Three Monkeys
Sarajevo’s first body painting group

Sarajevan art group Colour Crew  is introducing street art to small towns all around Bosnia to effect social change. Their biggest hit is an act they call “the three monkeys.”

Warm May sun caresses an old building situated slightly outside the Sarajevo city center. From outside, it looks a bit trashy, abandoned almost. Gloomy staircases lead visitors underground to discover a mall full of shops, cafes and galleries.

In one of the galleries Deenan Hadzehasanovic is putting on music and preparing tea. He is soon joined by Emina Huskic and Emir Mutelevic, the other members of Sarajevan art group called Colour Crew. Dressed casually in t-shirts, jeans and sunglasses, the artists don’t stand out as anything special. However, founded two years ago, they are the first official art group in Bosnia which does body painting.

Colour Crew getting ready for performance by undressing and painting their bodies.

The artists, who are students at the Sarajevo Academy of Fine arts, are all from different art forms: “I’m a graphic designer, Emir is a sculptor and Deenan is a painter,” Huskic, the only girl in the group, explains. Yet they share something: a passion for art and an eagerness to use art to express dissatisfaction in society. “For us art is a way of communicating,” Mutelevic says.

The artists communicate easily with each other, as well. They sit comfortably together, drink tea and smoke, finishing each other’s sentences every once in a while. The gallery seems to be their second home; they know all the art pieces, talk highly of the artists who made them and work on their own art too.

Body painting was as an new experience for the group as it was for the audience. First, we tried everything with the paint, explored what we could do, the group explains. They weren’t sure how people would react, so they made a Facebook page for Colour Crew. After one day they had a thousand followers.  Many people wanted to see them live, so the group started performing on the streets.

“The easiest way for us to send a message is through our bodies. Our body is the canvas, we don’t need a gallery. We go to the streets and can have a bigger audience than in a gallery,” Huskic says. The group says they have a message in every one of their art pieces, which is the purpose.

Colour Crew has an act they call “the three monkeys”. They started doing it last autumn, just before the national election. They went to small towns in Bosnia where people had never seen street art. They painted themselves as monkeys and went walking around the town eating bananas. People started following them, they were so excited. And they instantly knew who the three monkeys represented.

The three monkeys representing the three presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina. © Biljana Haljevac

The three monkeys, the artists explain, are the three presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country has one president for each nationality – Bosniak, Croat and Serb – and each of them holds the position for eight months at a time.

“But they are like monkeys. They do nothing. They can’t agree on anything and people vote for these monkeys! We want to make people think about it and if we can affect even a few of them, it’s enough,” the group says. They like the reaction they’ve been getting; people relate to the act and identify their frustration with the artistic expression of the group.

The Colour Crew members are frustrated about life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They explain that problems are endless and they don’t see much hope for change. We can try to make a difference with our art, they say, but it doesn’t really have an effect. Corruption, unemployment, religion and three different nationalities are only a few issues causing tension and trouble in Bosnia. “But if I didn’t see any future here, I would leave immediately,” Huskic says.

Colour Crew members argue that too few people in Bosnia and Herzegovina know about different art styles or can appreciate them. They would like to see art being taught at schools. “When we do our performance, maybe some child sees us and wants to be an artist too,” Mutelevic says.

About Helena Hyvönen

Helena has been freelancing for Finnish papers for several years now and after the Netherlands she is headed to Latin America as a travelling journalist. → About us