The country of Yugoslavia may no longer appear on any physical maps, but it remains on many people’s mental maps; though Yugoslavia may be dead forever as a political entity, it lives on as a cultural project.
Yugoslavia’s material and cultural production inspires many people to make art and products. And a lot of them have little or even no lived experience in or memory of it.
These are their stories.
Part 1 of many.
With Kaja Šišmanović & Matija Hajdarhodžić (Future Yugoslavia), Vjosa Musliu (Yugoslawomen Plus), and Rima Sabina Aouf (Yugo: A Graphic Biography). Featuring music by Aaron Tinjum & the Tangents and PMG Kolektiv.
Support the Podcast
Become a monthly patron on Patreon:
Make a one-time contribution via PayPal/credit card:
Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
PETER KORCHNAK: This is Remembering Yugoslavia, the show exploring the memory of a country that no longer exists. I’m your curator Peter Korchnak.
The country of Yugoslavia may no longer appear on any physical maps, but it remains on many people’s mental maps. For a place that doesn’t exist anymore, its material and cultural production inspires a surprising, or perhaps not so surprising, number of people to make art and products. And a lot of them have little or even no lived experience in or memory of it.
Over the course of the next three episodes, I’m going to take a closer look at some of these projects. I’ll do more in the future, as the list is still growing; the Inspired by Yugoslavia series will be an ongoing segment here. I’ll speak with filmmakers and fine artists, business people and game developers, graphic designers and yes, academics, too. Taken together, all these projects inspired by Yugoslavia point to something you’ve heard on this show but bears repeating: though Yugoslavia may be dead forever as a political entity, it lives on as a cultural project.
But first, I must acknowledge a few kind people who have helped close out the old and kick off the new year in the most inspiring way. Thank you Barry, Darko, Haris, Sara, and most of all, Srdjan for your generous donations. Your support makes all the difference.
Remembering Yugoslavia is a labor of love that takes countless hours and dollars to keep going. There is no staff, no interns, not even a virtual assistant. Like most projects you’ll hear about in the Inspired by Yugoslavia series, it’s a one-person show. So if you come away inspired, let that inspiration carry on and inspire your generosity. Go to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate and help shape the future of this podcast.
KAJA ŠIŠMANOVIĆ: I was born in 1994. It was almost the end of the war here in Yugoslavia. Acting came from nowhere in one moment of my life, I was studying film directing, when I started acting, and I started doing it mostly because of money, honestly. And then it just continued building itself as a career. So now it’s— I have [a] double identity.
PETER KORCHNAK: Kaja Šišmanović is a director and actor. She comes from a family of film makers: her father is a screenwriter, her mother a documentary film director. Šišmanović spoke to me from Zagreb.
MATIJA HAJDARHODŽIĆ: I was born in 1984 in Zagreb. So I was seven or first grade primary school when the war started. And, or when Yugoslavia collapsed in 1991. I’m also two things: one is being a painter and another one is being a screenwriter.
PETER KORCHNAK: Matija Hajdarhodžić also comes from a film family, a line of actors, including his father Igor and grandparents Izet and Ksenija. He spoke to me from Belgrade.
Hajdarhodžić and Šišmanović create films for their YouTube channel, Future Yugoslavia.
KAJA ŠIŠMANOVIĆ: First and foremost, it’s a platform for documentary series. It’s a format that we haven’t seen much. So documentary works, serial documentary works, but with episodes that continue one after another. So you have to watch them in a specific order to be able to grasp the whole story. That was our primary idea to form a space where we can produce and distribute and show those works that we do.
We named it Future Yugoslavia at first because we were actually very tired. I mean, at least I don’t like the atmosphere in Croatia surrounding the Yugoslavia story, because, I don’t know, it’s always considered to be something that was in the past, and that’s long gone and that can never never again happen. Some people think of it in a bad way, some people think of it in a good way, but everyone, everyone thinks of it as something ancient.
MATIJA HAJDARHODŽIĆ: Something belonging just to history, to [the] past.
