Video, colour, sound, 12 min
In October 1991, Žene u crnom protiv rata (Women in Black Against the War) held their first street demonstration in Republic Square, in the heart of Belgrade. Disillusioned by patriarchal language and conduct within the early anti-war movement, with which their founding members were affiliated, they took inspiration from a group of Italian feminists who had reached out to them in support. The Italian group, Donne Nero, had taken their name from the Israeli feminist anti-military movement of the same name, with which they had aligned themselves. Formed in January 1988, in response to the First Intifada, the Israeli Women in Black began by holding weekly vigils in the centre of Jerusalem in protest at human rights abuses then rampant in the Occupied Territories. The Israeli group, at first anonymous, soon adopted the name Women in Black, used by the public and media to describe them: a reference to the black clothing worn during their weekly vigils as a sign of mourning for the Palestinian victims of the Israeli military. As groups formed first nationally and then internationally in solidarity with their Israeli sister group, the movement extended its activism to other causes – the most notable being the Belgrade chapter. Taking their cue from the vigils in Israel, Žene u crnom held weekly vigils, likewise dressed in black, in Belgrade, and across Serbia and Montenegro during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo and their aftermath. They thus rose to become one of the most important sources of civil resistance during the Milošević era and, still active today, one of the few collectives in Serbia prepared to confront a society still unwilling to take collective responsibility for the war and, significantly, to mourn – as the movement’s name denotes – the victims of its recent past.
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