In his series of paintings about the Balkan war and the massacre of Srebrenica, Dutch artist Peter Koole questions justice. Here’s the story behind one of his art works, which is on exhibition in The Hague.
“This painting is inspired by Hasan Nuhanovic. He was a Bosnian interpreter for the Dutch United Nations peacekeepers in Srebrenica. His father, mother and brother were sent from the UN compound in 1995 and killed by the army of Ratko Mladić, like thousands other Bosniaks.
“Very bitter, he visited The Hague for a trial against the Dutch state. After his visit, Hasan returned home to rebury other victims. Every year on July 11, hundreds of bodies are reburied in Bosnia. On the left part of my painting, you see the coffins covered with green textile.
United in loss
“During Hasan’s visit, the Dutch street colored orange. The World Cup was taking place in South Africa (2010). The Netherlands was about to play the final against Spain. The Dutch lost. That’s why I called this painting: ‘United in loss’.
“I found a picture of screaming Dutch girls in tiny orange dresses, the “Bavaria babes”, supporting their football team. I’ve put them in my artwork. It looks like they helped carry the coffins. That’s how I show the difficult relationship between the Netherlands and Srebrenica.
“Some people have thanked me for this painting. It has been twenty years now since the Bosnian war ended. Not all bodies have been identified. People are still waiting. People still have questions. It hurts.
“I’ve created eight artworks about the Balkan war and the Srebrenica massacre. But I haven’t been to Srebrenica myself. As a Dutchman, I’d feel rather uncomfortable. I don’t think I’ll find something that others haven’t found.
“For the families of those killed in Srebrenica, there is no justice. There is loss. And there is the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Some would rather see it close. How can a tribunal created by the United Nations deliver justice? The same UN which created a powerless peacekeeping force during genocide?”
Peter Koole during the exhibition A Crushed Image (20 years after Srebrenica) in The Hague art centrum Stroom.
My Justice highlights the stories of individuals who work in the field of international justice or who have been affected by it and asks what does justice mean to them.