Smirna, tell us, what does this project look like?
It looks like a giant colorful circus in the middle of the city!
We wanted to take an abandoned space and create a place out of it. A place where people will feel inspired to hang out, meet their neighbors, play, create art.
First, we found a space that was previously abandoned, unsafe for people to hang out in, gray and unused. Then, we circulated a questionnaire among 250 people who live in the buildings that surround this space and tried to gather their ideas and wishes about the possible new use for it and and the look of it. And then finally, we sat down together and made an initial drawing of the space, which we transformed in only seven days of constant work. (Painting, rebuilding, cleaning).
At the same time, we announced a photo contest where we collected a wall full of photos that tell a story about Sarajevo. In the end, we assembled a public exhibition of the 30 best photos from the contest, and installed it in this place.
Since the opening, we have started holding art workshops in this place every week, with local kids. We draw, dance with poi and talk about the meaning of life together.
Was it hard finding other people who were as welcoming towards art as you and your friends are?
Actually, it was very easy! We started as a group of five people, and on the very first day of our street action thirty people joined us. And not only adults but also local kids of all ages, who helped us recreate this public space and integrate art into it. It was an amazing feeling, just seeing so many people with such great passion for art and for sharing their ideas publicly.
How long did it take to launch this project? Did you have any help?
We got the idea for the project last year actually. For the next six months, we were busy mapping the locations in the city that would fit our project, and also we were building the website and gathering people around it. But the main work took only one month, this September – all the street activity, rebuilding, painting and communicating with the local community. We were supported by the YouthLINC project for youth in the Balkans, implemented by Internews and YIHR BiH. It was a great opportunity for us because we got to share and broaden our ideas on workshops with young people from all over the Balkans, who are doing nine other activist projects for their local communities.
How did you come up with this idea? What does the name actually mean?
I was sitting in a park and listening to two teenagers talking about the park as a good „Kota“.
So, this word was the key to the idea. In Bosnian, it means „a good location“, but when teenagers use it locally, it implies being a „good location for illegal activities“.
So I thought about the concept of what makes a certain public space a good „Kota“ and it came to me – it always has to be a space that is ruined, gray, ugly, full of trash and rarely occupied by people. And then I realized that our city is actually filled with these kinds of public spaces, spaces that are never used for anything positive, that just remain dead all the time.
After that, I started imagining a totally opposite concept of “Kota”, where I wanted to continue using that word but just transform its meaning, by having all these places in the city that would be filled with art, positive energy, and people who use it in creative ways. And it came true.
Do you have any plans for the future of your project?
Yes! I can’t wait for the spring! Unfortunately, the weather will not allow us to resume working on new locations until March. But from March to September next year we plan to integrate art into seven new locations. We will open up a contest for artists who work with space installations, and seven of them will get the opportunity to integrate art into these locations. Also, we are currently creating an alternative map of Sarajevo, using the photos we got on our previous photo contest. It’s going to be a map that tells the story of the various writings and drawings on the walls of Sarajevo, the messages they communicate, and the borders they sometimes become for people.
Do you have any msg for young folks out there?
Get to know what you’re passionate about. That’s the hardest part. And if you’re passionate about wooden tables, making dolls that look like spiders or writing upside-down, that’s fine. Never be afraid of admitting what it is. And once you know what it is, never let it go, and create as much of it as you can.
Oh yes, and don’t let formal education ruin you.