KAJA ŠIŠMANOVIĆ: Yes.
MATIJA HAJDARHODŽIĆ: Ex-Yugoslavia.
KAJA ŠIŠMANOVIĆ: It’s always ex-Yugoslavia, ex-Yugoslavia this, ex-Yugoslavia that. But the reality is much, much more different. Because in reality, all the Yugoslav republics are still very closely connected, you know, economically and culturally, that that’s maybe the most important thing, culturally, economically, and I don’t know, you know, families are always between, between republics and stuff like that, people go to work to other republics, and it’s still existing, it still functions. It’s just that it’s not talked about.
MATIJA HAJDARHODŽIĆ: To me, it seems like people talk about Yugoslavia all the time. When they say region, they also mean Yugoslavia. They always talk about ex, ex, and what about the future of it? Because for me, it’s like, when war started, and all these state borders became like, internationally recognized, like, country borders. To me, since always, it seemed like nothing really changed. Just like army juntas are now securing the borders, and then it’s like, pretending to have borders there. N othing happens when you cross from Croatia to Bosnia or from Macedonia to Serbia, nothing really changes. But there are some armed guys checking your documents.
So I was born in Yugoslavia, and both of my parents are Yugoslavians. And it’s not over, we are still here, and I’m so hurt that people shit on Yugoslavia and still use its water pipes.
When we say future Yugoslavia, I don’t really mean, the future that that is going to happen, well, that also, but for me, since everything, since ‘91, is future Yugoslavia. It’s like, all this is happening from the perspective of Yugoslavia, it’s happening in the future. So this is the future of Yugoslavia. And we are in Yugoslavia. So this is basically future Yugoslavia.
PETER KORCHNAK: There are 14 documentary series planned for Future Yugoslavia, each consisting of a number of episodes that follow a narrative. Fourteen narratives, connected only with the thread of being in the former Yugoslavia’s future.
MATIJA HAJDARHODŽIĆ: For us, there is something in this in this whole concept, which is closely related to its name.
PETER KORCHNAK: Two series are already out.
The first series is called Running with the Refugees, a documentary travelog made at the outbreak of the immigration crisis in 2015.
MATIJA HAJDARHODŽIĆ: And then it became very fast a story about Syrian refugees in Yugoslavia. Because— why in Yugoslavia, because why not in Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro where we went. Because wherever we went, always the first conversation was about Yugoslavia. So bit by bit in these 14 different shows, we’ll make it clear, you know.
One of the shows will be a podcast, which will be called, Yugoslavia Live. It will be basically, a podcast of us featuring six people from six different states, Yugoslavian states, discussing subjects that don’t have to be related with politics. But still, it’ll somehow be related to politics, because they will always be featuring those six states. So that that will be clearly political.
PETER KORCHNAK: The second series, “Medika Diaries,” follows a group of squatters in an abandoned pharmaceutical drug factory building.
Most people will know Šišmanović from the role of Una Miličević in the Croatian television show Crno-bijeli svijet (Black and White World).
A Kaja question, and you knew this one was coming. You had a prominent role in the now concluded series, Croatian series that’s going to be illustrated, which was basically all about the 80s, or took place in the 1980s. Very much playing off of 80s nostalgia that’s still going on. Less Yugoslavia, I have to say. It was s nicely done in that, in that sense, without being disparaging, it was mostly focused on the time. And of course, there were references to what’s happening in the world and real life events. But anyway, so you had a prominent role in that. And so having been born after Yugoslavia dissolved, you basically lived for the period of the filming, and as well as, of course, this being broadcast, you lived in a fictional Yugoslavia, so to speak, or recreated, so to speak. So what was that experience like? And what were some of the things that you learned about that disappeared country or maybe about yourself, or even the country that you are from now, Croatia?
