SPEAKING OUT EXHIBITIONBOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA | 2023
SECTION OF DRESS: ‘From Victim to Victory’
15 female survivors of conflict related sexual violence collaborate to create a powerful motif for the Red Dress.
I was fortunate to be able to connect with 15 of the women survivors who have co-produced “Speaking Out” with the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo, an exhibition dedicated to survivors of conflict related sexual violence.
Ahead of the exhibition opening I spent a day with the women, beginning by sitting around the Red Dress whilst I shared some of its stories, introduced them to the embroideries and a number of the artisans. The women were visibly moved and connected to some of the experiences shared by other women survivors deeply, but mostly the room was filled with smiles and a feeling of solidarity.
There has been no support for the women of B&H these last 30 years, and sadly social stigma has made it very difficult for many survivors to speak about their trauma, let alone try and seek justice and reparations from a system that is still far from adequate. They have had to carry their experiences, and for most it will have shaped and defined their lives.
The women decided they would like to create one collaborative motif onto the Red Dress which they thoughtfully designed together. Stitched in the bright blue and yellow of their national flag, it diptychs a circular shape surrounded by each of the women’s’ first initial. The words inside the circle (in English) are B&H (short for Bosnia & Herzegovina) and “From victim to victory”.
Spending the day with the group was a privilege, and I was struck by their strength, and by their support and affection for one another. They stitched together, chatted about their lives and sang traditional Bosnian songs throughout the afternoon.
If you would like to learn more about the invaluable work of the War Childhood Museum, please see their website: https://warchildhood.org/