How can we build peace if we don’t know what it looks like in different contexts? Everyday Peace Photo Stories is a photographic exhibition featuring the work of citizen photographers from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Colombia. In conjunction with Everyday Peace Indicators – an NGO that partners with conflict-affected communities to understand and measure peace, these community photographers capture the signs of peace that they look for in their communities(their “everyday peace indicators”). The accompanying photo stories explain the significance of these indicators in their day to day lives. This exhibition makes visible for audiences local peace and prompts questions about the role that images and image-making can have in building peace. First there will be a section for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then another one for Colombia.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mostar is a pluralist and “divided” city in post-war Bosnia andHerzegovina. In 2023, some thirty years after the end of the conflict, EPI conducted participatory research in seven representative local communities. We asked Mostarians about the everyday signs of peace and “life together” around them. Seven Mostar citizens, one from each community, then created photo stories of their communities’ top peace and life together indicators. The everyday indicators and accompanying photo stories helped to informMostar-Spaces to Activate and Rejuvenate project which invests in the material and cultural contents of the city’s public spaces
Life together indicator: People visit the theatre because they know there are performances
When my partner and I moved from Mostar to Zagreb in 2018, it seemed that Mostar was consumed by hopelessness, defeat and deep societal and administrative divisions.I never thought I would return, but in 2022 we did. SoonI was engrossed in the making of the play ‘A Night with Alex’. I was mostly an observer, but while spending time with the actors, I witnessed how plays come to life, and I got to know the entire theatre ensemble: witty, wonderful people. Through these people, Mostar became dearer and bigger in my eyes, showing me that life and creation take place despite the prevailing pessimism that nothing inMostar is the way it ‘should be’.
Peace indicator: In Blagaj there are rubbish containers
Today’s Blagaj and that from my childhood are like two different places with same name.Fifty years ago, it was a place of purity, a place with soul. Today, its soul is slowly fading away. Given my memories, what I see now is particularly difficult. I am disappointed to seethe most beautiful place from my childhood looking sad, neglected, with landfills everywhere. Instead of the sound of children playing, communal waste reigns on the streets of Blagaj. There are no rubbish bins. Shame. We must leave the rubbish on the main street, the one that leads to Blagaj’s old town, to be collected twice a week. But this is not enough, and I wonder,‘Where are we supposed to keep the rubbish between collection days?’.
Life together indicator: No matter what part of Mostar they live in, young people go out to the same place: Mepas mall
Mostar is a city with two schools, two electricity companies, two postal services, two water supply systems and two health centres. This ‘rich’ selection of public institutions contributes to divisions, both in the city and society. Young people, divided educationally and otherwise, preserve the division when ordering coffee: where to drink kafa (the Bosnian name), where kava(the Croatian name), and where to remain neutral and boldly say “možel jedna kraća?”(“can I have a short one?” i.e. espresso). However, a miracle happened when Mepas mall opened in Mostar. With the sole aim of making money, it brought the people of Mostar closer together. As dangerous as it may be for people’s pockets, Mepas mall shows that despite all divisions, the majority of Mostar’s inhabitants enjoy this ‘liberal zone’.
Peace indicator: Trimuša is entirely lit, not just certain parts (the playground, promenade)
When Helena moved to my neighbourhood she was a working woman but she soon quit her job and became a full-time mum. As her children grew up, she seemed different. I felt her desire for change, for freedom. I saw her at Trimuša park. She said she had started training. Then, I did not see her for some time. I found out that she was in the hospital, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I watched her walk unsteadily. She smiled, but she couldn’t hide her fear and worry. Not long after that I saw her looking cheerful. With the help of family and friends, therapy and exercise, she sent the disease into remission. I am reading the news that Trimuša has been ceremonially lit up. I’ll take a walk to see how it looks. I think I see Helena. So she runs again! It seemed impossible
Life together indicator: An irrigation system was built and now people in Potocican engage in agriculture
Potoci got its name from the large number of streams, brooks and rivers that flow through it.For years, even decades, the water of this place was unused, but recently that started changing. Agriculture has become the most important economic activity here, and almost every resident has their own plot of land that they cultivate either for personal or commercial use. Before we had an irrigation system we used to informally and voluntarily organise in order to direct water channels all the way to our fields. It was time consuming and hard, especially in hot Mostar summers. Nowadays, thanks to an efficient irrigation system our daily lives are easier and many people in Potoci live off agriculture.
Peace indicator: Women from Podhum have the same friends after the war as before
‘My name is Anja, and this is Sonja. What’s your name?; ‘I’m Nela’, I said.This is how our friendship began in the early 1970s.From that day we were inseparable. Our playground mischief was later replaced by evening strolls and movie nights.The ‘fantastic trio,’we were always together. Then, one day, everything changed. The war started. We went our separate ways to different countries. We lost contact. After the war I returned to Mostar, terrified of what I would find. I was emotional to discover that the poplar trees next to the river Radobolja had survived.‘Who is no longer with us?’, I wondered. On a hot summer’s day Sonja and Anja knocked on my door. Tears, laughter, hugs, endless conversations, no sleep. Our story continues
Life together indicator: More kids play football in the streets
On a fine day, a friend and I were sitting on a park bench, discussing how much time our primary school children spent in front of their screens. We remembered how we had played on the streets with other kids from the neighbourhood, whereas our children were lost in their virtual worlds. We decided to do something about it. We agreed to organise an event called ‘Five days without screens’ with the city library’s full support. The children enjoyed new experiences: strong bonds with their peers and a sense of freedom through their connection with nature. Based on this positive experience we hope to establish a club that will organises similar events in the future.
Peace indicator: Đemo Kasumović began cleaning Trimušu, so others joined in the activity
Trimuša park is where he took his first running steps about 50 years ago.A beautiful trail through a pine forest, connected to the Partisan Memorial Cemetery:an ideal place for athletes, recreationists and all those who enjoy nature. Đemo would run 10, 20, 30 laps, but when this became monotonous, he started running all over the country and beyond. Recently, he returned to Trimuša and what he saw deeply saddened him: it was impassable, overgrown with weeds and bushes and full of rubbish. The next day he brought some tools and started cleaning. After a few days another man joined him and the work progressed much faster.They became good friends. With his hard work he motivated other people and organisations to join him.
Peace indicator: In Blagaj the health clinic operates 24 hours a day instead of three.
I am a young woman ‘with a disability’ from Blagaj. My local health clinic has a variety of architectural and structural barriers for people with disabilities. I have felt sad, disappointed and isolated when local specialists had no capacity to help me with my specific needs. Additionally, the clinic only operates for a few hours from Monday to Friday, but people can only visit on set days and times according to their address. This is insufficient to meet everyone’s needs and could be resolved if the health clinic operated 24 hours a day and was adapted to meet the needs of all of its community members. The unsuitability of the clinic is a constant reminder of my disability. I am more than a diagnosis, I am more than a medical condition, and I would like to be seen as such.
Peace indicator: Demolished buildings are reconstructed
Anamarija Knežević, (Podhum) Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
On a daily basis, passing the ruins, I think of those who lived there, wondering where they are now. Were they truly accepted within their new, distant walls? Can sage grow in rice fields? Are they happy in places unlike Mostar, where the seas are grey, the shores are sterile, and the crickets have fallen silent?Sometimes I enter those old yards and I hear voices echoing through the alleys. Fruit ripens and roses bloom, but no one eats the fruit, no one smells the roses. Why, even after thirty years, are these ruins still here? Discussions around inheritance are locked in drawers; the heirs, scattered around the world because of the war, cannot come to an agreement. Meanwhile one never knows if a brick will drop on their head. Change comes, but not quickly enough. We are left with silence, wondering if we shall wait another thirty years.
In Colombia, photo voice projects were integrated into EPI’s work in rural communities that experienced intense armed conflict during the country’s decades long internal war. From2020-2023, photography workshops took place in six villages, with participants (men, women and youth) of all ages creating over 120 individual and collective photo stories on the every day peace indicators generated by their communities. Their images and accompanying photo stories were displayed in outdoor exhibitions around their villages, helping to amplify community voices and catalysing healing dialogue and community-based peace actions.
Justice Indicator: The truth brings peace of mind, rest and reparations for the victims.
