Iris Honderdos
Sarajevo, Bosnia
February 1998

sarajevo My first day in Sarajevo, I had an important meeting with Felix de Vries. He was coordinating the rebuilding program in one of the most destroyed areas during the war, called “HRASNO”.
Amsterdam adopted this area under the name ‘City Link Amsterdam-Sarajevo’.

It is unbelievable what I saw: the result of the continuous shootings from both sides at the same time. They would need lots of time and money to rebuild this wounded place. The office of City Link, in the middle of Hrasno, got a lot of visitors: people who were desperate because some of them had to live under very bad circumstances in half-destroyed buildings, without water or heating. If they were lucky they had a working elevator. Burned-out towers were their daily view. Sometimes they lived together with two families in a small apartment. No jobs and a permanent lack of money is marking their daily existence. They needed a lot of patience before it was their turn to get repaired what was necessary.
In the middle were five 20-level high apartment buildings. One of them was completely burned out, the others partly.

I listened to stories, how they tried to extinguish the fire, how people jumped out of the windows and how impossible it was to come close because of the ongoing shooting.

I’ve tried to imagine the lives and the feelings of these people, when I was climbing the stairs of one of those towers. I couldn’t find any personal thing that could have been left behind. Everything was burned; black pieces were hanging from the ceiling and the walls. Light from outside came through the many holes. I remembered the story of a little girl. Her mother was shot there in the middle of the room. And the same happened to her brother, a few days later.


Downstairs, in the pile of debris, which had just been cleared from the building, I found fragments of letters and other handwritten texts, which I, coming from Holland, couldn’t read of course. So the only thing I could find about the people who used to live there, was the way they moved their hands on the paper.

I made copies of some of those letters and enlarged each letter on transparent sheets, to complete the sentence:


It was my personal way to remember the people who were forced to go.
But at the same time, I wanted to show my wish for the future, presented by children’s drawings from the primary school in Hrasno.

From metal, found in destroyed buildings around, I made a simple framework to hang in the sheets. In the background you could see the colorful drawings of the most beautiful apartments the children could imagine.

On the backside of each piece, they drew happy faces.

This work was hanging in an open space on the ground floor of the burned-out tower, easy to see from outside, or for those who are living in the buildings around.

For me it was important that people from Hrasno would understand the meaning of this “unusual art”.I talked with many people to explain where the letters came from and about the striking colors behind them; my hope for a future where they can live peacefully in apartments as beautiful as the children’s drawings.