Macedonia’s defence minister Radmila Sekerinska takes a seat on a bench in front of a small, deep-blue Picasso. Around her, the upper floor of Skopje’s Museum of Contemporary Art is empty; the stillness is what attracts her to this airy space whenever she needs a break from the responsibilities of government duty. “This museum has the lightness and humanity that’s sometimes missing in some of Skopje’s brutalist buildings,” she says. “It’s a cosy place to be.”
Sekerinska is a senior member of the Social Democrat-led administration that took office last June – and faces considerable pressure to prove that this government will be better than its much-contested predecessor.
Two years of protests sparked by a massive corruption scandal culminated in extraordinary scenes: a month before she took office, thugs entered the National Assembly and attacked Sekerinska and other MPs from her party. The incident left her with wounds to the head – and even stronger determination.
This gallery has a curative effect. “You can really feel the silence of your thoughts,” she says. “Sometimes I bring my daughter here. She’s a great excuse to say: I’m done with work.”
Perched on a hill overlooking Macedonia’s capital, this concrete-and-glass structure is a reminder of this city’s struggles to reconcile the ancient and modern. After an earthquake in 1963 flattened most of Skopje and killed more than 1,000 people, the city called on Japanese architect Kenzo Tange to come up with a new, radical masterplan. This museum (also a Tange-era construction) became its crowning glory. “This is a place that follows me through my life,” says Sekerinska. “It represents both a loss and new beginning. When I look at this museum I think that if this city can recover after an earthquake, it can recover from a political crisis. It’s a promise of hope.”
Born in Skopje
Graduates from Skopje University with degree in power engineering
Elected as a member of parliament
Serves as acting prime minister
Becomes minister of defence in new government