Accepted paper:

Remembering the Unseen: Images of Heaven and Earth in the Bosnian Mosque


Amra Hadzimuhamedovic (International University of Sarajevo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper relates some representations of God, Heaven, holy places and prophets in Bosnian mosques to their potential reading as iconoclastic mnemonic devices. They depict the origins of reconstructive human nature: a need to establish the image of the inwardly perceived spiritual homeland as the authenticity criterion.

Paper long abstract:

Bosnian mosques are small, unobtrusive in the historical urban landscape, and, in their outward form, reduced to simple compositions of basic geometrical shapes. In contrast to its lack of outwardness, the Bosnian mosque opens inwardly through opulent design. Colours and shapes on the mosque walls, carpets and ceilings bare testimonies to the landscapes of inner memories. This paper analyses three potential readings of those memoryscapes. Abstract images of plants, most frequently grape vine and cypress, orange, date and pomegranate trees reflect memory of Heaven. They are composed through a harmony of numeric relations, as well as a careful arrangement and choice of plants, some of which have never grown in Bosnia. Relating the symbolical value of certain trees and flowers with the messengers of the Divine Spirit and Word, may be a sort of iconoclastic instrument of translating the nonphysical inner remembrance of the sacred into an incentive to materialise memory. Images of distant holy sites - Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, the foci of the sacral map of the physical world, reflect inner experience and knowledge. These images almost never correspond to the historical details of the actual sites. Indeed, many times these sites were not physically experienced by the painter at all. Instead, they reflect an understanding of their immutability in meaning and importance as gathered from sacred scriptures. God, Heaven, the prophets and holy places where the Heaven meets the Earth are represented through autochthonous imagery in Bosnian mosques, elements of which are noticeable in antic and mediaeval Bosnian monuments, thus expressing universal knowledge through local language.

panel P13
Arts of memory: skilful practices of living history