KAJA ŠIŠMANOVIĆ: Actually, to be honest, I never felt while I was filming that I never felt like I am in something unknown to me. As I was growing up, I was listening to stories, you know, from my parents and their friends, whose youth was that time that’s described in the series. I listened to the bands from Yugoslavia, because the New Wave of the 80s because it was the best music we have here, still, so and I don’t know, my family, especially my mother’s side of the family, my grandpa is very, how to say very anti-fascistic, you know, when he mourns the Yugoslavia, politics and politicians and everything. So I had all the bits, you know, and the culture and politics and the way of life, you know, the food, that connections, that family traditions that that were held in Yugoslavia somehow I experienced that in my childhood. I don’t know, I just grew up surrounded with people that did not change their way of life. So I felt it always very, very close to me. You know, I, although I was born after it all ended, I felt like I feel maybe, I don’t know, maybe I am also a bit of an old soul, I don’t know, but I feel like I— I feel more from that time then from this time.
And also my family is, you know, mixed. I’m from a mixed marriage. So, so it’s, yeah, I never had this separationist experience.
But what did I learn? I so yeah, I don’t think I learned anything new on the set. I even wore clothes from Yugoslavia, you know, before I came to the series, so
PETER KORCHNAK: You may have learned how to be a TV star in your country.
KAJA ŠIŠMANOVIĆ: Unfortunately, yes.
PETER KORCHNAK: That was Aaron Tinjum and the Tangents with the track titled, “Yugoslavia.” When I asked Aaron, via email, about it, this is what he wrote back.
In 2010, I spent my summer at the University of Oslo as part of a human rights graduate program. Many of the other students were from war-torn regions of the world, mostly from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and North Macedonia as part of the Nansen Dialogue Network. Students from the Balkans seemed to be much more socially warm and welcoming than the Norwegians, so I spent the summer hanging out with a group of students from across former Yugoslavia as the lone outsider/American. There were many interesting conversations and tense debates (filled with coffee, beers, and cigarette smoke) that taught me much about the region’s shared culture and history as well as the differing perspectives on the end of Yugoslavia and conflicts since that time.
The following summer, I backpacked through Serbia, Kosovo, and North Macedonia, visiting many of these friends. The song “Yugoslavia” was inspired by that visit: finally experiencing the region I had heard so much about, arriving into Belgrade in the middle of the night, walking around Kalemegdan alone, etc.
A friend had told me that “Balkan” is a combination of the Turkish words for “honey” and “blood,” so that was the paradoxical feeling I was attempting to evoke in the song, a simultaneous feeling of pain/reflection with a subtle touch of hope/pride. It was a memorable trip, but actually concluded with a bad case of food poisoning (perhaps one too many dolmas) and multiple bus rides, which also added a very personal layer of meaning to the “failed and fractured state” line of the song.
VJOSA MUSLIU: Yugoslawomen Plus Collective is a collective of six female scholars that come from spaces of former Yugoslavia and we work and live in universities in the Global North, from New Zealand to UK to Belgium and Austria.
PETER KORCHNAK: You may remember Vjosa Musliu from Episode 60, “Performing YU and EU in Kosovo.” Aside from working as an assistant professor at the Vrije University in Brussels, focusing on international conflict and EU-Balkans relations, Musliu represents her homeland, Kosovo, in the Yugoslawomen Plus Collective.
VJOSA MUSLIU: What brought us together in the first place was having shared many of the common frustrations that we experience in our work, in our daily work in the universities in the Global North, in the way how we are both perceived as researchers, how are we perceived as women researchers, and also as a women researchers coming from the Balkans or from loosely defined Eastern Europe because we also observe how these imagined borders of where Eastern Europe begins and where it ends, and, you know, what was the place of the former Yugoslavia in Eastern Europe is also very much blurred in this part of the world, where I live.
The second element that became very obvious from Day One was also our continuous love and dedication, connection that we still have with the Balkans at large, with the region as a whole.
