resolution, we focus a great deal on the importance of storytelling and how the story being told influences how willing groups are to interact and especially reconcile after conflict. It would follow that if one group continues to denounce the other or prominent members espouse that atrocities did not occur it hinders the normalization of relations.
However, it seems that because such topics are still so contentious there can be pressures not to deal with them. For me it is slightly paradoxical that a history museum, an institution of social memory, must tiptoe around certain topics of history that are internationally accepted as true. Therefore, when you get to a country that has recently suffered a war you might expect that it might be something deeply explored in a history museum. And when it isn’t and it isn’t just that institution that doesn’t really talk about it you are confused by its absence of not outright omission.
When I first came to Bosnia, I expected there to be a great amount of focus and almost promotion of the war as a thing for tourists to learn about while here. But when I saw that there is not such an exhibit, or at least one that focuses on the aspects you would think to be the most important (who did what, where things took place), I was surprised. But after talking with people I saw that they feel like they can only say certain things since they want to get embroiled in the politics. And so I saw a reason for the hodgepodge. It isn’t the ideal setup and people know it, but they do what they can and hope that people can gain from it what they will.
Like a smattering of animals at a bus station in Montenegro, I saw that things are in a sort of placeholder mentality. People may want things to get better but there is no single initiative to do so and there is no single vision to guide the improvement needed. But that doesn’t mean that no one is interested in taking that initiative. If anything, I have seen that there are a large number of smaller groups of people at the grassroots level that are very much achieving the change not happening at the top. They focus on their own domains but the overall intent to make a stronger Bosnia is the same.
And so while things may take a while to change, I remain hopeful for this country and accept that sometimes things may simply resemble a rabbit-turtle-deer exhibit at a bus station.