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06.07.20

Small Contentments

Commemorative cube made by Bosnian survivor Jasmina

Over the past six weeks, survivors Iby Knill and Martin Kapel have participated in a community project to mark the Srebrenica genocide led by the 6 million+ Charitable Trust.

The 6 million+ Charitable Trust works with cultural and community groups across West Yorkshire.  Kim Strickson, project worker for the Trust, has written this guest blog about the project Small Contentments.

Rahat Lokum or Turkish Delight is roughly translated as contentment for the throat. It’s loved in many countries including Bosnia, and we are taking that image of a cube of sweetness to remember the boys and men who died as a result of an act of genocide in Srebrenica in Bosnia in 1995.  25 households spread across Kirklees and Leeds were invited to make a green, pink or yellow cube, using whatever materials they had at home or in the garden, to remember 25 of those lives so ruthlessly and violently cut short. It sounds serious and poignant, and it is, but the project has also been a joyful, warm process of individuals and families connecting with one another during this strange time of lockdown.

We started by visiting everyone in their gardens, taking them Bosnian coffee and Rahat Lokum. The photographs we took immediately kick-started conversations about gardening on the very lively project whatsapp group. Jasmina created a short video about how to make good Bosnian coffee and everyone tried it, including participants from Burundi, Syria, Kurdistan, Sudan, China, Nepal, Holmfirth and Batley. We are a big family of over 70 people who all call West Yorkshire home.  Between us, we have origins in 15 countries. Gardening and baking tips have been shared and even remedies for sleeplessness. It seems that many of us, unsurprisingly, are having trouble sleeping at the moment.

Holocaust survivor Iby Knill has made a green, crocheted cube using her own homespun, hand dyed wool, and completed a very fine pencil drawing of a man called Ahmo Ahmetović who died aged 59 in the massacre at Srebrenica. She has been a very lively, thoughtful and valued member of the project Whatsapp group. Former child refugee Dr Martin Kapel also participated, and spoke to us about three-dimensional cubes in chemistry and the increasing relevance of remembering and learning from history.

Drawing of Ahmo Ahmetović by Iby Knill

Iby Knill working on her cube, the finished article, and her drawing

Together we have created a film of remembrance for the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, using the cubes and drawings of Bosnian victims as well as music from Bosnian composer and singer Sanja Cin.  This will be launched and posted on the 6 million+ and Creative Scene websites and facebook pages on the anniversary date of 11th July. It’s also about celebrating the precious people in our own lives who we haven’t been able to visit or see during lockdown. It’s been comforting for people to tell one another about the sweetness of people they miss.

Bosnian survivor Jasmina’s drawing of Bazajit Mehić, murdered in 1995 aged 23

The group has produced beautiful cubes using petals, ferns, felt, fabric, sequins, tissue paper and even cake. It’s been a joy to watch this unfold and feel how good it is for everyone to be creative and connected.  Throughout, we have been mindful of this year’s theme of Every Action Counts. We know that every smile we offer to a stranger, every challenge we make to a witnessed act of discrimination or racial hatred, does makes a difference.

We hope people will watch the film and think about the consequences of discrimination but also the joy of being connected, celebrating community and  working together towards a better, safer, more inclusive future.

Kim Strickson, July 2020.