Damnation of Memory- Do not forget, Remember and Warn
Photographs of Vejevnica, Sarajevo's National Library
Wolfson Gallery, SOAS Library, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0 XG July 17- September 5 2014
'On this place.... Serbian criminals in the Night of 25-26th August 1992 set on fire the National and University's Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Over 2 Millions of Books, Periodicals and Documents Vanished in the Flames
Do Not Forget, Remember and Warn!'
So reads the plaque at the entrance to the historic Vijecnica, the National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, which was destroyed by systematic shelling 25-26th August 1992. Describing the burning of the library in his poem, Lament for Vijecinica in 1993, the Bosnian poet, Goran Simic writes:
The National Library burned for three days last August and the city was choked with black snow.
Set free from the stacks, characters wandered the streets, mingling with passer-by and the souls of dead soldiers
Fernando Baez describes the irreparable, deliberate destruction of the library through a term identified by Roman thinkers for cultural genocide: damnatio memoriae, or memory erasure: an act aimed specifically the eradicate the collective and multiple diverse histories of a people,a city, a country and a way of life.
Miriam Nabarro, the first Artist in Residence in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS, photographed the library under reconstruction in 2006 and again in 2012. The exhibition consists of work printed by the artist with liquid emulsion on glass, suspended in precarious frames by FRAMEJUNKIE to let light in, causing the memory of the building to appear in elusive, ghostlike impermanence.
The newly renovated building reopened in April 2014 as part of the commemorations of the centenary of World War One, which was began when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed as he left the building.
The Damnation of Memory is at the Wolfson Gallery in School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University Library, which holds an invaluable and unparalleled collection of language, history and culture and acts as a collective meeting point for scholars and students. We hope that this exhibition will travel to Vejevnica in Summer 2015.