A Croatian Costume from Posavina

The piece has arrived in a questionable condition. It was old, which was visible, but age stains never bothered me. It was the pinkish colour all across the fabric that bothered me - the owner has obviously attempted to wash the set, and the colours from the embroidery leaked onto the white fabric.

Cycling around for folklore

My attempts to improve time in Dubai by cycling around to find some more traditional stuff for the soul.

Traditional clothing of Bosnia-Herzegovina

"Christians of both confessions dress up just like the Turks*, with the only difference being that they do not shave their hair off like the Turks do"

February Thoughts

I have been particularly busy for the last couple of weeks after realizing that my results from university were not as satisfactory and that I could surely make a better use of all the money we pay for this degree. 

Here I am, and four blog entries are stuck in my "Draft" folder for almost a month, none of them finished until the end and some - just an uncontrollable flow of text which makes no sense until I dedicate some more time to it. 

Been doing some reports on Poverty Reduction Strategies in Serbia, applying to some internship programs and still wondering whether I will be going away this summer. My past experience tells me that staying here for a year is too hard and I certainly need a month off, but it turns out as always that when you have the money to travel (well. at least some of it) - you don't have the time to do so, and vice versa. 

At this point my thoughts are wandering in all directions and I am unable to complete my texts, but here is a spoiler: I have one coming on a Bedouin village and the story of the Bedouins very soon, with photos I took last month; I also have one with photos of a traditional market I took in Sharjah last weekend, before I was told that taking photos was not allowed; and there is one about a beautiful and very skilled and talented lady from Zvenigorod, Russia, and the ethnic patterns she paints on all kinds of items.

The plan for this summer is yet unknown, but I was planning to travel to the Balkans once again. My soul needs it. Belgrade, Sarajevo, Mostar and Blagaj were on the plan, but as soon as I made the decision - the Bosnian protests started and despite my wish to travel, I do hope that they do not stop unless demands are agreed upon by all three sides. But since "agree" and "Bosnia" do not go together, I might as well admit that I will end up having to cancel my decision and postpone it yet another time.

On a happier note, a friend of mine and a great performer in an ethno band has invited me to join her and the band in their Siberian tour across Russia, which is difficult because of the dates but is surely a better option to the Melting Pot in Bosnia.

Hopefully, I will be able to finish my texts very soon!
Have a great week and best regards,

Notes from the old trips to Sarajevo and Bosnian tourism industry.

These photos were taken during my two trips to Sarajevo in 2010 and 2011. I still had one of those cheap little cameras, so the quality could be better, but I was happy to find out that the memories that the photos bring with them do not depend on the camera settings and the photo quality. 

Sebilj is a wooden fountain built in the centre of Bascarsija market square in Sarajevo that is a typical example of pseudo-Moorish architecture. It was constructed by Mehmed Pasha Kukavica in 1753, and there is an identical but not so well-kept and well-known replica of this Sarajevo symbol in Belgrade not so far from the famous 

Here is a view of the Bosnian capital from the Avaz tower recently constructed in Sarajevo. Although many consider it to be an architectural failure that destroys the historical landscape of the city, the tower does offer a beautiful view on the city as well as the surrounding hills.

Me with the Avaz tower behind. This is how I looked like back in 2010 - a little larger, a little shorter, with long brown hair that I now trimmed down to shoulder length and colored in red. This is clearly a sign that I need to go back and take new photos with my new look.

Notes of the history of Jews in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Jewish settlements were common in the Balkan peninsula in as early as XII century. All major cities of Greece and Macedonian coastal towns had their Jewish communities on a municipal level with their specific organization, allowing for some relative freedom, especially when in trade. At the same time in the West, most of the Jews were in Venice - some around Mestre and some in the Spinalonga area, with the latter ones having excellent trading relations with Dalmatian and Albanian cities. 

In Bosnia and Serbia there was little or no mention of the Jews for a considerable amount of time, although in the neighboring Bulgaria a Jew and a second wife of Tsar Alexander came to the throne. 

The main influx of Jewish population to the Balkans - by then a territory under Ottoman control - began at the end of the XV century when a dark period of Inquisition age began in Spain and then Portugal under the supervision of the Carholic cardinals. When the whole country fell under the authority of the Catholic Monarchs and the need for cooperation with the "infidels" disappeared - the Catholic church began the persecution of Jews, both baptized and those of the Jewish faith. In 1492, the Jewish population began to emigrate en masse to the lands under the authority of the Turkish sultan, mostly to Constantinople, Edirne and Thessaloniki. In Thessaloniki alone, the Jews made up the majority of the population for a significant amount of time. A detailed and affectionate biography of this city can be read in Mark Mazower's "Salonika: City of Ghosts", which traces the migration of Jews to the city and dedicates a significant number of pages to the history of Jewish Salonika, until its eventual destruction.

