Memorial Quilt Comes to the Greater Seattle Area
BosFam and the Women Weavers
BosFam, formed in 1994 in the middle of the war, is the oldest non-governmental organization (NGO) in Bosnia. Formed by Munira Beba Hadzic, former principal of the high school in Srebrenica, it works to assist women who were displaced during the war. Most of its members are widows from Srebrenica and the surrounding region (it is estimated that there are approximately 6,500 Srebrenica widows).
large portion of these displaced
women found themselves in Tuzla, a town in the northeastern part of
Bosnia, during and after the war. During the war, Beba Hadzic had
worked with the British relief organization, OxFam. When they
withdrew from Bosnia they invited Ms. Hadzic to leave with them. She
declined, saying she wanted to stay and help her people. They asked
her if she would like to form an NGO. She said, "Yes, just tell
me, what is an NGO?"
Thus BosFam, named after OxFam, was formed. Sitting together with some of the bereaved and idle women, she had the idea, "If we can sit, we can knit." The women began knitting and tailoring articles of clothing for sale, thus gaining a little pocket money and a modicum of self-confidence. Soon they were also employing their traditional weaving techniques to create kilims, flat-weave carpets similar to Indian blankets, but with the attractive Turkish motifs common in Bosnia.
BosFam developed as a prominent self-help organization in the form of a women's craft cooperative. Meanwhile, it also advocated for justice and recovery, including arrest and trial of persons indicted for war crimes; location of the remains of their lost male relatives; return to Srebrenica and other pre-war homes, and economic recovery upon return. Their struggle for these goals continues today.
In the year 2007 the women of BosFam began weaving small panels bearing the names of their lost loved ones, and then sewing these panels together in a "Srebrenica memorial quilt." Now there are six such quilts, and they have been shown in many cities in the United States, as well as in Bosnia and Europe. One was displayed at The Hague upon the commencement of indictee Radovan Karadžić's trial last year.
People who wish the women weavers of BosFam well can help them to continue weaving by sponsoring a panel for $50. It is also possible to order full kilims from them. To order, find forms at this installation, or see the BosFam web site at http://www.bosfam.ba/
A short video about BosFam and the weavers is on line at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48sq0JA6F1o&feature=player_embedded