Još jedno naricanje

 Uvijek me privuče prostrani izlog bezimene radnje iza Begove Džamije u kojem se ogleda ponešto rezbarije, staklenih posuda i sićušni kovani predmeti različitih namjena. Taj jedinstveni gradski kutak me nakratko odvuče od sarajevske stvarnosti u kojoj se svaka borba za ljudsku dušu čini unaprijed osuđena na propast. Grad poznat po zveketu kovačkog alata koji bi se zaustavljao jedino u doba molitivi, postepeno zaustavlja rad svog mehaničkog srca. Ne smijem pričati o samoubistvu grada koji je nekoć u svakom svom rukavcu odisao onim “kantovskim” bezinteresnim sviđanjem oblika: govorit ću nakratko o prošlosti. Evo zašto!

Prije nekoliko mjeseci posjetila sam Mujagin han u Srebrenici u vlasništvu porodice Siručić. Podrum kojeg je mladi Mirsad Siručić sa svojim ocem, rahmetli Mujom Siručićem preuredio u “bosansku sobu” je jedinstven muzej emocija sačinjen od velikog broja porodičnih uspomena. Rezbarija koju mi je mladi Mirso pokazao tom prilikom je rad njegovog oca, a prikupljeni predmeti kojima je popunjen prostrani Mujagin han su brizljivo čuvani upotrebni predmete od posuđa do starog namještaja, slike roditelja i braće, majčin mlin za kafu, očeva tabakera. Kopajući po Mirsinom porodičnom blagu naišla sam na predmet koji je moju početnu satisfakciju preobrazio u posve teške misli o nemaru prema predmetima čija dekorativna vrijednost potiskuje onu prvobitnu-utilitarnu. Naišla sam na seharu Elme Bečirović, očeve pranane po kojoj sam dobila ime. Komad drveta na kojem je vrijeme u velikoj mjeri otisnulo svoje prste potiče iz 1900. godine. I kao što rekoh, nakon što sam pažljivo opipala svaki detalj starog drveta, počela sam zamišljati teta Elmu iz posve drugog vremena, u drugačijoj odjeći koja je po noći počivala u njenoj drvenoj sehari, zajedno s nakitom, maramicama, đerdanima i djevojačkim mirazom. Moj ormar nema takvu dekoraciju, a posude za nakit su mi ukrašne, nekvalitetne kartonske kutije od maminog jeftinog posuđa (ono skupo je skriveno kako mu moja smotanost ne bi naudila). Gdje je nestala predanost pri izradi predmeta? Zar nas je uistinu u potpunosti progutala neka velika kineska mašina? Možda bih mogla oprostiti što smo odustali od urezivanja autentičnih ukrasa u posuđe i lampe, ali nikako ne prestajem žaliti što smo im tako brzo okrenuli leđa. Zaboravili smo da ukoliko se kroz ovakva i slična porodična blaga prati umjetnost i kultura življenja, dolazimo do zanimljivih otkrića o dodirivanju kultura običaja, povijesno-civilizacijskih krugova koji su zapečatile Bosnu i Hercegovinu. Ljepota ovih primjeraka počiva na nedistanciranosti od života. Njihovo kreativno djelovanje je uhvatilo pod ruku povjesna kretanja i religijska preplitanja. Predmeti nastali u zanatskim radionicama su odgovarali na konkretne potrebe ljudi u datom vremenu, ali tako rođeni predmeti su ipak u sebi nosili stepen kulturnog, tehničkog i umjetničkog razvoja. Ovi proizvodi narodnog rada posjeduju pored utilitarnog aspekta i estetske, ali i kulturološke vrijednosti jer svjedoče o stalnim ratovima i osvajanjima ovih krajeva od Rima, Austrije, Mađarske, Turske koji u

bosanskohercegovačke gradove donose drugačiji načini izrade vojne opreme i njenoga održavanja, ali i niz proizvoda potrebnih civilima. Ne treba zaboraviti da su upravo ratovi i trgovina bili generator razvoja zanatstva. Ovi proizvodi su zapravo određivali način života. I obratno. Danas, pored njih prolazimo i ne osvrćemo se. Omamljeni lažnim sjajem bolje budućnosti, nemamo se vremena okretati unazad.

Da li ljepota usklesanih ornamenata sa sahana i ibrika ili pojaseva i obuće može poslužiti većoj svrsi od mamca za znatiželjne turiste? Da li njihov šapat može postati glasniji govor nekog umjetnika? Zašto nam je toliko stran njihov jezik kojim smo se ne tako davno i sami obraćali? Ne znam. Ali pouzdano znam da nam iza svakog ćoška prijeti izjelica kulturnog života sazdana od velikih, staklenih izloga. Spremna je da svakog časa nikne na ruševinama neke stare sarajevske uličice.