I had to live a war that wasn’t mine. I could see, I could hear, but never talk. Every time I saw another orphan, another widow, the pain and the tears would bubble up again; it was something that was consuming us slowly but surely. I survived, I don’t know how, but here I am, thinking about all the people that Ihad to bury, some I knew, some I didn’t. How are their families now? Do they know where their loved ones ended up? But the truth will set us free, or at least I believe so. I will never forget how I was a prisoner in my own land. I will never forget who I am now: a survivor and a dignified campesino.
Co-existence Indicator: There are collective work groups among members of the community
“You need one hand to wash the other, and both to wash the face” is a saying that grandparents say. That’s what a minga is. When people don’t have the money to pay day labourers, they ask others to help them, and then the favour is repaid. In this way, a lot of farms and businesses have been saved from bankruptcy. A minga–or collective work group–saves lives and land, and protects democracy, justice and peace. Mingas are resistance
Co-existence Indicator: Families have more time to spend with each other.
Spending more time with your family is born out of the desire to share enriching experiences with those that you love. Those kinds of moments are the ideal way of forming the kind of lasting bonds that help you overcome adversity, and it is how you learn the principles and values needed to be a proper part of society.
“It has made such an impact on me seeing all the people looking at the photos, they look,
they remember what has happened to them, they remember the war but they do it with a
tranquillity and confidence that the future is going to be better.”
Community photography, Colombia
Peace Indicator: You don’t need to hide under the bed to protect yourself from bullets.
Before, when you heard gunshots, everyone would run to hide under the bed or in some safe place in the house, and now kids hide under the bed or in safe places because they’re playing hide and seek.
Co-existence Indicator: The children of San Miguel practice traditional dances.
No more traditions or births,
Many elders died and there is no one to tell the story anymore.
The children of San Miguel practice traditional dances,
with love and joy, empathy is noticeable.
In San Miguel there is love and life,
When people hear the chirimia* rhythm,
They dance with joy.
When I hear a drum,
My soul is filled with joy,
come on my people from San Miguel,
Let’s celebrate life.
Peace Indicator: People are not forced by necessity to work on illicit crops.
The people of San Miguel are calm and serene, we flee from conflicts and war,All year round we grow our produce, so that we can provide for our children.San Miguel of my soul, dearSan Miguel despite poverty we continue to grow our crops.Cassava, banana and lemon, are some crops of our region that we harvest with love. Let us no longer talk about war and let us enjoy again, to see our children grow and to cultivate our land. My God, my god, we no longer want war in San Miguel, we just want your presence and your power to remain. Photo and text by Yulieth AmparoGómez, San Miguel, Colombia
Co-existence Indicator: The people of the community accompany each other at wakes and funerals when someone passes away.
Comadre, comadre, lend me your Guayabo stick strainer. Oh comadre, how come, who died? The neighbor comadre. Let’s help set up the tomb, lend me your white curtains and let’s get the summer flowers, the coffee leaves and the myrtle. And we are also going to tell the prayers to accompany us to the wake. Photography and text by Veredas del Sur Photography Collective
Justice Indicator: The army pays for the victimizing acts it committed during the armedconflict.
The most beautiful way to transform into a peaceful world is the transcendence of the truth, the recognition of errors and making a contribution towards their amendment. Although it does not erase the scars of the soul, it allows a new beginning without uncertainty, and with colorful hope, for our new generations.
Justice Indicator: Water is not contaminated by the oil company.
Justice Indicator: Water is not contaminated by the oil company.News flash: We were in the Vereda Valparaíso and found that the water is totally contaminated by oil exploitation, the water sources are drying up and the Mayor’s offices are not intervening to deal with the problem. The community asks the local authorities to accompany them and solve the water issue so that it is drinkable.We will keep you informed!
Co-existence Indicator: The villages have good communication with each other
Did political lines exist in our fields?Yes, it was a scourge that reached Vereda la Maravilla, Vereda Yopal and Vereda Cunday and those who will travelled between them. The paths were roads of death, to cross those lines meant death… but this is over. Now the green of our roads symbolise life, faith and hope, and continue to a life of prosperity.