Some of those would settle off the coast of the Adriatic Sea in Venice, and some will eventually end up in Bosnia, which is now left in the records after 1541 as well as the old tombstones on the cemetery, the oldest of which traces back to 1551. Most of these come from Salonika too, and then directly from Spain. Around this time, although the exact date and author is unknown, Sarajevo will first welcome one of the most important books in the world - the famous Sarajevo Haggadah. 

In 1541, there were apparently no more than 30 to 40 Jews, most of whom were from Salonika, were engaged in trading activities and eventually returned back home to their families. However, in he second half of the XVI century, the number of Jews in the city began to increase. Because of this, a separate "ghetto" was built for the population at the request of the local Muslims who complained about the "disorders"created by the Jews, the violations of internal rules and misuse of fire which was a special threat to the easily inflammable Sarajevo. Some of the Jews moved to Dubrovnik, where they came across stronger religious barriers that negatively  affected their trading possibilities, as well as Split, where these barriers were much smaller.

In Bosnia itself, the Jews have always been on the side of the Turkish authorities, partially as a gratitude for the reception, and partially out of desire to avoid any unnecessary intruding in their work. From primary sources of the XVII century, it is clear that most of them were traders with good connections with Venice. They also visited Belgrade in neighboring Serbia, travelling first through Vlasenica and Zvornik, and then by ships to reach the city that is now the capital of Serbia.

The Jews in Sarajevo had their own temple, cemetery and a school. Most of them still had purely Spanish names and Turkish influence began to appear only at the end of the XVI century. In their short accounts of their travels through the Balkans, French geographers and artists Joseph de la Neziere and Henri Avelot say that Jews "still speak among each other in broken Spanish, and use Hebrew writing".

The attach of Prince Eugene of Savoy in 1697 caused tremendous damage to the Jews, and even the Orthodox Serbs, according to the accounts. Many of them were expelled from their lands and the Jewish ghetto in Sarajevo was completely burned down. In the XIII century Sarajevo had about 1000 Jews who were now managing to raise their reputation. Compared to Sarajevo, Belgrade had only about 30 families. However, focused on trade, Sarajevo Jews were not so well known for their education and interests in sciences, while Jews in Belgrade already opened up the first Jewish press which was actively working. Only some of Jews in Bosnia were involved in literary work.

Like the local Serbs, Jews in Sarajevo Bosnia had their own school, a municipal status and the obligation to pay income tax. Jews, in their majority, were however richer than most of the Serbs, mostly because of their trading activities. Only boys went to school. While men were actively engaged in trade - women shared the rights of other women of all religious confessions in areas under the Ottoman influence. Women were rarely seen alone in the streets and were fully covered when leaving home, hiding from unnecessary male attention. This was done by the Orthodox, the Catholics and the Jews. This situation considerably slowed down the education of women int he Balkans. Neither Jews nor Christians were allowed to wear those costumes worn by the Turks (Muslims). Despite this, The Jews avoided interference with Ottoman politics and preferred to settle in the centers of Turkish authority - for example, in Travnik, the main city of Turkish authority in Bosnia. The Jews also paid for the construction of bridges, roads and other facilities, and had to be personally involved in the construction of military objects. It was rather expensive to pay off in order to get an approval not to work on Saturdays - the Holy day.

With the arrival of Austro-Hungarian rule, a large number of Ashkenazi Jews arrived in Sarajevo who merged with the local Sepahrdic Jews. After the first World War by 1926 there were about 13 000 Jews in Bosnia, and in 1941 the number increased to 14 000, most of them living in Sarajevo. 

With the onset of the Second World War, the story of Jewish Sarajevo ends sadly, but not the history that the Jewish population has made here. The invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941 by the Nazi troops and their allies turned Bosnia-Herzegovina into a region under direct control of the Independent State of Croatia - a pro-Nazi puppet state whose national policies were rarely different from those of Nazi Germany. In July 1941, the decree on the establishment of an ethnically homogenized state came out which meant the cleansing of Serbs, Gypsies and, of course, the Jews. In 1941 the leader of the Ustase movement Ante Pavelic states that "the Jews will be liquidated within a very short time". As soon as in September of the same year, the first deportations to concentration begin, with most of the Bosnian Jews deported to Auschwitz or to concentration camps in Croatia. In Jasenovas alone hundreds of thousands of people were killed, mostly Serbs, thousands of Gypsies and 32 000 of Jews.

