Central Bosnian city of Zenica may easily be described as the city “where the streets have no female names.” Only two city streets are named after women, out of a total of 150 of them. No primary or secondary school in Zenica, no square and no bridge are named after a woman, the 2018 research of students of Zenica’s Faculty of Philosophy showed. 

But our international female art project has shed some light on the female urban history of the city.

“Urban Herstories – Female Face of Zenica” is a collaborative art initiative that documented the social, political and urban changes in Zenica from the 1960s onwards through a female perspective. The project collected personal stories of elderly women from Zenica related to specific mapped locations in the city, upon which the so-called “Female city map” has been created. It also examined the role of women in Zenica’s history, visibility of notable women in Zenica’s public places and gender perspective of aging. 

The female map of the city and its stories became part of a female city audio guide and of an interesting photographic project authored by Ukrainian artist Elena Subach. 

Zenica-based youth association Naša Djeca was our partner on the project. The volunteers of Naš most have recorded and produced the audio guide and audio and video trailers for the project. They have also digitised our storytellers’ archive photos which Elena Subach used to produce photo collages consisting of a combination of the archive footages of our storytellers and of the city, which took one of the leading roles in our project.

The pandemic of COVID-19 played a huge role in the project as well. It forced us to cancel the visits of Ukrainian and Slovakian artists to Zenica and it made reaching out to our targeted senior population much harder.

But after all the struggles, we did it.

It helped us understand how important it is to “give” faces and voices to the elderly, especially to the elderly women, who are much too often invisible and voiceless in all of our countries. The social isolation that has become such a huge trauma for mankind during the pandemic is what many of them live with for years and years of their lives.

Our female audio guide was launched on October 1st, the International Day of Older Persons in Zenica and virtually, through a live stream on Facebook. Unfortunately, due to newly imposed COVID-19 restrictions, we have decided to postpone the launch of Elena’s exhibition until the spring next year in Zenica.