 

Another Lament

I’m always attracted by the large showcase of a nameless shop behind Begova džamija, which exhibits carvings, glass vessels and tiny forged items for different purposes. This unique urban corner drags me briefly from Sarajevo’s daily reality, where every battle for the human soul seems doomed to fail. A city known for forging mechanical tools that would stop only at the time of pleading, gradually stops the working of its mechanical heart. I’m not allowed to talk about the suicide of the city that once in every backwater was characterised by the “Kantian” disinterest in liking the form: I will briefly speak about the past. Here is why!

A few months ago I visited Mujagin han in Srebrenica, owned by the  Siručić family. The basement that young Mirsad Siručić along with his father, the late Mujo Siručić transformed into the “Bosnian Room” is a unique museum of emotion, made up of a large number of family memories. The carvings that young Mirso showed me are the work of his father, and the collected objects filling the spacious of Mujagin han are closely guarded usable items from dishes to old furniture, pictures of parents and brothers, his mother’s coffee grinder, his fathers cigarette case. While rummaging through Mirso’s family treasure I came across an item that converted my initial satisfaction into a completely serious thoughts of negligence toward objects whose decorative value pushes aside the original-utilitarian. I have found a treasure chest from Elma Becirovi, my father’s great-grandmother, after whom I was named. A piece of wood that the time has reached promotes from 1900. year. And like I said, after I carefully feel for every detail of an old tree, I began to imagine Aunt Elma from very different time, in a different outfit that during the night reposed in her wooden treasure chest, along with jewelry, handkerchiefs, a necklace and a girl’s dowry. My closet has no such decoration, and my container for jewelry are some poor quality cardboard boxes of my mom’s cheap dishes (costly one are hidden so mine left-handedness would not hurt them). Where did the commitment to the preparation of the subject disappeared? Are we really fully engulfed by a large Chinese machine? Maybe I could forgive that we gave up grooving authentic decoration in pottery and lamps, but I can never cease to regret that

We have so quickly turned our back on them. We forget that if one get through these kind of family treasures consisting of the visual culture of ordinary life, we can make interesting discoveries about cultural customs, and the historical pattersn of civilisation, that in a very interesting way sealed Bosnia and Herzegovina. The beauty of these units is based on biogrpahical association versus life. Their creative work is intertwined with historical and religious developments . Circumstances that resulted in handicraft workshops that responded to the specific needs of people at the time, but in that way the items that were made, are still carried a degree of cultural, artistic and technical development.

These products of a national culture, working alongside utilitarian and aesthetic considerations, display cultural values forged from the constant wars and conquest of this region by Rome, Austria- Hungary, Turkey, which in Bosnian cities bring different ways of making and maintaining military equipment, as well as a range of consumer products. We should not forget the wars and trade were a generator for development of handicrafts. This products were actually determining the way of life. And vice versa. Today, we pass by them and do not look back. Numbed with tinsel of better future, we have no time to turn back.

Does the beauty of carved ornaments on plates and ibriks, or belts and shoes, serve a greater purpose than a bait for some curious tourists? Does their whisper hint at the louder voice of an artist? Why are we so foreign with the craftsman’s language, which we all knew once ourselves? I do not know. But I know that around every corner one big eater of cultural life composed of large, glass windows is threatening us. She is ready to sprout from the ruins of some old streets of Sarajevo at any moment.

Elma Hodžić

THE REAL JAMES BOND, BOSNIA-HERCEGOVINA & YUGOSLAVIA

SCB  finally went to see the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes, last night. As a film, it’s pretty terrible. Mendes has taken the lucrative franchise back to the dark Roger Moore days of the early- mid eighties; Javier Bardem is by far the campest Bond villain since Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin A View to a Kill (1984); as in the weakest Bond movies, the villain’s aim is not global domination but petty revenge (not seen since Pierce Brosnan’s Bond got the better of Sean Bean in the diabolical Goldeneye of 1995). The best Bond movies (for example Daniel Craig’s debut in Casino Royale) have a tight, fast moving, convincing plot: Skyfall is a loosely held together farrago of marginalia and cliche. Bond films such as From Russia with Love (1963) were determinedly international in range and outlook; this Bond slips back to a tea-and-stiff-upper-lip self-parody.

