Bosna Quilts

«You have to carry on with us!»

30.07.2021

The war is over. The refugees are returning. The refugee home empties. Is this the end of the Bosna Quilt Workshop? No.

Goražde after the war | Photo: Nikolaus Walter

Safira Hošo, who once, while having a coffee in the refugee home, expresses the wish to somehow continue, is serious. When she leaves for her home country, she doesn't have a sewing machine in her luggage, but a fax machine. «To keep in touch», she says. It is the time before email. Safira returns from Feldkirch to Goražde together with Vesna Malokas. There they first have to find their way around the destroyed city. Soon, however, Safira sits down with the city's refugee commissioner and is able to win over ten women who had lived through the war in Goražde to work in the Bosna Quilt Workshop. Of course, many more women urgently wanted to be able to participate in such a project. But from the point of view of everyone's strength, it is important not to let the whole thing get too big.

In December 1997, Lucia travels to Goražde with Ulrike Jussel († 2019), who will later work with her until she retires in 2013. Lucia is in Bosnia for the first time and witnesses what it means to, somehow, get back on your feet in a war-torn country. There is no question that everything is being done to ensure that the Bosna Quilt Workshop can be realized here in Goražde. Thanks to the support of many people in Austria and in Bosnia, it succeeds.

New life in a ruined house | Foto: Nikolaus Walter

At a time when the freshly washed laundry hanging in front of it is the only way to tell if a bombed-out house is inhabited, it is fortunate that Safira is bringing this project to Bosnia. Perhaps the soft, colored, undamaged fabrics look like a foreign body in this shattered world at the beginning. But that is precisely why they are so important.

Safira and Vesna, who had three years of quilting experience in the refugee home, teach the new seamstresses step by step. Used sewing machines are collected in Austria. And in September 1998, Lucia sent the first quilt designs to Bosnia and the first quilts of the new Bosna Quilt Qorkshop are sewn.

Quilts sewn in Bosnia are shown on the balcony of Safira Hošo's house. | Photo Nikolaus Walter

Since then, the division of labor and the production process have remained the same: the quilts are designed in Vorarlberg. Then they go to Bosnia, where they are sewn and over-sewn. And when they are finished, they return to Austria, where they are sold.

The Bosnian seamstresses get paid immediately after they finish a quilt. That has also remained the case to this day. In the difficult years after the war it is a good feeling not to have to live on alms, but on good wages for good work.

One more thing has remained unchanged: Since 1998, it has been the same women who produce Bosna quilts. When asked what has changed for her as a result of the Bosna Quilt Workshop, Safira replied at a vernissage: «Now we are all artists.» She spoke for all women.

An early Bosna Quilt

Bosna Quilts

Text: Lucia Lienhard-Giesinger, Daniel Lienhard, Laurenz Feinig.
Gestaltung: Grafische Praxis, Feldkirch, Development: weitweit.com
Fotografie: Daniel Lienhard, wo nicht anders angegeben