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Bosnian Coffee Ritual Honours Massacre Victims

Srebrenica: Traditional Bosnian Coffee Ritual Honours Massacre Victims At UN

New York, Jul 12 2005

Some 1,700 small white cups containing freshly brewed coffee stand on a bed of soil in the Visitors’ Lobby of United Nations Headquarters in New York this week, a poignant memorial to the thousands of Bosnians slaughtered in the Security Council-proclaimed “safe area” of Srebrenica exactly 10 years ago.

Collected from Bosnian families in the United States, residents of Srebrenica and neighbouring areas, some who lost family, the art installation by Aida Šehovic, a Bosnian refugee living in the United States, draws its inspiration from the traditional Bosnian ritual of gathering for coffee. The cups represent the number of people so far identified and reburied – to date 1,705 – out of some 8,000 estimated to have died.

Every day for first five days, echoing the five days that the massacre lasted from 11 to 15 July, 1995, the making and serving of coffee is taking place in the South Gallery of the General Assembly Visitors’ Lobby round a bed of soil depicting the map of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The cups rest next to each other at the eastern edge in the area of Srebrenica.

Forty-four cups hold only sugar cubes representing victims under age 18, too young for the ritual. As the aroma of coffee permeates the area, the installation is enhanced by recordings of the artist reciting the names and birthdates of the victims and a collection of 40 photographs by Bosnian photographers.

The exhibition, which will remain on display until 29 July, is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the UN, organized by the Academy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Inc., supported by a grant from the non-governmental organization Open Society Institute, and co-produced by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).


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