"You are a chapter in my book, but I’m merely a sentence in yours"
Ziyah Gafić : Palestine, A Land without People, People without Land
Ziyah Gafić was born in Sarajevo, surviving the Bosnian war. His full biography is worth a read, and puts in context the personal investment he has in his photography practice. An excerpt:
This is a series of photo essays, on the aftermath of war and violence in the daily life of people living in societies in Europe, Africa and Asia. I aimed to capture the quiet, the loneliness and the determination of people trying to carry on with their lives after the very fabric of their community, their rituals and their social life has been torn apart.
Aim is to compare and to try to understand the circumstances and the political environment that can lead a country to its disintegration and above all to record the consequences for the human condition in these places. For someone who went through war and personal loss empathy is essential. If readers do not emphasize with the subject in my photographs then I have failed.
The countries I photographed have one more important thing in common: they all have a significant Muslim community. In post 9.11th times when these countries are considered the main sources of international terrorism, I as a European Muslim find it obligatory to record the chain of events unfolding in these places and show their fragility: torn apart by ethnic hate, long and exhausting conflicts, polluted with the legacy of colonial rule and Cold War, while very often being regarded as a cradle of our civilization, mysterious and beautiful.
I’ve been documenting aftermath since 1999 since then I worked in; Bosnia: a painful aftermath and identification of the missing persons, Palestine: one of the longest conflicts of 20th century and new separation wall, Iraq: the troubled neighborhood of Sadr City, Kurdistan: at dawn of the coalition invasion, Northern Ossetia: aftermath of Beslan siege, Chechnya: daily life in Grozny, Afghanistan: damaged people, damaged landscape and Lebanon: aftermath of recent Israeli military campaign.
These photo-essays unpretentiously seek to illuminate the pattern of questionable international involvement and focus on the people left behind, struggling to restore some kind of daily order in their damaged environments.
“At the moment, I’m homeless.”
“I thought you were waiting for someone.”
“I’m just trying to pass the time. I live in a shelter.”
"How did you become homeless?”
“I had a place, but I smoke, and I wasn’t supposed to.”
“What’s your typical day like?”
“I wake up because the lights come on in the shelter. You’ve got an hour to wash your body and do everything, and you have to do it on a schedule. Then, if you’re hungry … well, you don’t really want to eat the food there. It sucks. Anyway, you eat. They offer you oatmeal or eggs or cream of wheat.”
“When do you have to be out?”
“In the shelter I am, you have to be out of the building by 9 o’clock. Then you have to be in before 6 o’clock. You can go back during the day. But it makes me feel so, so unmanly because I have to answer to someone all the time. Sometimes I stay in the shelter in the daytime. I have a couple of my art pieces there. I hang out there half the day. Then I go to the library and read. Time passes quickly.”
“Can you afford to buy your own food?”
“Yes. I have money to eat elsewhere. And I choose not to eat at the shelter because I don’t want to take the food from a homeless person who needs it more.”
“Do you have friends or family?“
"I have two children.”
“Do you see them?”
“Not too often. I love them. They love me. I’m divorced.”
“You said you had some art pieces.”
“I’m an artist. I paint. I studied art history.”
“What do you paint?”
“Mostly portraits. I like people’s eyes.”
“Have you exhibited somewhere?”
“I used to exhibit on Newbury Street and elsewhere.”
“When was that?”
“About 20 years ago.”
“And then what happened?”
“Well, I also drink. I spent a lot of money on going out and partying.”
“Do you hope to get back into the art world?”
“That’s my dream. You know, you made my day. Why did you pick me? I feel so proud. I will always remember this date. I’m a homeless, highly educated black man who drinks. I’m homeless because I smoke. I never hurt anyone, never stole, never lied, never cheated. I’m so happy you talked to me. It awoke in me an aspect of humanity I had long forgotten. I feel so honored. Why me?”
Lust only grows like anger and revenge