The artist Dragana Jurisic is from Yugoslavia – a country that no longer exists. In 1941, a book was published about Yugoslavia entitled Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. It was written by the Anglo-Irish writer Rebecca West who regarded Yugoslavia as her ‘motherland’ or her spiritual home. Being Anglo-Irish, I think that she never felt she truly belonged either in Ireland or in England. “In any class I feel at home”, she wrote, “but I am never accepted because of the traces I bear of my other origins”. So perhaps she was drawn to Yugoslavia because of its many cultures and disparate identities.
But in 1991, Yugoslavia was torn apart by ethnic conflict and war, and new countries were established from the ruins. Jurisic, whose mother was Serbian and whose father was from Croatia, found herself an exile, robbed of her identity as Yugoslav.
Twenty years later and now living in Ireland, she decided to retrace the journey that West had made around the former Yugoslavia to see if she could rediscover the land of her childhood and to recall and to question her memories of the country and the terrible events she had witnessed. Her exhibition of photographs YU: The Lost Country is the result of her epic journey and can be seen at the RHA Gallagher Gallery in Dublin until the end of October. This is an exhibition of lonely, intriguing photographs – not to be missed, if you’re in Dublin.
At a talk she gave recently at the RHA, Jurisic talked about her wish to reconcile herself with her past and to somehow recreate through her art, the country she had lost. However, she soon realised that this was not to be, that Yugoslavia was gone forever and that her journey was about saying goodbye and perhaps, letting go. A requiem for her lost country.
You can see her wonderful photographs at:
I was quite taken by this story because of the interest I have in identity, national identity, cultural identity etc and I think that this is one area in which the arts can play a significant role. To quote the writer John Tusa: “The arts link a society to its past, a people to its inherited store of ideas, images and words, yet the arts challenge those links in order to find ways of exploring new paths and ventures…” I had an exhibition myself in Kilmainham Gaol about 10 years ago entitled: “Aiséirí/Requiem” but that’s another story. As Oscar Wilde once wrote: “the truth is rarely pure and never simple”.
But here’s a link to my exhibition anyway: