Transforming Contested Space through Street and Sound Art

Community Arts for Peace in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Lydia C. Cole

Brief Summary

This policy brief explores community arts in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). While the arts have been a dominant mode of peacebuilding in BiH, they have primarily been engaged as a tool of inter-ethnic reconciliation.

This policy brief suggests a more expansive space for the arts. Examining the interventions of the Street Arts Festival Mostar and the Mostar Sound Archive, it shows how the arts contribute to processes of transforming and reimagining space in the city.

The Street Arts Festival Mostar curates a series of murals which visually and spatially transform urban space, while the Mostar Sound Archive enables diverse audiences to reexperience urban space through the stories of art in the city.

The policy brief makes several key recommendations for policymakers engaged in art and peacebuilding in post-conflict spaces:

  1. Recognition of a broader range of artforms as a source of knowledge on politics and society
  2. Diversification of funding frames to account for the diverse stories, narratives, and experiences represented within the arts
  3. Fund small-scale arts initiatives at the community level
  4. Support production of more accessible art, particularly initiatives which utilise public space

This policy brief:

  • Provides a brief overview of the role of the arts after the 1990s war with regard to politics, society and urban space;
  • Shows how the arts have been key to challenging and overcoming multifaceted politics of division;
  • Introduces key challenges to creating and sustaining arts in Mostar, BiH, focusing on space for the arts and funding;
  • Highlights two arts initiatives that re-imagine Mostar’s urban space beyond simplistic narratives of ethnonational division.