Azra Begic

Despite adverse circumstances two young German photographers, Wolfgang Bellwinkel and Peter Maria Schäfer, succeeded in presenting with the support of the ifa (Institute for Foreign Relations, Stuttgart) and the "Deutsch Bosnisch Herzegowinische Gesellschaft" (German-Bosnian and Herzegovinian Association) an exhibition of their work in the Sarajevo National Art Gallery in this year of War, 1994. They were welcomed here, not only because of the technical perfection of their work, but above all because of its character and artistic value. Each of the young artists presented 40 photos on the theme "War in Bosnia and Herzegovina". These pictures reveal very clearly the distinctive personalities of their makers: sharply observant, intelligent and marked by a deep sympathy for us, the victims in ex-Yugoslavia, but also by a recognition of the trickery and manipulation operating from the world's centers of power.
Peter Maria Schäfer openly denounces these power lobbies by depicting very systematically and unmistakeably, dominant political, military and economic structures in today's world, with their endless struggle for profit and power. He shows, too, the result: our massacred souls and bodies, like lifeless dolls; our lives, annihilated and destroyed.
In contrast, Wolfgang Bellwinkel, develops his tale of our fate more directly, almost, if I may say so, poetically. His sequence begins almost idyllically: a photograph of a ship, sailing across the Adriatic, pink and blue, like a kitschy post card. But gradually, one is drawn into the story of war in our land. There is the picture of sheep grazing, but far in the background, like a silent threat, a miniature armoured vehicle. Then come the ruins of our houses, till we are struck by the picture of the Ahmici mosque - it almost seems to have comitted harakiri in its sorrow, pierced by its own minaret like a space rocket. In the foreground, to intrepid hens, happily going their way: truly, this picture seems to belong to the realm of the fantastic. Everyday scenes follow: In West Mostar bins of rotten oranges that will never reach their destination; the lives of refugees, revealing infinite sorrow, but also an admirable tenderness; the dismembered body of a young man, in front of the blood-stained truck of the "Humanitarian Help".
In such a context, the misplaced attempt at celebration in East Mostar, with its impression of simulated pleasure, seems almost morbid: we are incapable of experiencing joy - instead of a smile, this scene only calls forth disgust.
The final picture is dark: a badly illuminated desert street, upon which blood, our blood, flows. A brutal, pessimistic finale to the pink and blue, pastoral introduction.
Our friends, Wolfgang Bellwinkel and Peter Maria Schäfer, have no illusions: they know the world is not in order and that the wielders of power in this world have designed a terrible fate for us, in taking away our right to defend ourselves and condemning us to an unequal struggle.
These two photographers understand how to look and understand, and have the courage to offer the world a blood reality. Thank you.
And last but not least: these two artists have presented the first exhibition in occupied Sarajevo. This is a symbol of the conscience of the human race and undoubtedly honours the country and the profession of these two young man.

Azra Begic , Sarajevo August 1994