- Middle East
THIS LAND IS MY LAND
The project aims to inform the local population of the rich cultural heritage of the migrants that are currently stuck on the Balkan route and who are routinely depicted in the media as trespassers, as ‘the unwanted,’ and as dangerous. This series of portraits of migrants that come from countries in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa visually fuses their contemporary itinerant status with their enchanting cultural background. The subject of each portrait poses with a photo created by the author of this project in their home countries depicting a landmark, a folk tradition, regional food, or similar, as this represents the collective memory of their home. Alongside each portrait, the subject’s testimony explains their reason for traveling the Balkan route and the significance of the ‘homeland’ photo they hold. This project thus breaks down the depersonalized images of migrants that dominate our news cycle, instead giving a human face to these individuals and a personalized portrayal of their home and their journey. This unique approach to visualizing a dire contemporary situation: by showing the beauty and depth of far-away cultures and traditions, works to bridge disparate communities and foster curiosity and goodwill about ‘the other.’
Mohammad with a photo of the Great Colonnade at Palmyra. “Palmyra was a symbol of Syria and it still is but it was badly damaged during the war.” Mohammad (25) left Aleppo in Syria two and a half years ago, after the fighting in his hometown was already over. During his journey that he started from Sudan, as the only country where he could fly to without a visa, Mohammad stayed in twelve countries, before reaching Serbia where he is for sixteen months already. Currently he stays at the Reception Center in Obrenovac near the Serbian capital, waiting for the chance to cross the Hungarian border and join his brother in Germany.
Mustafa with a photo of the Darul Aman Palace. “Now the palace is completely renovated and looks much better.” Mustafa (25) from Kabul, Afghanistan is on the road for five years already. After staying for three years in Greece he is stranded in Bosnia for already two years after being violently pushed back from Croatia for twelve times. Currently he lives in the abandoned factory on the outskirts of Bihać, waiting for weather conditions to improve in order to try to make it to Italy again.
Nurullah poses with a photo of boys with kites from Mazar-i-Sharif. “This is a very popular game in my country and we call it gudiparan bazi. I regularly flew kites when I was a child.” Nurullah (30) from Kunduz, Afghanistan is on the road for last two years already and currently resides in abandoned building in the center of Bihać in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He tried the “game” for ten times now and once managed to reach Slovenia.
Sajid holding a photo of the Blue Mosque. “It is one of the most beautiful landmarks in my country. I never had a chance to visit the famous Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif but many of my relatives and friends did.” Sajid (17) from Kunar Province, Afghanistan started his trip to Europe five months ago. After being pushed back by the Croatian Police for five times, he is currently stranded in Bosnia, living in the unfinished nursery house in the center of Bihać without the electricity and the running water.
Habibullah with a photo of the Sadarghat Port in Dhaka. “Everyone knows this place, it is right in the middle of the city”. Habibullah (36) left his home in Dhaka, Bangladesh three years ago. He came to Bosnia and Herzegovina using the overland route with the help of smugglers. Now he lives in the “jungle”, informal camp near Velika Kladuša for over six months after five unsuccessful attempts to reach Slovenia.
Nasir holding a picture of the rock-hewn Buddhist stupa. “I visited Samangan and the famous Takht-i Rustam stupa twice.” Nasir (27) from Kabul, Afghanistan started his trip to Europe two years ago. After five attempts to cross to the European Union, he currently lives in an abandoned building in Bihać, waiting for the next chance.
Hamed posing with a photo of the colouful Pakistani bus. “Peshawar is very famous for its decorated buses and trucks.” Hamed (21) started his trip to Europe from his hometown Peshawar in Pakistan two years ago. He unsuccessfully tried the “game” for seven times and now lives in Miral camp near the town of Velika Kladuša in the northwest of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Shukria holding the photo of an auto rickshaw typical for Herat. “These are very popular in my city, I used them almost every day but they are so noisy”. Shukria (24) left her hometown Herat in western Afghanistan with her husband and three children three years ago. They came overland straight to Serbia, but since then whey are stuck here, living in the Center for Asylum in Krnjača near the Serbian capital. She hopes that they will be able to go to Germany soon.
Walid holding a photo of the Citadel of Aleppo. “Our city suffered a lot during the war and. Citadel, bazaar, mosque, all is in ruins now”. Walid (35) left Aleppo nine years ago, in the wake of the Syrian civil war. After years that he spent in Izmir and later Istanbul in Turkey, he came to Serbia one year ago. After failing to cross to the Hungarian border for three times, Walid currently resides in the Center for Asylum Krnjača hoping that he will be able to make it to Berlin, where the rest of his family lives.
Khalil poses with a photo of Naqsh-e Rostam. “Naqsh-e Rostam is an amazing place, and so important for our identity. Some of the greatest Persian kings are buried there”. Khalil (36) from Tehran, Iranian capital city came to Serbia two years ago. He arrived with a direct flight as a tourist intending to continue to European Union, just like thousands of his compatriots because in that time a visa free regime between Iran and Serbia was still in force. For last four months he lives in the Center for Asylum Banja Koviljača, hoping to continue his journey to Europe.
Abdelkarim holding a picture of the Hargeisa War Memorial. “Hargeisa is my home town but I left it a long time ago, before Somaliland was even created. The city has changed a lot in the meantime”. Abdelkarim (55) came to Serbia more than three decades ago to study agriculture. In that time, Yugoslavia still existed while Somaliland, whose Hargeisa is a capital city, still was a part of Somalia. He never managed to find a proper job in Serbia and eventually, after his papers expired he ended up in jail for several years. Since 2007, he lives in the Center for Asylum Banja Koviljača and now he is thinking about returning to Somaliland.
Arslan with a photo of the Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore. “This is a famous mosque in Lahore with bazaars located around it”. Arslan (22) from Bhalwal in Pakistani province Punjab started his journey one year ago. Currently he lives with in the abandoned train station in Banja Koviljača a small town in western Serbia, waiting for the chance to cross Drina River which is a natural border with Bosnia and Herzegovina on his way to France.