Bosnian War Posters Illustrate Graphic Story of Conflict

7. April 2022.14:14
As the 30th anniversary of the start of the siege of Sarajevo is commemorated, a new book showcases posters from the 1992-95 Bosnian war, explaining how graphic design was used for resistance, propaganda and appeals for peace.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Left: Graphic designed by Trio design studio marking the tenth anniversary of the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics. Right: Poster designed by Asim Djelilovic depicting a sniper saying “Perfect”, inspired by the shooting of two female peace demonstrators in Sarajevo in 1992.

Daoud Sarhandi, the British author of the new book Bosnian War Posters, first went to Bosnia and Herzegovina with a humanitarian aid team just after the conflict ended in 1995, and was deeply affected by what he saw.

A couple of years later, he was living in the Bosnian town of Tuzla and started collecting hundreds of posters and examples of political graphic design that tell a unique story of what happened during the war years, illustrating nationalist propaganda, appeals for resistance and peace, and the horrors of the siege of Sarajevo which began 30 years ago this week.

Left: Poster designed by Trio design studio in 1994. Right: Poster designed by Cedomir Kostovic in 1994 satirising the Yugoslav slogan “Brotherhood and Unity”.

The book, which is published in May by Interlink Books, contains reproductions of about 350 of these posters – some of which are well-known for their graphic impact, emotional power and bitter humour. “The material is still important, after 30 years the story what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina is still important,” Sarhandi told BIRN.

Left: 1993 recruitment poster for the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) with the slogan “Our father’s in the HVO – and yours?” Right: Recruitment poster for the Bosnian Army designed by Nijaz Omerovic in 1994 with the slogan “The fate of Bosnia and Herzegovina is in our hands – join us!”

In the pre-internet era, posters were a cheap and effective way of getting a message out. “During the war, designers, illustrators and artists used posters, leaflets, magazines and newspapers to express themselves, to fight for truth and to join the struggle between good and evil,” Bojan Hadzihalilovic of Bosnian design studio Trio, which created the famous ‘Wake Up, Europe!’ poster, explains in the introduction to the book.

A calendar produced to promote Serb ‘Red Berets’ forces in the Bosnian town of Brcko in 1995.

Sarhandi believes that the posters in the book also show how the Bosnian people responded artistically and intellectually to the conflicts that engulfed them. “The message stayed more and less consistent, there were different events, different conditions, but because the Bosnian Serbs attacked in the east of the country very early, people understood ethnic cleansing, that this was an attack on their culture, on all the institutions, they understood the weakness of the international community from April 1992,” he said.

Unofficial wanted posters for Bosnian Serb political and military leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

Teo Zorić

This post is also available in: Bosnian