About the project
After my father’s death, he left me a box full of photos and documents. That’s how I discovered the hidden family history and I understood the task that had been assigned to me. As I learned about my family’s war history, I saw similarities with Kosovo, where loved ones, families, Serbs and Albanians in wartime came to be diametrically opposed. And still are.
For five years, we took research trips to Kosovo and I photographed the victims, bereaved families and loved ones. I compiled the story of these individual fates in a book titled “For Hanna, Future Stories from the Past …” A touching document of war, dislocation, reconciliation and hope.
Now the book is published we can continue to see and read how history repeats itself over and over. In this time of sharp contrasts, I also hope this book will create more empathy for each other, as my parents’ story has continued to the present.
‘for Hanna, Future Stories from the Past…’ by Willem Poelstra. Bulevardi Nënë Tereza, in front of the parliament in Pristina, 7 – 17 October 2016
After five years spent documenting the stories of Kosovars, Willem Poelstra returned to Kosovo in October to exhibit his slow photography work. In his project “For Hanna, Future Stories From the Past,” which was exhibited in the center of Prishtina, the Dutch documentary photographer depicted the impact of the Kosovo war on the lives of ordinary citizens.
‘It is not a political statement [that the exhibition is] in front of Parliament. I think this is one of the best spots in Prishtina to have it because this boulevard is one of the most spacious ones. The thing with this exhibition is that it is made to be outside and the reason for that is that it will be seen by people who don’t normally go to museums, galleries or things like that. So people who are not interested in photography see it [and when] they see the subject [they are inquisitive] — I think this is why I want it outside.’
Poelstra’ exhibition portrayed a wide range of experiences that are part of the collective memory of Kosovar Albanians and Serbs: Albanian and Serbian monuments and symbols are juxtaposed with each other, and portraits of people are juxtaposed with gloomy nature, graveyards and streets.
’Basically everybody is, of course, a victim,’ said Poelstra. ‘And I think it is [ordinary] people that are victims and I know the political situation here, and I don’t want to go into that political situation — it is not up to me. But I would like to tell the stories of the people. And it is up to everybody how they see it.
(Text by Dafina Halila)