By the end of the war, of 14 000 Jews in Sarajevo, about 10 000 were killed. Those who survived did so thankfully to their participation in the fighting with the Yugoslav, Jewish or Soviet partisans, or they fled to the territory under Italian control on the Dalmatian coast. A large number of the remaining Jews in urban areas of Bosnia eventually merged with the local population, while the last of them fled Sarajevo at the beginning of the last war - Israel itself organized the evacuation of Jews in the besieged city.

While the story of Jewish Bosnia is over, the history remains. There are various synagogues and cemeteries in Sarajevo, Bihac and Tuzla, none of which function. There are about 1000 people of Jewish origin in the country. 

Sarajevo Haggadah - a symbol of Sarajevo's Jewish history - was at the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1894. Different people of various nationalities and religions took care of the sacred book for a long time and it is thanks to them that the rarity has been preserved during the Second World War. The Nazi occupiers made a great effort to find and destroy the book, which was secretly taken out by the museum's staff and stored in a mountain village until the end of the war in 1945. The book met a similar fat in 1992, when it was taken out of the gallery and stored in the underground vault of the National Bank.

In January 2002 the Haggadah was once again returned on public display, but in October 2012 the National Museum was closed due to lack of funding. The book is rumored to be behind the closed walls of the museum, with no electricity or necessary historical document preservation conditions. In 2013 the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art proposed to exhibit the manuscript, but the proposal was rejected. The ancient book has survived the Spanish Inquisition, the Nazi occupation and the Balkan war, only to fall victim to corruption in divided Bosnia, where museums of a single, unified history of one country are no longer needed. 

Additional reading: 

Corovic, V. (1925). Bosna i Hercegovina, Beograd: Sprska knjizevna zadruga.

Cerkez, A. (2013). Sarajevo Haggadah: Bosnia's prized Jewish manuscript won't snow in NYC, The Huffington Post, June 2nd. Available: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/06/sarajevo-haggadah-bosnia-prized-jewish-manuscript-wont-show-in-nyc_n_2632809.html [Accessed 22nd January 2013].

Samokovlija, S. (2007). Judaizam. Nedjeljiva vjera i tradicija: micve i obicaji, El Mundo Sefarad. Available: http://elmundosefarad.wikidot.com/zidovi-u-bosni-i-hercegovini-judaizam [Accessed 22nd January 2013].

Avelot, H. & De La Neziere, J. (1896.) Crna Gora, Bosna i Hercegovina, Cigoja Stampa: Beograd, 2006. 

Mazower, M. (2004). Salonika, city of ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430 - 1950, New York: Vintage Books.

Postcrossing Folklore Selection - 1 (Norway, Poland, Netherlands, Finland, Russia).

I have been into Postcrossing for quite some time now, and I am pleased and surprised so far, even though the whole idea of receiving a card a day (or at least a week!) is being smashed by the inefficient and extremely slow services of Emirates Post, as well as the strange address structure in the country.

To put it simple, there are no addresses in the UAE and POBox numbers are used. There is, however, an option to purchase a (rather expensive) personal POBox located  at the local post office or to have the mail delivered directly to you. The first one is the best one for the price, but we are yet to move to it because people are constantly moving houses here and it is not an option to move to a different post office area every other time. The second one is too costly for us, and having had a horrible experience with the so called express package delivery companies that did not deliver my items until I picked them up myself (and paid for the delivery services anyway), I am afraid to consider moving to a national post office company.

The result of this is that I have to use my mother's work POBox and the items are delivered to her work. 

Once a month.

For some reason.

Just in case you do not know what Postcrossing is - it is a website and a community of people who send each other postcards, usually in random order, and receive postcards from others in return. To use the quote from the website: 
"The goal of this project is to allow people to receive postcards from all over the world, for free. Well, almost free! The main idea is that: if you send a postcard, you will receive one back from a random Postcrosser from somewhere in the world."

So while I send new cards out there once a week and get notifications about them reaching their destinations throughout the month, once a month the happy day comes to and I receive a huge pack of postcards that cannot even fit into the box at once.  

