News 19 Jun 14

Yugoslav Wartime Cartoon Show Relives 1990s Resistance

A new exhibition in Belgrade illustrates how political humour was used to combat censorship, war-mongering and the authoritarian regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

Marija Ristic

Exhibition at Belgrade's Mikser House.

Photo: BIRN/Marija Ristic.

The newly-opened exhibition, entitled ‘Art in the Dark Times’, features 101 cartoons and graphic artworks by artists from the former Yugoslavia who used satire and absurdist humour in an attempt to undermine nationalist militarism and political repression in the 1990s.

“This exhibition connects the whole region, because through this exhibition we can see what were the circumstances during the war in the Balkans, as we all shared the same destiny,” said Maja Lalic, the creative director of Mikser House in Belgrade, where the exhibition is being staged after previous showings in Sarajevo and Zagreb.

Political caricaturist Predrag Koraksic, one of the 34 artists whose work is on display, told a panel discussion at Mikser House on Wednesday evening that satire was one of the few ways in which the Serbian regime could be publicly criticised in the 1990s.

“When Milosevic came to power, I knew from the beginning what type of man he was, so I started criticising him from the beginning,” Koraksic said.

However he insisted that that he always refused to be censored.

“It was hard, I was made an outcast several times, I couldn’t ever appear on TV for example, but there were some independent newspapers for which I could draw,” he said.

Koraksic said that he only later found out that Milosevic never really understood what his cartoons actually meant, but was only concerned about how he and his wife looked in the drawings.

Well-known Serbian graphic novelist Aleksandar Zograf, the author of much-praised books such as Life Under Sanctions and Bulletins from Serbia, said that the 1990s were a crucial time for the development of political cartoons in the Balkans.

But he said it was only now that the importance of the work that was done during those years could be assessed.

“We needed a lot of time so we could stop and look what has been drawn on this topic,” he said.

The exhibition, which will be open until July 28, is split into three parts. The first reflects the beginning of the unrest in the former Yugoslavia from 1990 until 1991, the second examines the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 until 1996, and the third looks at conflict and political crisis in Serbia and Kosovo from 1996 until 2001.

Photo by BIRN/Marija Ristic.
Photo by BIRN/Marija Ristic.
Photo by BIRN/Marija Ristic
Photo by BIRN/Marija Ristic
Photo by BIRN/Marija Ristic.

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