Sarajevo Urbs Aeterna

Sarajevo is full of cultural traces which bear witness to a rich historical past. Although its origins are in dispute, its territory has been inhabited since the Neolithic age and different civilizations passed through, including the Illyrians, the Romans or the Slavs until the actual fondation of the city in the middle of the 15th century by the Ottomans. It was subsequently annexed to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, later integrated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and then into communist Yugoslavia before Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in the early 1990s and ultimately tore itself appart after the breakup of the Yugoslav federation.

Since its fondation, Sarajevo has been slowly built in a succession of eclectic neighborhoods running along the river, as if they were horizontal archaeological layers exposing the cultural marks of this rich heritage. The presence of these traces of history is all the more remarkable as the city was strongly hit by the siege of 1992-95, making Sarajevo the symbol of urbicide, a neologism describing, among other things, the planned annihilation of its historical, cultural and religious heritage, with the aim of erasing the past in order for the Serbian nationalist aggressor to claim its exclusive legitimacy. Today the city swings between the integration in the European Community and the cultural and religious influence of the East.

Because of these characteristics, Sarajevo appears to me as the perfect illustration of what any territory is: a fixed place in perpetual evolution, surrounded by abstract borders, occupied or shared for a short-lived period of time by individuals and various civilizations before being bequeathed, or yielded by force, to other nations and their cultural communities. While capturing the natural passing of time, I draw the portrait of a city which seems to belong to any, and at the same time, to each of the people who cross it. A urbs aeterna.