Today is one of those, and the few best cards are to be showcased here from now on. I am especially happy when people with whom I did not have a direct swap but who sent me cards randomly read my profile and purposely sent me something tradition. There is a special place reserved in folk heaven for those people in future.

This one came from Norway and it is the largest card I have received so far. I will write down the original words on the other side of the card which describe the costume:

"The girl is wearing a bunad - Norwegian national costume - from the area of Fusa on the West coast. We have hundreds of geographical variations of bunads. They differ in terms of colour, embroidery, cut, jewellery and accessories. My bunad is local to where I live, the area Nedre Buskarud in the East. It's dark green with dark yellow and red embroidery and silver jewellery. It also comes in a black version but I prefer the green. Bunads are very popular here and worn on big occasions like weddings, christenings, the National Day (May 17th) and are also considered formal gala attire."

This one came from Kari and was an amazing postcard which might as well get a special frame and a place on the wall when I move houses next October. For the purpose of expanding my knowledge, I also searched for costumes from the region mentioned and this is what I found. Unfortunately, I lack knowledge of the north regions to be sure how authentic the costume on the photo is. But this card has surely given me some reason to study the area a little more in the nearest future.

Mijaks, Galicnik and the Galicnik Wedding Festival.

Mijaks are an ethnographic group of ethnic Macedonians who live in the Mijačija area (Dolna Reka), along the Radika river, in western Macedonia, numbering 30,000 - 60,000 people. Since the XIX century, Macedonia saw a massive emigration of the Mijak population from their villages. In the first half of the 19th century, the Mijak village of Galicnik had about 150 000 sheeps, while after 1912 the number decreased to 50 000. Stock raising and cattle breeding - the traditional means of survival for the Mijak population - were becoming largely threatened by the increasing customs barriers and it was becoming very hard to make a living. Material and personal threats were additional reasons for the mass emigration. MIjaks moved to Thessaloniki, Voden, Sofia, Stara-Zagora, Varna, Vidin, even to Romania and Ukraine, as well as Western Europe. A lot of Mijaks also moved to Skopje. 

Of course, most of the diaspora have been through cultural and social adaptation and have integrated themselves with the local communities they live with. with some people fully integrating into the local communities and most sending their children to local schools. Members of the Mijak diaspora usually name themselves Macedonians when abroad, but nevertheless like to define their regional identity. In the capital Skopje they tended to live in compact settlements, preserved national traditions and costumes, and were called by the locals as galicanci. Annual meetings also called Mijacki sredbi are held to preserve connection abroad, while large amounts of donations are aimed at the preservation of the Mijak villages abandoned by their inhabitants. Funds for road contstruction, electricity and water connections are collected in attempts to reduce the emigration from the areas and to encourage people to move back. However, not many of the diaspora who sponsor this are themselves interested to return. Because of this, many of the reconstructed homes in  Mijak villages are sometimes used as summer houses by the diaspora pensioners. 

A special focus is made on the tourism industry, one of the most important income sectors in the entire Balkan region after the war. The most important tradition of Mijaks, preserved until today, is annual Galičnik Wedding Festival (Galička Svadba) and it is preserved and reconstructed until this day largely thanks which begins each year on 12 July, on Saint Peter feast day (Petrovden), and lasts for 5 days. It's the only period of the year when, traditionally, couples can get married. In nowadays, a couple is chosen to receive the wedding and be shown on national television. During the wedding, men dance teškoto oro (literally "the hard one"). 

The Costume

Philatelist Folklore - The Stamps of Former Yugoslavia

Some philatelist folklore from me today. Below are the scans of some postcards I have from Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. These were sent to me when I was still in Belgrade and some of them got wet in the postal box because it was winter and there was snow. The envelope was wet too, so I spent some time figuring out how to get the stamps off each other - there were some that were glued to each other from all sides. I did solve it when back in Dubai: used a bowl with heating water and the steam, placed a metal mesh over the bowl, placed the stamps on the mesh and carefully separated them from each other with metal tweezers. Voila! As a rather active post-crossing member (forced to make pauses once in a while when Emirates Post delivers my cards three months later all in a single pack), post stamps receive special attention from me. 

So, one from Macedonia. A male dance Teskoto Oro is shown here, the video of which I have placed in the link under the name filmed at "Balkan u pesmi i igri" concern two years ago, which I attended when in Belgrade for winter - a concert of national folk dance ensembles Filiip Kutev from Bulgaria, Kolo from Serbia and Tanec from Macedonia. 

