Bosnia Flourishing

Domestic garden, Tuzla

Yellow House Cafe, Tuzla

Museum of Literature and the Performing Arts, Sarajevo

Domestic garden, Sarajevo

Vive Zene center for women, Tuzla

Flowers near Mostar

The beauty of Bosnia-Herzegovina can surprise someone visiting for the first time. These are the colors of life, of culture, of dignity and humanity, quietly reasserted after the genocidal war on Bosnia.

When I look at these images, love overwhelms me and turns, Janus-faced, to anger. I wonder: who wrecks this, shells, burns, starves, rapes, tortures, murders, and scatters this — and then celebrates his monstrosity at home, while denying it abroad?

What to do with the anger. I may never know. Best, perhaps, to follow the lead of the Bosnians who still, somehow, tenderly water the flowers, till the soil, bake the bread, pour the coffee, comfort the wounded, and welcome the stranger.

Many thanks to my hosts — my friends, my teachers — in Sarajevo, Tuzla, Mostar, and Bihac. My thoughts, and my heart, have also been affected powerfully by the work of Vive Žene (pictured above), a center in Tuzla for women who have survived war, rape, and torture; the “Sto Te Nema” project of Aida Sehovic; Beba Hadzic and the women weavers of BOSFAM; and the Al Jazeera film Women Who Refuse to Die, about those who survived the genocidal Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys on July 11, 1995. All photographs by the author.

About Tom Simpson

Tom Simpson teaches religion, ethics, philosophy, and human rights at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH. He is the author of *American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940* (University of North Carolina Press, 2016) and nonfiction essays about Bosnia for the Canadian literary magazine *Numero Cinq*. Born in 1975 in Olean, NY, he earned the Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he specialized in American religious history. He writes, teaches, and lectures about religion in America, popular culture, Mormonism, and Bosnia. He lives in Exeter with his partner, Alexis Simpson, and their two children.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Aesthetics, Architecture, Art, Autobiography / Memoir, Bosnia, Ethics, Film, Gender, Human Rights, Peacebuilding, Religion and Spirituality, Social Justice, Teaching, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bosnia Flourishing

  1. LIng says:

    Flowers near Mostar–it’s pomegranates!

    • Tom Simpson says:

      Oh, wow, Ling — I knew I had to be accurate with my food writing, with you in the audience, but I thought I was on safe ground here. Apparently not. Keep a close eye on all this, OK? Something like this is liable to happen again….

  2. Rick Simpson says:

    Again, Tom, hypnotic and touching images and commentary.

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