Bojana Stamenkovic


“Sworn Virgina”, needle installation, landscape from  the film Virgina, 2016/2017.

“Sworn Virgina”, embroidery, landscape from the film Virgina 2016.

“The film Virgina (dir. Srdjan Karanovic, 1991, Yugoslavia, 100 min.), tells the story of Stevan.  Stevan is a young heir of a family that is cursed because of having too many female children. Stevan is thus designated to live as a boy by “his” own family, although she was born as a girl baby. Actually, the family follows the ancient custom of “sworn virgins” (“virgina” or ”tobelija”) in order to avoid the heavy social censure of an all-girl offspring. The loud celebration accompanying the hoax announcement of a boy birth later turns out to be a heavy burden in Stevan’s life. Being stamped by the ancient custom, Stevan goes through confusing situations being both a girl and a boy – having much more than the usual secrets to hide. As Stevan grows older, the usual gender problems in adolescence start conflicting with each other. For Stevan, the process of gaining maturity becomes a painful experience, a real ordeal. The first menstrual cycles, the first love, as well as the macho rivalry rites with the other boys, she has to go through all of these experiences. To hide her real gender identity, and to fight through the struggle of establishing the imposed male identity in the highly strict cultural environment, out to be difficult tasks for only one person. Karanovic’s shows his heroine struggling to express her desires to live the life of a woman. Paradoxically, in Stevan’s case to live her life as a man becomes the effect of patriarchal constraints and oppression, and not a privilege. This gender change is not a question of personal choice. Finally, the woman ”wins”, she breaks with the imposed rules and escapes, but she does this by fleeing the country and the unwanted life as a man together with her newly found freedom in a life with a man, her secret lover. She escapes one patriarchy and enters another one. The film ending does not leave a place for any feminist reading because it suggests the heterosexual marriage as the only way out for Stevan.”



A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Goldsmiths’ College – University of London / Visual Cultures Department, October 2005

Swept Under the Carpet!

Installation: textile, 4 documentary photographs, 2016.

Artistic practice between private and public: What can we do together for ourselves?

“Being a female artist with a migration background comes along with specific challenges – that require persistence and resistance in order to be able to continue. Out of the need to express these difficulties and to create a platform to share them, I invited four colleagues, who find themselves confronted with similar situations.

How can we be strong enough to always carry on?

And how can we create a platform to support each other?

With each of them, I went for a picnic and used this paradox situation – intimate and at the same time public, enjoyable while tackling our most serious personal issues – to discuss these questions. The visible result of these meetings are a carpet – an artifact of collaboration, relating to traditional crafts associated with the female domestic realm – and questions, both inscribing themselves into the discourse of our existence.”

Eva Meran, Bojana Stamenkovic

Participants artists: Isidora Krstić, Mirjana Djotunović alias MUSTRA, Neda Nikolić, Ivana Smiljanić.
Sentences and words written under the carpet:
Solidarity- What defines me?- You must be twice as good and you must work twice as much!-Profession, can art be a profession?- What’s going wrong if I can/t live from my profession?-Do you organize life according to visas?- Are we the others?-visibility- respect-Yes, nationalism bothers me!-flexibility, practical cooperation- It’s a privilege to be an artist, it’s a privilege to do what you love!-responsibility-self-organization.

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