The people that comprise a nation share common cultural and historical grounds. Communities arise from this structure—groups of people with the same belief about past events form a collective identity. And yet, these beliefs take their shape from the order of facts established by the nation—as the saying goes, history is written by the winners.

The Bridge on the Drina. A former execution ground in Visegrad. Today, the site of a diving contest. © Paweł Starzec, Winner, LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2017

History is something that a community settles on together; in a sense, the community creates a specific remembrance of the events that took place in its past. This is the foundation of collective identity.

“Makeshift” is a project on rewriting history in Bosnia and Herzegovina relating to the mass atrocities of the Bosnian War, which took place from 1992-1995 and was part of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Within the country, the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina fought bitterly against separate entities supported by both Serbia and Croatia.

Sonja’s Kon-Tiki. This site is an abandoned restaurant and motel complex in Vogošća. The motel housed women, while an attached bunker housed men. According to one source, the motel held 50 to 60 Bosnian Muslim girls. The commanders were allowed to rape the detainees. © Paweł Starzec, Winner, LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2017

After the war, many spaces and buildings in the country which were used to commit atrocities were renovated to serve as public utility buildings. Most of them still stand today.

History is written collectively, so it can be rewritten from scratch. Many things were erased, omitted, and forgotten. In Bosnia today, most people were in some way affected by the War. The entire landscape bears the marks of the conflict that the newly-written history wants to erase.

This is a work in progress.

—Paweł Starzec

Starzec’s project was singled out by the jury of the Emerging Talent Awards 2017. See all of the inspiring projects from this year’s 50 talents!