The restorative function of art, civil engagement and research is at the heart of ‘Landscapes of Repair’, a new collaborative transnational project between forumZFD Kosovo, the University of Sheffield and various international and Kosovo-based artists, researchers and civil society activists on post-traumatic landscapes in the Western Balkans. This partnership emerged directly from forumZFD’s encounter with the ‘Invisible Wounds’ book and the respective exhibition, and builds on the diverse strands of place-making identified within a more localised geographical context.
‘Landscapes of Repair’ brings together University of Sheffield research on post-traumatic landscapes with forumZFD expertise in Dealing with the Past in the Western Balkans, to foreground the role of Kosovo artists, organisations and civil actors in thinking about, as well as enacting, community-led repair. The reparative frame of the project manifests in several different ways, from tracing the cultural revitalisation of specific industries, such as visual and cinema culture, to the architectural reconstruction of heritage and other buildings.
The project began in 2021, with key outputs including an online exhibition co-curated by Amanda Crawley Jackson, Faye Larkins and Emily-Rose Baker (both then students at the University of Sheffield), in discussion and collaboration with the participating artists; an interactive website (www.landscapesofrepair.org) and a 2-day international, cross-sector symposium hosted and organised by forumZFD Kosovo staff Alexander Vojvoda and Korab Krasniqi in cooperation with Sheffield University and various Kosovo-based researchers, academics, artists and civil society activists in the field of memorialisation practices, transitional justice and dealing with the past. The symposium was delivered online in English, Serbian and Albanian. The symposium created a transnational platform for sharing experience, insight and learning, bringing together a range of expertise in post-traumatic and post-conflict placemaking. Speakers included academic researchers, activists, architects, creative practitioners, artists, representatives from Kosovo-based NGOs and civil society. The online exhibition, featuring works by Brixhita Deda, Lulzim Hoti, Argjirë Krasniqi, Korab Krasniqi, Vildane Maliqi and Dardan Zhegrova, explored questions around the practices of memorialisation, reoccupation and repair in post-conflict landscapes; what repair might look like and what forms it might take in Kosovo and the Western Balkans; the role of creative practice in repairing, repurposing and reimagining damaged topographies; and the possibility of co-creating landscapes of care and architectures of peace.
Since 2021, forumZFD Kosovo has continued to grow the Landscapes of Repair website, with a new resources section that features recorded talks by researchers and activists in Kosovo, commissioned papers and downloadable materials such as special issues of journals and a multi-media mapping tool and archive featuring site-specific interventions into post-traumatic landscapes via the collection of soundscapes, images, texts and videos. In 2022 and 2023, the online exhibition was co-curated in situ by Alexander Vojvoda in cooperation with local civil society, art and cultural actors like Anibar and Kinema Jusuf Gërvalla in Peja, the University of Prishtina and the Centre for Narrative Practice in Prishtina and the artists involved in the exhibition. An exhibition catalogue, featuring texts by the exhibited artists, was published in Kosovo in 2022. The collaboration, conversations and activities have thus continued and expanded since the first edition of the project came to an end in summer 2021.
The Landscapes of Repair collaboration is part of forumZFD Kosovo’s long-term approach to reflect on public spaces and space-creation in post-conflict settings as discursive arenas for competing narratives on the violent and traumatic past in the Western Balkans region. Since the establishment of forumZFD and its Western Balkans programme in 2000 in cooperation with a broad network of local and regional civil society groups, activists, researchers and academics, cultural workers and artists to support non-violent conflict transformation, contributing to peacebuilding and reconciliation, forumZFD Kosovo has assessed space-making, public spaces, post-traumatic landscapes and the documentation of memorial sites as a relevant context with high mnemonic potential and an important field for discussions about dealing with the past. Exemplary for forumZFD’s work in this are projects like MOnuMENTI (2014), Kosovo Memory Heritage (since 2017), Memory Mapping Kosovo (2014 – 2016), Memory Lab (2014 – 2015), Inside-out, Outside in (2017 – 2018) and Landscapes of Repair (since 2021). These activities have served as a forum for critical reflection on the (violent) past in Kosovo, the region and beyond. Ultimately, the way in which Kosovo deals with its past in public spaces has a profound impact on the country’s culture of remembrance. It seeks to challenge one-sided narratives and supports fact-based, inclusive practices of memorialisation.