The third element maybe could be the idea of working together as a collective became even more pronounced after we first wrote an opinion piece for the Yugosplaining initiative on the Disorder of Things two years ago to work more structurally and more regularly together as a collective, also as a sign of resistance, as a sign of epistemic disobedience, towards the tendency in the universities in the Global North that are much more geared towards individual output, competitiveness, benchmarking, high impact factor publishing, and generally a working culture that celebrates and commemorates individual success and hard work and fierce competition. So what we’re trying to do is try and engage quite a bit in ethics of care, empathy, support, and also to work along the lines of slow science, not necessarily with a particular product or an output in mind.
PETER KORCHNAK: We could have an entire episode about the challenges of working in the Global North as a woman, as a woman researcher, as a woman researcher from the Balkans or from the former Yugoslavia. So but if there was a short and sweet or not so sweet summary that you’d give, what is it that you’re facing? Or what is it that you’re fighting or resisting with with these activities?
VJOSA MUSLIU: Well, as all six of us are we study IR—
PETER KORCHNAK: —International Relations—
VJOSA MUSLIU: —and its related disciplines, so be that diaspora studies, or peace and conflict studies. And what we have noticed, what have evidence in our experiences, especially in the more junior years was a certain a certain political pedagogy that was also directed towards us in how we should research our own region, how we should engage with certain theories and not others when we think about our region, how we should navigate our innate and natural bias, because apparently that’s mostly a characteristic of researchers that come from certain regions and not others. How we should be aware of these natural red flags that we simply just don’t see because we’re too involved in everything. Also, certain pedagogies, certain warnings, how we can produce unbiased or objective research papers, how several of us have also been praised at international conferences by saying, “Oh, this is very balanced for a Serb,” or “I did not know you could see the potential for engaging with Serbian participants,” which was also the case in one of my papers.
I’m only talking about the academic part of it. There’s also the political economy of academic jobs and academic jobs in Global North that renders particular scholars, especially non-EU scholars, at a much precarious and vulnerable situation. That is also one of the aspects we try to work with in the collective together and to support one another with the legal and the political conundrums that are associated with hiring non-EU citizens in EU universities.
PETER KORCHNAK: You’re doing that through various publication efforts. And like you said, kind of a peer group support. Any other kind of visual or rather visible ways that people can follow your work and see what you’re doing, what you are accomplishing?
VJOSA MUSLIU: Well, we are open for podcasts.
PETER KORCHNAK: Well, one of you has a podcast, Sladjana Lazić has a podcast.
Opinion Peace is a now-dormant podcast for, quote, “undisciplined scholars,” dealing with various international relations issues.
VJOSA MUSLIU: We recently spoke at a discussion at CAS at the University of Rijeka—
PETER KORCHNAK: That’s the Center for Advanced Studies Southeast Europe.
VJOSA MUSLIU: We do have a website where we occasionally post updates about what we are doing.
But like I said, it’s not a work that is on par with fast science, that’s not what we’re interested in. So a lot of the work for the moment happens— is rather insular. We are working slowly but gradually in [sic] our very first book that will be written this year, to be published much later, probably.
That’s less the state of things where we are now.
PETER KORCHNAK: About that “plus” in the collective’s name…
VJOSA MUSLIU: The plus… To begin with, and not all six of us are Yugoslavs to begin with, not all of us identify as Yugoslavs, as well. Not all of us would like to be identified as Yugoslavs. We see the whole experiment, experience of Yugoslavia as a productive tension to unravel many of the problems, structural oppressions and discriminations that were also constitutive to making what Yugoslavia was. And the plus identifies that, that part of the Federation as well.
Because it’s called the —slawoman, many of us are not just women or would not like to be identified simply as such. So the plus is an easy disclaimer of the many, let’s say fixed categories that we might be associated with or assigned to.
PETER KORCHNAK: You’ve already alluded to my final question about this, and that is the Yugoslav part. There would seem to be a tension between some of you, yourself included, being from a part of a part of the former Yugoslavia, that was, first of all, not quite Slav, obviously. But then, you know, the identification with that state or with that entity was contentious or challenging, so…
VJOSA MUSLIU: I don’t think any of us feels particularly attached or identified with the word itself. The potential we see in this project, in this collective is also unlearning many of the knowledges is that we have, or many of the knowledges is that are out there about what Yugoslavia was, how how it function[ed], you have a wonderful book of Julia Sardelic Winecoff. that looks for instance, at the rights and the politics of Roma in that part of the world.
