Anne Makepeace Arrives in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Anne Makepeace, the director of the documentary We Still Live Here, arrived in Sarajevo a day before me and had a chance to wander the old city of Sarajevo and see a number of historic sites before the program began. I was picked up at the airport by Sunshine Ison, the Cultural Affairs Officer of the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, who immediately starting answering my questions about Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). One question, regarding what to call the language that Bosnians speak, had a complicated answer and Sunshine suggested referring to it as the ‘local language’ might be the simplest solution. I would soon discover that this conversation around language politics would be central to our experience in BiH and relate deeply to Anne’s film.
After arriving at the hotel in the center of downtown Sarajevo, Sunshine took Anne and me to the first event at the International Burch University. Burch is a private university that has many students from Turkey as well as students from Bosnia and Herzegovina. We first met with Dr. Azamat Akbarov, the head of the English Linguistics Department. He hosts an annual linguistics conference at the university and was very excited to learn from Anne’s film about the process of a community of Native Americans working to bring back their formerly dead language.
In the classroom, Anne showed clips of her films and talked about what it meant for the Wampanoag people to revive their language on a cultural, historical and spiritual level. When Anne asked the students how the film related to their own lives, one student mentioned that there is a desire among some Bosnians to bring back a pre-Ottoman version of their language. Dr. Akbarov charged his linguistics students with this task and at the end of the lecture he presented Anne with a copy of a historical document written in that version of the Bosnian language.
After the session, Anne met with a student named Eldin for an interview for the school newspaper. We were all incredibly impressed with the degree of research he had done about Anne and the depth of his questions. Anne asked for his email to stay in touch, convinced that this student would go on to do great things.
That evening Anne and I had a delicious traditional Bosnian dinner of goulash at a tiny restaurant in the old city and then headed back to the hotel for an early trip out of the city the following morning.
-Rachel Gandin Mark, AFS Staff