“Brotherhood and Unity” was the motto of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, which during WWII united the disparate nations and ethnic groups whom the Nazi invaders had pitted against each other. It then remained the official motto and a symbol of Yoguslavia’s unity for decades. In the early 1990s, nationalism and hatred began to tear the peoples of Yugoslavia apart, and it entered a long and bloody war which ended in the early 2000s with the formation of six independent states, but left many national and personal scars in its wake. Unlike Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia’s dissolution into two separate countries was a peaceful one, and Slovakia declared independence in 1993.
Olja Triaška Stefanović was born in 1978 in Serbia, then part of Yugoslavia. In 1997 she immigrated to Slovakia, another country born out of the division of a mother-state, in order to escape the violence and hatred raging in her homeland. 20 years later, Stefanović began to face her immigration trauma through a project which includes photography, personal archival research and writing. The nationalistic wave sweeping through central Europe today, 30 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, was a further catalyst for her search after anything that may have united the same people in the past. By focusing on monuments and public architecture, she raises questions regarding the politics of Remembrance and Forgetting.
6,000 monuments and modernist buildings, erected in a style meant to create a meta-national unity free of past symbols, now stand abandoned across former Yugoslavia, a testimony to a unity that is long gone. For Israeli audiences, Brotherhood and Unity encourages us to examine our own surroundings – a torn and divided country that was likewise founded on the promise of equality and the “melting pot” and also boasts a grand tradition of modernist monuments and buildings – and rethink the historic and contemporary role of such public constructions.
In collaboration with the Slovak Embassy.
Olja Triaška Stefanović
Ya’ara Raz Haklai and Ido Cohen