From August 22nd to December 17th (2017), Indiana University Bloomington’s Mathers Museum of World Cultures plays host to a photographic exhibition illustrating a recent string of protests in the Republic of Macedonia. The protests emerged in response to an “urban renewal” project pushed by the country’s nationalistic then-ruling VMRO-DPMNE party. Through its diversion of public funds towards monuments of forced national identity and its simultaneous function as a façade of active political engagement, the project enraged Macedonians of all identities. At a cost of over 600 million euros, six times the estimate- and still incomplete, the project has come under increasing scrutiny, with growing evidence suggesting that the project was used an affront for a money-laundering scheme benefitting a small political elite within the ruling party. The situation was escalated by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s widespread pardoning of political officials linked with multiple crimes in an acrimonious wiretapping scandal. At the zenith of years of corruption and neglect, the collective disillusionment of Macedonians of all ages and ethnicities took a multi-colored form. Taking to the streets of the capital city Skopje, citizens marched en masse, armed with paint filled balloons and demands for a new political epoch. The resulting protests centered around the "painting" of many of the aforementioned monuments in addition to government buildings. Whilst the current political moment is unstable, multiple demands of the protesters have been met including new elections where Zoran Zaev’s opposition party (SDSM) has taken the majority of seats through coalition with Albanian political groups. As of late June, the Special Prosecutor’s Office, previously blocked by the VMRO-DPMNE, has filed charges against 94 individuals. According to some Macedonian media outlets, Gruevski is amongst those being charged.
The exhibition itself displays 21 images, meticulously plucked from a larger set of work from three photographers who brilliantly captured the spirit of the protest: Robert Atanasovski, Vanco Dzambaski, and Kire Galevski. The images presented are bold, provocative, and, as the name indicates, quite colorful, conveying messages of inclusion and peaceful but assertive resistance. Take for instance Atanasovki’s Painted Justice, displaying a protester spray-painting an already paint-riddled Ministry of Justice with the words “Colorful Revolution” as a police officer, riot shield adorned with blue and red paints, looks on. Dzambaski’s You can wash away the paint, but not the blood, displays a number of protesters dousing Skopje’s main square in red paint, a memorandum for Martin Neshkovski who, in 2011, was murdered by an off-duty police officer. Multiple officials attempted to conceal the murder with the then-Minister of Internal Affairs Gordana Jankuloska recorded on tape as saying (paraphrased): “It is terrible that one cannot conceal a murder.” Jankuloska refused to resign in the wake of mass protest calling for her resignation, only being removed 4 years later. Kire Galevski’s Flags presents a protesting middle-aged man, draped in both a Macedonian and Albanian flag whilst holding up both a European Union and United States flag. Tensions are very present in Macedonia following what some call insurgency and others civil war during the early 2000’s, erupting between militant members of the Albanian minority against Macedonian authorities. Galevski’s photo presents a hopeful future, reflecting an unprecedented diversity within the Colorful Revolution. These are but a few of the multi-faceted and captivating images present at the exhibit.