And it is more of an invitation or an opportunity for us to unravel some of these foreclosed glories or foreclosed glorious identifications of what that Federation was and also to, in a productive way, to problematize these tensions and bring them to the fore.
PETER KORCHNAK: At their website, each member of the Yugoslawomen Plus collective is represented with a different pepper.
Absolutely final question. What does ajvar have to do with this?
VJOSA MUSLIU: Throughout our experience as a collective working together, we understood how certain codes, cultural codes, certain foods, certain games were very similar for all of us, irrespective of whether we grew up in Novi Sad, in Banja Luka, or in Gjilan, for instance. And one of these elements, one of these common elements was obviously ajvar, something that our communities, our neighborhoods were religiously committed to. We have very vivid and fond memories of playing in neighborhoods that smell entirely of pepper and vinegar towards the end of September. And on top of that, ajvar is delicious and we share a passion for the relish, as a whole, as a collective.
PETER KORCHNAK: I mean, it’s something that, you know, people of the Balkans have have in common, but also it, it’s like, it’s like so many things, it’s a potential source of conflict because everybody believes that their ajvar is the best.
VJOSA MUSLIU: Well, also when we use the name, Yugoslavia, it’s not that we are appropriating it, we don’t appropriate it or to dismiss it or to put it into oblivion. Ajvar, Europe, Yugoslavia, our concepts are tropes, it’s what you make of it. What we want, what we find in ajvar as a collective is fond memories of our childhoods. Let us not forget that there are certain things of nostalgia is also there most of our childhoods, all of our childhoods of the member[s] of the collective were disrupted either by wars or forced migration, etc. So it’s also some sort of, I think, a longing for a sense of an innate home through food. Food is a big part of the cultural code of all the people in the Balkans and the Mediterranean. So it’s in a lot of ways food, but also pepper-related dishes are our love language. If somebody from the region hands you a jar of either, you know, call yourself lucky.
[SOUNDBITE – “Ljuge od gradova” by PMG Kolektiv]
PETER KORCHNAK: That was PMG Kolektiv from Skopje with their cover of Ekaterina Velika’s Ljudi iz gradova, Lugje od gradovi. Buy their music on Bandcamp.
PETER KORCHNAK: Graphic novels were quite popular in the former Yugoslavia. A graphic artist with an illustrious background is making a special biography using the form.
RIMA SABINA AOUF: My name is Rima Sabina Aouf. I was born in 1984. And I have a very unusual background that I don’t think you’ve had on the show before, which is that my mum is Croatian, from Zagreb, and my dad is actually from Syria. And he moved to Yugoslavia in his 20s to study at university, part of a small wave of Syrian migrants at the time.
And we lived in Yugoslavia until I was four or five, and then we moved to Australia, which is where I was raised. I now live in the UK.
PETER KORCHNAK: So you basically are alive or benefited from Yugoslavia’s non-alignment policy?
RIMA SABINA AOUF: Exactly. I’m a living embodiment of that. And in fact, part of the reason my dad moved to the country, I think a huge one, was because he admired it as being one of the leaders of the Nonaligned Movement and sort of progressive principles. And then actually, he and my mom met because she and her friend were hitchhiking, and he stopped to pick them up, which I think is a great lesson for all of us to always pick up hitchhikers.
PETER KORCHNAK: Now your background, your story, there’s more to it, in that your mother’s story particularly has inspired you to express your creativity, so to speak. So tell me about that journey to doing what you’re doing. And how did you then incorporate your family or your personal story into your work or into your creative output?
RIMA SABINA AOUF: I think I can say where this started was, obviously with my mum. My mum is a real hero to me, she’s led one of those extraordinary ordinary lives that’s just guided by love and adventurousness and open mindedness. You know, all things that I really aspire to. And when we did move to Australia, it was quite a conservative place at the time. And a lot of places are, it still is.
