“Finding new gods”, Alexandre Mitchell, 2022 (42 x 59cm, Indian ink)
‘Finding new gods’ is a visual impression of Skopje, the capital of Northern Macedonia, whose authorities are constantly creating symbols of a religious nature, when they erect a gigantic Millennium Cross on the main hill overlooking the City (2002), or implement a highly controversial ‘Antiquisation’ programme since 2014, trying to transform their urban landscape into a classical one with statues of Justinian or Alexander the Great in their main squares.
These are all harbingers of a nation that has lost its identity and is building an imaginary past of shared European values to bring the country closer to the European Union.
Northern Macedonia feels like a nation that has been uprooted, invaded, fragmented and refounded so many times since antiquity, with its Byzantine past, followed by a very long Ottoman period, a kingdom, Tito’s local brand of socialism and now an open market for a small population of less than 2 million with many minorities.
Neither the break-up of Yugoslavia nor the horrific wars that followed eclipsed the memory of Marshal Josip Broz Tito, whose legacy is extremely difficult to assess. In the drawing, he is seen from behind, looking out over the shady arches of Justinian’s stone bridge. His presence is still felt everywhere, and thousands of people still write letters to him as they would to a revered Christian saint.