In the 1990s series of wars broke out in Yugoslavia (then known as a socialist republic of Yugoslavia). The Bosnian war was considered one of the bloodiest Yugoslavian wars. The death of a strong leader Josip Tito in 1980, growing economic deterioration, rising nationalism and fall of communism fed into the intensification of ethnic tensions between three major ethnic groups; Croats, Muslim Bosniaks, and Serbs. The Bosnian war officially began in 1992 when the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina passed an independence referendum. However, local Serbs in Bosnia were against independence. With the support of the Serbian government and Yugoslavian national army, many local Serbs started revolting and took control over several towns in Bosnia. Drunk with the desire to show their military superiority to the Bosniaks and the West, the local Serbs struggle for securing ethnic Serb territory soon took the shape of the ethnic cleansing; it became prominently evident during the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre. Consequently, when the war ended in 1995, around 1.2 million Bosnians had fled the country (half a million registered as refugees in Western Europe).
Mersiha Mesihoivc was one such Bosnian refugee who fled to Sweden in 1995. Marked by the loss of home and family members (grandmother and grandfather died in Bosnia), Mersiha has drawn upon her refugee experience to nurture her artistic skills as a dancer, choreographer, and cultural organiser. Combining choreography, music, and unique dance movements, Mersiha explores the themes of nationalism, racism, and patriarchy in an aesthetically powerful way. Through her refreshing artistic style, she has earned international support from New Dance Alliance, New York Foundation for the Arts etc. Moreover, she has also got an opportunity to work with many celebrated artists such as Ohad Naharin, Colin Connor, Trisha Brown, Rami Beer, Karen Bernard, Reggie Wilson, Visnja Krzic, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko and James Brandon Lewis. Recently she has also been acknowledged by TheWorldDances.com as “Rising NYC Choreographer.”
The first wave of Tamil refugees began in 1983 when the civil war ensued between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil militant group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Exasperated by the ethnic persecution of the Tamilians by the Sinhalese, often backed by the State support, LTTE deployed an armed struggle to create an independent state for the Tamilians. However, blinded by their obsession to secure their hegemony, both LTTE and the State subjected themselves to the massacre of several innocent civilians. Finally, after 26 years of bloodshed, destruction and chaos, the Sri Lankan government defeated LTTE in May 2009. However, by that time, it has left 80,000–100,000 dead, over 300,000 internally displaced and over 145,000 refugees.
Despite being haunted by the loss of home, family members, memories of bloodshed, Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, (known as M.I.A) is one such refugees who have drawn upon the marks, that war left her with, into creating a powerful art. Her unique musical blends of rap and traditional Asian music combined with her unbending desire to use her art to question the hegemonic socio-political structures, has made her one of the beloved pop singers.
Born in 1977, MIA flee with her mother to London in late 1980s where they lived in one of the public housing projects. In early 20’s MIA enrolled in a college of Art and Design to study visual arts. Inspired by her artistic skills, Justine Frischmann of the band Elastica approached M.I.A. to assist him in few of his album productions. Her experience in visual art, interest in rap and hip-hop music styles, and her refugee experience motivated her to release her first music album ‘Galang’ in 2003. It got shortlisted for Britain's prestigious Mercury Music Prize and ranked third on Billboard's Top Electronic Albums chart.