Rusmir Mahmutćehajić
Bosnia Hercegovina

Windows - words and images



Rusmir Mahmutćehajić
Windows-Words and Images


WINDOWS - words and images brings together six of Rusmir Mahmutćehajć’s essays, each forming a ’window’ onto the ancient landscape of Bosnia’s religious complexity, through which it considers the presence of the primal contents of these diverse sacred teachings in the poetic voices of Mak Dizdar’sStone Sleeper and Skender Kulenović’s Sonnets, and in the visual images of Dževad Hozo and Safet Zec. Throughout, the author’s preoccupation with mankind’s relationship with the transcendent, with the ’unity in diversity’ of which Bosnia and Herzegovina is such a striking, perhaps unique example, is expressed in terms of the religio perennis, drawing on the writings of such as René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon and others.

The first window is a view not only into Bosnia’s past but also into the minds of two men of faith - two different faiths - who met in 1463. Fra Anđeo Zvizdović was a humble Franciscan; Sultan Mehmed el-Fatih, ’the conqueror’ the all-powerful ruler of the Ottoman Empire that had just extended its suzerainty over the rugged land of Bosnia. The author imaginatively recreates their reflections, and the holy texts of their traditions - Christianity and Islam - to which they might have turned as they made their separate ways to the meeting that led to the Ahdnama or Letter of Covenant, a landmark document in Bosnia’s long history of religious tolerance.

The second window examines the ancient wisdom in the poetry of Mak Dizdar as expressed in his renowned Stone Sleeper, permeated with the traditions and spirituality of the Bosnian Church. This medieval Church, independent from both Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, and under pressure from both, no longer survives, and it seems that many of its followers, over the years and even centuries that followed the arrival of the Ottomans, embraced Islam as more congenial to them than either eastern or western Christianity. The Bosnian Church may no longer exist, but its spirit, as the author demonstrates through Dizdar’s masterpiece, still permeates the Bosnian, and specifically the Bosniak (or Bosnian Muslim) mind and culture.

With the third window, the author moves from text to image, in a subtle ’reading’ of the graphics of Dževad Hozo - who like Dizdar draws deeply on the wisdom of the Bosnian Church, using the image of its monumental gravestones or stećci (sing. stećak) and the carvings on them, the sole material evidence of the Bosnian Church’s existence that survives to this day.

The fourth window leads us back again from image to text, with the sonnets of Skender Kulenović. Kulenović, too, was preoccupied with the landscape and history of Bosnia; and again, the author of WINDOWS goes deep beneath the rich surface imagery of his sonnets to reveal the underlying spirituality that draws deep on the universal elements of Bosnia’s multiple religious heritage.

The fifth window is a view of the famous windows, walls and trees of Bosnian artist Safet Zec. In Zec’s work, the tree is the tree of life that transcends all levels of existence; and light and dark are metaphors for the duality of Light and its absence (for darkness is but a negative quality), expressing the quality of light both physical and spiritual that is typically Bosnian.

The last window opens onto Europe, through the eyes of Bosnian philosopher Abdulah Šarčević, whose Sphinx of the West is an introduction to the labyrinth of European thought. Modernity and its works are subjected to rigorous criticism: its loss of centre, of verticality, its emphasis on movement and multiplicity and disregard for or loss of awareness of the unity beyond and above the world of diversity. And in this window, too, the Bosnian landscape is the inspiration and metaphor for the spiritual, for the unity of the self as diversity and the Self as unicity, the themes that permeate this collection of six essays.


Translated by Francis R. Jones and Milena Marić

Original title: Rusmir Mahmutćehajić, Prozori-riječi i slike
Publisher: Did, Sarajevo; co-publishers: Durieux, Zagreb and Radio Kameleon, Tuzla