Initiative for Naming the Bridge “Rosa Plaveva and Nakie Bayram”

In her research work, the artist Hristina Ivanovska aims to address the problem of absence of women from archives, lack of cultural memory related to them, their rare representation in the urban toponyms, and, most importantly, absence of women’s cultural-historical legacy. Through her initiative to have the newly built bridge named after two women fellow citizens and fellow fighters for the emancipation and advancement of the rights of workers and women – Rosa Plaveva and Nakie Bayram – she taps the issue of the overcoming of ethnic tensions at the time in the country, which is even more important because of the conflict in 2001.  By way of their united and joint engagement since the beginning of the 20th century, these two women, both active socio-democrats, endeavored to meet a lofty goal: emancipation of women and promotion of workers’ rights. The initiative by Ivanovska symbolizes a thread or a bridge that would reconnect the two ethnically and religiously divided sides of the city and is an attempt to override the differences and build communities by way of example of these two women from Macedonian history. Finally, at the same time, it emphasizes the decision makers’ lack of sensitivity to equal gender representation.

The initiative will shed new light on the obliterated activity of these two women – Rosa Plaveva and Nakie Bayram, barely valorized and documented, thus disclosing the scanty documentation scattered throughout the archives of several institutions in the city:  the Museum of the City of Skopje, the Institute for National History, and the State Archive, and will give form and content to the marginalized history of women in Macedonia. Though the bridge today is named “Tsar Samoil”, which was one of the unofficial proposals published in the media at the time of the opening of the bridge, it is also known as the bridge by the Transporting Center, and very few people know its official name. 

Ivanovska’s proposal, submitted in April 2005 to the City of Skopje, that is, to the then Committee for Naming Streets, Squares, Bridges, and Other Infrastructural Buildings, aimed at drawing the attention of the city authorities to the insufficient representation of the names of women in the process of making these decisions, and, in essence, to the limited knowledge of the women’s activities on these territories before the Second World War. At her unofficial meeting with the counselor of the city mayor at the time, she learned that her request “is too sensitive and can cause a disturbance among the political parties” and that “such a capital structure cannot be named after women”, in brief, not to expect an official response to her request.

In the introductory part of the premier presentation of the work “Naming the Bridge: Rosa Plaveva and Nakie Bayram”, organized as a three-channel video projection of the Foundation for Women’s Art, London, June 2006, the curator of the project and a theoretician Suzana Milevska wrote, “The project represents a rare example of a personal initiative that tackles the issue of the veil with the sensitivity unburden by the conflicts of the past; an attempt to build a bridge between different perceptions of the veil in conflicting intellectual and cultural environments.”

The very three-channel video, the printed materials in the form of fanzine, and the posters that Ivanovska created to wrap up her project “Naming the Bridge: Rosa Plaveva and Nakie Bayram”, as well as her numerous public presentations made this initiative become part of the public narrative enthusiastically supported and espoused by the citizens. The last piece of information thereon, recently published by the City of Skopje, is that the current committee decided that one bridge in Skopje will be named after Rosa Plaveva and Nakie Bayram. If the initiative for the naming of the bridge becomes realized, 16 years after it was launched, it will prove the belief that artistic practice can be a moving force bringing about changes and building a political will to create an inclusive political society.

Who are Rosa Plaveva and Nakie Bayram? After the magazine “Forum” for the first time published Ivanovska’s initiative, through which the public for the first time learned about their work, some journalists called them “Skopje Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin”. “Deli Rosa”, as the Turks called her because of her exceptional courage, lived up to the age of 92. She was born in Veles in 1878, née Varnalieva, and was educated in Sophia, where she met her future husband, a native of Veles and a socio-democrat, Iliya Plavev. By the end of the 30’s, she moved with her family to Belgrade, where she is laid to rest today. It is said that “she was an energetic, wiry old lady, very lucid in her speech, witty, and brisk… always wearing a male shirt, a red tie, and a dark blue suit.” She participated in the Ilinden Uprising, in 1903, and is the holder of the Ilinden Commemorative ribbon bar, always pinned on her jacket.

Based on Hristina Ivanovska’s sources, in her conversation with the grandson of Nakie Bayram, Professor Gazanfer Bayram, it can be learned that “she came from an educated family in which the female members stood out by way of their determination and courage… His grandmother Nakie was strict but fair. She tried not to violate the moral codes of behavior, as well as those set forth in the Koran and the ones imposed by the immediate environment.” Nake Bayram was actively involved, first of all, in the processes of the emancipation and education of the Muslim woman since 1947.

Rosa Plaveva, Illustration by Xuen Magrini Troll, Fierce Women WoW Cards

Nakie Bayram, illustration by Nazli Karaturna, Fierce Women WoW Cards

Traffic bridge “Car Samoil” above the river Vardar, on “Belasica” street, central city area

This bridge, built in 2005, connects the two banks of the river Vardar, the south side, where the Post Office building is situated and the main Railway Station, where Municipality Aerodrom and Municipality center meet, whereas on the north side of the river bank is located a gas station and the last junction of the Boulevard “Gotse Delchev”. On the very same intersection also meet two municipalities, the Municipality Center and the Municipality Gazi Baba. The bridge has wide sidewalks and is available for a wheelchair for a person with a physical disability, but only on the right - east side of the bridge.