Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Imagine Sarajevo

Despite many promises, it was never restored and has been an empty shell since 1996. Broken and decaying, it has instead become a symbol of the destruction of the city's spirit. The inability of the government to reclaim it is yet another reason why young people see their future elsewhere.

A plan to cover such a controversial building with art and slogans was hardly unambitious – or uncontroversial. Shetelig explains how they went about it.

&ldquoI think that by proposing something that was creative, positive, and different it captured people's imagination. Once we proved through hard work and persistence that we were serious, we got essential moral and practical support, advice and information from local participants and public figures. Local businesses sponsored us by paying for paint, canvas and other materials. Supporters included the Norwegian embassy, local Red Cross, NGO Development Foundation, and businesses like the local brewery Sarajeveskoe Brewery, and BH Telecom. Around 600 people were involved alogether, mainly school children and students, as well as young artists&ldquo.

One of them is Amela Peljto, a student from a local training centre – OIA (Omladinska Informativna Agencija/ Youth Information Agency). Thirty students from this centre were the core of the project team and also its public face. What did Amela make of it? &ldquoIt was a very original idea, something that no one else has done here before. Street action like that, with so many people participating is rarely seen here. It allowed me and my friends to get experience in different areas – project co-ordination, mediawork, even painting. We learnt a lot about realising and implementing things, which I think is very relevant for a Country in transition like Bosnia&ldquo.

Fjeldstad says the hardest thing for the team was probably all the red tape which meant little things could take forever : &ldquoSimple things, like getting hold of canvas to paint on, took forever and became major obstacles”.

However, the combined team's hard work and determination conquered the obstacles. On April 24th, the building became art for a day. The House also for the first time in twelve years, opened its door to a large group of young people. They mingled with the Minister for Culture and officials from the Higher Representative, who all promised to help restore the House to its original purpose. There was music, dancing and euphoria. The next day, Julie, Rebecca, Toyah, Cathrine and Trine packed up. They stuffed as much of the artwork as they could in to their van, and headed for home. But that was not it.

&ldquoWe knew we could do more, and wanted to contribute in a practical way to re-open the house. On the long drive home, we discussed what to do next. How could we generate publicity for our adopted cause, and perhaps help finance it? We had also come to realise that although it is considered cool to come up with new ways to sell soap, not a lot of creative effort is spent on foreign development aid, or voluntary work in general. We definitely had it in mind that perhaps we could change the image of aid work a little too?”

As dedicated followers of fashion, it seemed inevitable that they would try to combine support and style. And so they went knocking on the doors of another creative group – famous fashion designers. Twelve generous Scandinavian designers were persuaded to give some of their time and skill to a good cause. Famous names like Arne&Carlos, Mette Moller and Peter Lochstoer were given a trunk full of Sarajevan artwork, and soon transformed painted canvases in to designer Barbie dolls, beautiful dresses, shoes, accessories, and paintings. All of these desirable items went on sale in Oslo in August, where the exhibition of children's art as fashion attracted en enthusiastic audience. All proceeds are earmarked for the restoration of the house in Sarajevo.

The five KaosPilots are now working on an ambitious refurbishment plan, together with people on the ground who are garnering support and funds from local politicians and businessmen. They are returning to Sarajevo early in the New Year[2005].

Boris Siber is a veteran broadcaster and current head of Youth Programming at Bosnia's public broadcaster, FTV. He is one of the local personalities who have offered Ask Sarajevo advice and assistance.

&ldquoAlready this project has had real, positive impact. When I saw the neglected Youth House transformed by its colourful, vibrant wrapping I thought it was wonderful. It is right in the centre of the city, and everyone saw it and was moved by it. For seven years the building has been left in ruins. Now it suddenly seemed possible to change that&ldquo.

What made him want to support this particular project? &ldquoThese girls, they came to Sarajevo simply to do something positive for my city. That does not happen very often. We did not ask them to come, we did not offer them money. They brought incredible energy and enthusiasm, and it has been contagious. And the project itself was concrete, they set a very clear goal, and worked so hard to achieve it.”

And what about the next stage – rebuilding the House?

&ldquoIt will happen. There is a base and a lot of people who want to help build it up. I do not think they will stop until the whole job is done”.

If the momentum that has been created eventually results in the restoration of a meeting place for young Sarajevans, it will not make a dint in the unemployment figures, nor will it make everyone love their neighbours. Bosnias young will continue to crowd the Country's exits. But perhaps the rock bands that are looking for a place to practice, and the young girls who want to go dancing, might imagine that more change is possible. Amela puts it like this: &ldquoThere is a lot of apathy here, young people are passive and believe there is nothing they can do. This project proved the opposite, youngsters in this Country can work together and improve their own situation. Nothing is impossible!”

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