And it really felt to me like growing up, my mum was one of the few dissenting compassionate voices around me on issues like the Iraq War, our treatment of refugees, the welfare state. And I remember so often seeing her in arguments with her circle of friends, mostly other Croatians, where she would be the lone voice representing this progressive side. And inevitably, at some point in the discussion, her argument would come back to this idea of, “when I was growing up in Yugoslavia.” So, “when I was growing up in Yugoslavia, I had nothing but I was given the opportunity to have a decent life,” or “when I was growing up in Yugoslavia, we practiced compassion for people who are different from us.”
And I know other people have had this experience with a parent. It was just so clear to me growing up that Yugoslavia was a huge part of her identity and her story about herself. And that’s really where my interest started and my sense of connection to Yugoslavia. I had a sense of connection to Croatia, but because we always visited there with, you know, we speak the language at home, but I had a sense of connection to the history of Yugoslavia.
So when I went to university, I studied history, and I ended up writing about the country a few times. And that’s really where these interests combined.
Yeah, one of the times that I wrote about Yugoslavia, it was actually a dissertation on my mother and her relationship to the country. And that sort of evolved into this work that I do now, the graphic work.
I think the reason I keep being drawn to tell this story is just because I think it is important. I think it’s important that we don’t forget this slice of history.
PETER KORCHNAK: Why did your family leave the place? And where did they go and why there and why not other parts of Australia?
RIMA SABINA AOUF: So we left a couple of years before the war, I should have said. So when we left, we didn’t know that the war was going to happen, my parents didn’t know obviously, I didn’t know, I was five. But my parents didn’t know. And I think they wanted to go and live somewhere else just as economic migrants. Yeah, my dad, it suited his career. But they, particularly my mum, always assumed that they would go back and then it was only really once the war broke out that they were like, well, we live here now. And the place where they lived was Perth, which is actually one of the most isolated cities in the world along with Reykjavik in Iceland, it is so far away from any other cities. So a huge culture shock when you’re coming from Europe where everything is so connected.
My mum used to be a teacher. And my dad used to be an engineer.
PETER KORCHNAK: Your description of the project is that it’s basically the story of your mother paralleled with the story of Yugoslavia.
RIMA SABINA AOUF: Yugo is a graphic biography of my mother that contains the history of Yugoslavia as a nation. My mum was born in 1944, so just as the Socialist Federal Republic was coming together. She was a child of Partisans. And her life kind of mirrors the progress of the nation and contains personal experience of most of its key political programs.
So she starts out, kind of skinny and sickly, and then after some key interventions, she starts to thrive. You know, she loves school, she loves the Pioneers, she loves spending time at the hospital with her mom, who’s a nurse. And she loves looking after a little brother. And then in her adolescence, there’s a big disruption that comes, [a] personal event, that kind of changes how she sees the role of the state in her life.
So in Yugo, I tell this story, largely from her perspective, but I also bring in a second contemporary narrative, which is me exploring how Yugoslavia is remembered, and the sort of opposing forces of political forgetting and yugonostalgia that impact that telling.
PETER KORCHNAK: Pages from an earlier version of the work are available at Aouf’s website.
RIMA SABINA AOUF: I did do this earlier version of Yugo as a little zine, it was like the first few pages as a little zine. And that won a prize here in the UK called The Ladies Do Comics prize, which basically recognizes graphic novel works in progress. Because graphic novels take such a long time to do sometimes you kind of just need a pat on the back halfway through.
And I’m now reworking that into what will be the graphic novel of Yugo. So the pages that are currently on my website are not reflective of what I’m making now. But people who are interested can follow my Instagram, it’s probably the best way to catch snippets of the new work in progress.