However, the point of this is not to write about this film but to make mention of the link between the original James Bond- the real life military officer on whom Fleming loosely based his character- and BiH. Ian Fleming, who began writing the James Bond novels in the late 1950s, was much influenced by the publication in 1949 of Fitzroy MacLean’s Eastern Approaches.  In the wake of the second world war, there had of course been a rash of memoirs, but this was one that stood out both for the quality of the writing and for its coverage of two countries that had very few first hand, eye witness accounts available in English- the USSR and Yugoslavia.

Fitzroy MacLean in Moscow, 1938

A diplomat before the war,MacLean had travelled extensively in the Soviet Union, closely shadowed by the NKVD; he was an eye witness at the farcical show trial of Bukharin in Moscow in 1938. Having resigned as a diplomat, and enlisted in the British Army in 1941, he spent much time in the Desert War with the early incarnation of the SAS, and was at something of a loose end as that campaign drew to a successful close in mid- 1943. Summoned at short notice back to London, MacLean had an audience with Churchill, who ordered him to go to Yugoslavia- a land he had never visited- and find out who the mysterious ‘Tito’ was. British intelligence knew that someone called Tito was causing the Axis occupiers a lot of problems, but had no clue who he actually was. Some of the more ludicrous suggestions put forward by the spooks of the day was that Tito was an acronym for, Tajna Internacionalna Teroristička Organizacija, with a rotating leadership, or indeed that Tito was a beautiful young shepherd girl from the Bosnian mountains whose husband had been murdered by the Germans. The task was urgent as it was becoming clear in London that their favoured resistance leader- Draža Mihajlović- was actually on much more accommodating terms with the Germans than had been realized.

First Edition of ‘Eastern Approaches’ (1951)

MacLean was parachuted in with an SAS team and landed near Mrkonićgrad, being immediately taken to meet Tito in Jajce- about eight weeks before the founding AVNOJ conference in that town, at the end of November 1943. Their first meeting was in the dominating castle of Jajce, where Tito was spending some time. Soon, the two had struck up an unlikely friendship. MacLean was a landed Scottish aristrocrat and had been elected as a Conservative MP for Lancaster in 1941; Tito had spent the inter-war period either in jail, or on the run from the Royal Yugoslav Police, as part of the leadership of a proscribed political organisation. MacLeasn, thanks to his experiences in Stalin’s USSR before the war, was a convinced anti-Communist, but he soon came to appreciate the distinction in character between Soviet and Yugoslav Communism, noting a pragmatism and independence  of mind in Yugoslavia, which has been painfully lacking in a USSR where independent thinking and responsibility were to be avoided wherever possible.

 MacLean ended up spending most of 1944 as an unofficial liaison between the Yugoslav Partizans and the British government, providing vital first hand information on the progression of their loose series of campaigns across Yugoslavia, and arranging for supply drops to Tito’s hard pressed men. MacLean’s reports saw all British supplies to Mihajlović cease, in favour of Tito. MacLean, variously, spent a great deal of time with the Partizan leadership in Jajce, Drvar, Livno, on the Croatian coast, and on the island of Vis and Korčula. He also facilitated a trip by Vlatko Velebit, a key figure in the Partizan leadership, to London, and arranged the first meeting between Churchill and Tito, in Naples, in the late spring of 1944.

However if MacLean’s account had merely been a cigar-by-champagne-glass account of high politics and diplomacy, it would not have been as compelling and vivid. The book is particularly valuable for his insights into the peoples and the landscape of former Yugoslavia, and in particular his impressions of Bosnia-Hercegovina.  There are also even-handed accounts of the characters of the men who would go on to shape political and military life in post-war Yugoslavia, and a deft awareness of the Byzantine complexities of the differing manifestations of the Yugoslav resistance, and the motivation of the anatagonists- a series of subtle distinctions quite beyond any other British writer of the time.

After the war, as opposed to the fictional Bond, who spends his whole life as a spy, MacLean was a Conservative MP for a Scottish constituency from the late 1950s. He maintained a lifelong friendship with Tito, was President of the now defunct British-Yugoslav Friendship Society, and was a frequent visitor to Vis in the post-war years. He wrote a coffee table book on Yugoslavia in 1969, and provided the text for a pictorial biography of Tito. In retirement, he became a full-time writer, and intervened in his last years to support the Croatian fight for independence in the early 1990s. The Real James Bond died in England in 1996.

Here is MacLean discussing his reminiscences of Tito and Yugoslavia in 1990:

Eastern Approaches was translated into Serbo-Croat after its appearance and is widely available here as a second hand book. For the English original, copies can be had for about 10 KM from amazon or e-bay.

Jon Blackwood

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