A Balkan Tale
Uta Benzenberg, Ivan Blažev, Samir Karahodzha, Camilo Nolas, Ivan Petrović
29. 5. – 30. 6. 2014 – SEM, Ljubljana
5 photographers, 50 monuments, 1 Balkan tale
Uta Benzenberg, Ivan Blažev, Samir Karahodzha, Camilo Nollas, Ivan Petrović
Opening: 30 May at 8 pm
30 May – 30 June 2014
Slovene Ethnographic Museum, Ljubljana
WHERE: Metelkova ulica 2, Ljubljana
A Balkan Tale project deals with the Ottoman cultural heritage in the Balkans. The resulting group show aims to stimulate public discourse about the history of this area, to promote a sense of common history based on religious and ethnic co-existence, and to contribute to public access to and the preservation of its cultural heritage.
Recent data indicates that the cultural heritage of the Ottoman Era in the Balkans is greatly threatened, as over 98% of existing Ottoman period buildings have been destroyed. Furthermore, historians have established a link between the use of history and the potential of inter-ethnic violence in the region.
This cross media project is based on an exhibition of 50 specially commissioned photographs of Muslim, Christian and Jewish monuments in the Balkans, shot by five award winning photographers from Athens, Belgrade, Prizren, Skopje and Tirana. The photographs are accompanied by texts written by a team of historians across the region. Contemporary photographers from the West Balkans have created images of Ottoman period monuments with a contemporary perspective. The photographs include the most important mosques, churches, public baths, aqueducts, houses and bridges in each country, capturing each building’s unique historical features as well as its current state. The exhibition therefore re-examines the significance that this common history posses today. At the same time, the exhibition challenges the viewer to look beyond national boundaries and to explore common Balkan history.
The Ottoman presence in the Balkans lasted from 14th to 20th centuries. In some regions this presence was continuous, in others interrupted (Peloponnese) and still others never suffered an Ottoman conquest (Ionian Islands, Dalmatian shores). Yet for almost entire population of Balkan Peninsula, the Ottoman centuries have been an important part of their historical experience.
To a great extent this history is unknown, or known under different perspectives in each country. This is due to the fact that Christian peoples of the Balkans established their nation-states through, usually military, conflict with the Ottoman Empire. These conflicts placed a great emphasis on the religious difference between Christians and Muslims. At the same time the appeal of the Western European model led to the devaluation of the cultural significance of the Ottoman centuries. The Ottoman Empire thus became identified with cultural “backwardness” and was considered by all its successors as an “undesirable heritage”.
Nevertheless, for some 600 years, Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together in urban and rural areas. Ottoman society was, of course, a society of hierarchies and discriminations between rulers and subjects. Today, memory of this period remains hidden in buildings that have changed use, or has faded out completely due to negligence and destruction. The contemporary photographs of these monuments enable us to see in a different light the Ottoman heritage, to revisit common past and to tell the Balkan tale.