I haven’t started pitching to publishers yet but that is my goal. And what I do know is that there is a lot of interest in this topic not just among former Yugoslavs, there’s a lot of non-Yugoslav people here in the UK, particularly in my generation, who I find are really interested in it. And I think it’s mainly because they’re like, why haven’t I heard of this? But also, partly, I think it’s because we live in a time of what Mark Fisher once described as capitalist realism, when it is apparently easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. And Yugoslavia is one of those examples that not only are other systems possible, but that there was a time quite recently when people felt like they were part of building a different world. And those are stories we need to tell to know that it’s possible again, and I think that’s where this interest comes from.
PETER KORCHNAK: Aouf’s best case scenario is the end of 2024.
RIMA SABINA AOUF: Graphic novels are hard, or not hard work but long work. It’s one of the cruel ironies that it takes, like 30 seconds to read a page of a graphic novel and it’ll take the artist, you know, possibly two days to produce it.
PETER KORCHNAK: Are there other similar projects out there that you can think of, that you may have been inspired by or that you can point people to while we wait for your masterpiece to come out?
RIMA SABINA AOUF: Yes. So I’m inspired by a lot of the sort of the great works and the medium. A lot of the great works in graphic novels actually are biographies and autobiographies and memoirs. Mouse, by Art Spiegelman, Persepolis, Fun Home. And I think that’s because the graphic novel format is really good for personal storytelling. You get a strong sense of personality from the creator’s illustrations, you very quickly relate and empathize with the protagonist of the story, in part, because of the comic style. The more simplified a drawing of our faces, the easier we project ourselves onto it. So it makes it great for immersing the reader and your subjective view of the world.
And actually, there’s another facet to graphic novels that I think makes them particularly good for telling the story of Yugoslavia in particular, which is that— So if you have a story where there is a tension or inconsistency or even conflict over the facts or feelings around a narrative, you can kind of handle that within a graphic novel text. You have— basically, because the reader is reading two sources of information simultaneously, the words and the images, usually the words and the images convery aspects of the same message but sometimes they can be quite different. So as the creator, you can really play with that, which is something that I love, and it makes it really good for history writing as well. So in Mouse, you know, you can have these detailed stories from the writer’s father. And normally in historical writing it’s difficult to foreground the subjectivity of oral history. But in a graphic novel, like he can just have his father on his exercise bike in the corner of every page. So while you are reading this account, you’re always aware that it’s subjective, you’re always aware of who’s telling it. And there are all kinds of lessons like that, that I draw from the great graphic novels of the past.
PETER KORCHNAK: Some of your panels I saw feature the architecture of the former Yugoslavia or in the former Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia as a country branded or presented itself as an attractive destination, as a place where modern architecture is the norm, etcetera, etcetera. Also, in the in the nonaligned sense, but just generally as the as the as the other or a different socialist country. And so, the visual aspect of Yugoslavia—and of course, let’s not forget Tito really like to dress up and look good—and so the visual aspect of that former country was very important. And so, in the graphic novel the visual aspect of it is very important. And it’s not something necessarily you can capture in words, you know, the visual, the visual is more important.
RIMA SABINA AOUF: No, exactly. You’re completely right. It’s such a strength of the medium. And it’s something that was really missing for me in all the times that I was writing essays about Yugoslavia. And when it dawned on me to do this graphic novel, it was really like, a bit of a revelation, in that I was like, “Oh, this story is actually best suited to the graphic novel format,” and I hadn’t been even drawing at the time for years. I took up the practice again in order to tell this story, because I knew there were so many things that I couldn’t convey in words when I was writing the essays and I was like, now I can convey them through images and visual metaphor, exactly as you’ve said.
[BACKGROUND MUSIC – “Rainmaker” by Petar Alargić]
PETER KORCHNAK: Next on Remembering Yugoslavia:
JOVANA RADUJKO: [quote]
PETER KORCHNAK: Inspired by Yugoslavia will continue with a second installment. We’ll make drawings, a video game, and a new database.
Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out.
[OUTRO MUSIC – “Jugoslavijo / Od Vardara pa do Triglava” by Horn Orchestra]
PETER KORCHNAK: That’s all for this episode of Remembering Yugoslavia, thank you for listening. Find additional information and the transcript of this episode at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.
I am Peter Korchňak.