Allan Little returns to Sarajevo to explore the role of the arts in restoring the city's identity, twenty years after the siege which saw its cultural life flourish against the odds.
When Sarajevo's multicultural identity was targeted by Serbian nationalists - firing from positions only 200 yards from the city's treasured National Musuem - it fought back by maintaining an artistic life worthy of a European capital city confident of its cultural heritage. Allan Little finds out how these values are faring in a peace which allowed for no State Ministry of Culture and fragmented the multi-cultural society the city once symbolised.
Allan takes internationally acclaimed theatre director Haris Pasovic back to the Youth Theatre in Sarajevo where he invited Susan Sontag to stage her now legendary production of Waiting for Godot. Lit by candles, under constant mortar fire, and with actors so hungry they had to lie down when not performing, each of its twenty performances was a sell-out. Both audience and actors risked their lives to be there. Why?
Pasovic, who also founded the Sarajevo Film Festival during the siege with ten VHS tapes and a TV set, says, "In war it is not the most important thing to survive, the most important thing is to remain human... you are human when you let the child in you speak. When we do that we are not aggressive, we are creative. That is why art is a primary need like food, sex and water."
How are the citizens of Sarajevo fulfilling that basic human need for art in a transformed cultural landscape? Allan talks to National Theatre actors Vedrana and Aleksandar Seksan, Mirsad Purivatra (now director of the Sarajevo Film Festival) and artist Sejla Kameric.
Produced by Hilary Dunn
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.