Orange County and Los Angeles is home to a small, but incredibly close-knit community of Bosnians and others who fled the former Yugoslavia during the ethnic conflict that took place between 1992 and 1995.
The war crimes trial underway for former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic rekindles memories for many of those Bosnian refugees. An art exhibit beginning Saturday in Laguna Beach intends to show that the creative spirit of 25 Bosnian artists has survived those brutal years.
Sejla Holland opened her Green Cube Gallery in Laguna Beach two years ago. Like the 25 artists featured at the exhibit, she too is a refugee from the conflict.
“The exhibit really started as a way to commemorate the 20 years since the war in Bosnia started," Holland said. "The attempt was to make sure that we as a people show that our creative horizons were not damaged by something so traumatic as the war.”
The three-and-a-half-year war involved bitter fighting, indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, ethnic cleansing and mass rape. It’s estimated between 150,000 and 200,000 civilians and soldiers died in the conflict.
Holland said the artists featured in the exhibit were in Bosnia during the war. A few of them will share their stories at the gallery.
“Some of them were already established artists, professors at the University of Fine Arts in Bosnia, and some of them were just 8- or 9-year-old kids that experienced the war through their childhood,” Holland said.
Holland said the exhibit gives a sense of history and identity through the eyes of those that lived through that conflict. "Because the conflict in Bosnia was extremely complex and powerful. This is just another way to show that regardless of how traumatic the events can be, people still have this survival spirit.”
Holland said proceeds from exhibit sales will be donated to the Bosana Foundation, a charity group which sponsors underprivileged children in Bosnia.
The exhibit runs through September.