Urban HerStories: activist-led project exploring women’s relationship to post-communist public spaces since the 1960s

Urban HerStories: activist-led project exploring women’s relationship to post-communist public spaces since the 1960s

16 March 2021

A new multimedia art project is sharing the experiences of women in Eastern Europe’s urban public spaces since the 1960s.

Founded by four activists, Katarzyna Zielińska (Poland), Barbora Andor Tóthová (Slovakia), Anna Potyomkina (Ukraine), and Lidija Pisker (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Urban HerStories documents the significance that a range of spaces — such as music schools, factories, and hotels, as well as street and square names (only two of which are named after women in Zenica, the first town under spotlight) — hold for older generations of women, via audio interviews, maps, and collages.

In one audio interview, 53-year-old Lejla talks about falling in love with the violin at the Elementary Music School in Zenica, founded in 1948 in the building of a former maternity ward. Two music teachers, sisters Natalija and Ljubica Vaclav, Lejla recalls, also used their nearby apartment for lessons. Among the thousands of the school’s graduates was one of Lejla’s heroes, Belma Alić, the first Bosnian woman to obtain a PhD on cello studies.

Made in collaboration with the Bosnian association Naš Most (“Our Bridge” in English), which runs a women’s arts and social centre in the city of Zenica, the initiative was launched on 7 March, with a Zenica-focused portfolio of six interviews, a map, and collages made by Ukrainian artist Elena Subach, using the interviewees’ personal archive photographs. More research on women’s experience of towns in Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine, will be published on the project website and social media.

“The goal of Urban HerStories is to explore, capture, and present female perspectives on social, political, urbanist and personal transitions in Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” co-founder Lidija Pisker told The Calvert Journal. “The project aims to give a voice to an often underrepresented and marginalised group — older women — in their communities.”

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