War crimes and mass graves – forgotten lives

When we think of memory we tend to consider our own or someone who we knew but I started to think about the memories of individuals unknown to me.

I had initially become really interested in Chernobyl as a place of loss and had begun to research the history of the disaster. The sense of loss at Chernobyl is apparent within the abandoned homes and spaces left after the terrible nuclear disaster.

Through this research the reality of the terrible history of the Ukraine and surrounding areas became clear to me. Years of civil war has devastated so many. Countries, Politics, rights and wrongs aside what struck me was the indescribable horror that so many innocent people have to endure and the vast numbers of nameless dead that are so easy forget as individuals.

When a mass grave site is created in a war zone, it will most likely be the result of a war crime.

Quote from: http://anthrojournal.com/issue/october-2011/article/forensic-anthropologists-mass-graves-and-international-law

Forensic Archaeologists work to  examine the remains within these mass graves. Their work helps families left behind seek closure but also helps to collect evidence of the crimes and to bring perpetrators to justice. The work involves meticulous analysis of the remains to read as much information of the life of each individual. depending on what does remain this can include skin and hair colour, bones can reveal approximate height as well as sex. Previous injuries as well as injuries that caused death can be distinguished between. Teeth can help with identification as well both by comparing with dental records but also distinctive dental features such as crowns,  missing teeth or unusual gaps etc can be relayed by/to relatives to aid identification. Personal effects also help to create a picture and identify an individual.

The marks and items that identify an individual are what interest me. Individuality within mass graves or human remains of any kind are easy to forget.

12th September

I have recently started to become particularly interested in the Bosnian war. Having starting to read Clea Koff’s – The Bone Woman and visiting Croatia I started to explore the history of the Bosnian War by reading:

The Graves Srebrenica and Vukovar – Eric Stover and Gilles Peress

The Suitcase, Refugee voices from Bosnia and CroatiaJulie A. Mertus (Author), Jasmina Tesanovic (Author), Habiba Metikos (Author), Rada Boric (Author), Cornel West (Foreword)

100,000 men and boys were brutally mass slaughtered, over 2 million people were displaced. It was the first case of genocide since World War II.

A series of mass graves in Bosnia were excavated to both give closure to family members searching for loved ones but also to discover the causes of death in order to prosecute.

During my research into the awful crimes in Bosnia I discover the artist Šejla Kamerić who is a Bosnian artist who studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo. She was commissioned by Wellcome Collection as as part of the exhibition Forensics: The anatomy of crime to create a new work  ‘Ab uno disce omnes’. This piece of work is a living memorial in the form of data. During the exhibition it took the form of an installation but continues as an evolving database available here http://abunodisceomnes.wellcomecollection.org/.

This fascinating archive holds so much valuable information to inform my research, both visual and text based.




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