"Geografically, the dance and the costume it is performed in originate from the region of Galicnik located at Mount Bistra in the north-west Macedonia." 
On the stamps below are women dressed in traditional costumes from Serbia. They wear rich embroidered dresses and white linen shirts, with jeleks - the embroidered short vests common to the Balkan region. The second and fourth ladies are also wearing the zubuns above the costumes.

More stamps below...

Ethnic photo shoot in the desert

Before I start this post, I want to say that I am rather late with this. In fact, I actually had to re-check and ensure that I did not already post this before, and then spent a minute wondering why I have not done so. The 'news' actually come from almost a year ago - February 2013, to be precise. Zorica, a Serbian friend living here in Dubai, came over for a visit for the first time and the initial intention was to see my traditional costume collection (I did, by that time, already take a photo in her East Bosnian costume back in her house, but the photos turned out horrible). Having dressed up in the Kyustendil costume of mine, Zorica, who is also a former Serbian traditional dance performer (or wait, is there such thing as a FORMER FOLK dance performer? Or does folklore take the rest of your life and you cease to exist without folklore?), decided to let me make some camera clicks. But this was not enough - I dressed up in whatever I had left (I did not have my Croatian dress at that time and stuck to the Asian side of it, with some Turkoman hats and coats, and an Afghan belt), and we went outside. Yes, outside. Yes, we were in the elevator, and yes, people saw us. They stared. But that is their problem - I always urge people to question their perceptions of normality, after all.

Having taken some shots in the garden outside my building, we went to take some clicks outside the residential area, which, in y opinion, represents the area much better - sand, sand, sand everywhere, and very tall skyscrapers outside.

So here come the clicks we have done that sunny February.

I am wearing a hat from Afghanistan and a Turkoman silk coat worn by Turkoman tribe women, also commonly seen on wedding costumes worn above other coats. The sleeves are finished off with black silk and embroidered with silk threads of white, red and yellow colours. My dress underneath is a modern dress with an ethnic look from one of the shops, and my belt is an Afghan belt with metal coins which I removed at the moment. It is decorated with red, white and black embroidery and the very bottom is also embroidered with two rows of white beads. The belt buckles are replaced with stone beats sewn in a round shape and both sides are finished off with a rope. 

Zorica is wearing a Bulgarian Kyustendil costume and Serbian pafte - Balkan belt buckles - because I do not own the original Bulgarian ones, usually round in shape, on contrast to the leaf-like shape of the Serbian ones. A similar costume is also worn in Serbian Bosilegrad on the border with Bulgaria. The while dress under the saya coat is made of pure linen and consists of two parts: the top, which starts from the shoulders and reaches down until the knees in a straight cut, and the bottom, which is a little wider and is sewn to the top part. The sleeves and the bottom seam are finished off with thick lace. 

The saya on top is made from very thick cotton and is also richly embroidered in the front and on the sleeves. Golden thread embroidery on top of the sleeves, on the shoulders and around the embroidery in front completes the item. The apron she wears is not originally from this costume, but is from the same area. A red, colourful apron is worn on holidays and weddings.

Below are the rest of the photos:

Photos from Global Village - Dubai

The big festival is open again and this year the European pavilions have been divided to become separate countries. There is really little I can write about it, so a short summary of where I went and what I did would be fine.

To put it simply - so far Europe never managed to showcase something interesting, with most of the products being very commercial and almost all of them made in Turkey (or China). But then again, it is Global Village, and while my understanding of an area where cultures meet would include costumes, traditions, national food and similar, the reality of today's global is a little closer to what I see in Global Village - commercial products sold across the world, majority of them made by cheap labour in China. No one wants to miss the cheap candy! 

For a good exception, Bulgaria once showcased their Rose products, while Bosnia-Herzegovina had set up an entire bakery and sold traditional Bosnia bureks. Having spent almost half a year in the Balkans, and Bosnia being one of my most preferred, if not favorite, of them all, the delicacies had made me forget about my financial problems and I spent most of my cash on the food. Really missed these Zvornik guys this year. 

Me in 2012, wearing anything I managed to purchase on the venue but had no bag to put it into. And a Bosnian burek in my hands, of course! 

The place does look a little empty now. Albania sold their traditional costumes too, those were a beauty one cannot forget, I almost bought a jelek from them too, but they were, for some reason that I know, but would rather not discuss, set up to represent Macedonia and I did end up having an unintentional and rather unexpected awkward moment trying to figure out why did my Serbian not work when trying to greet the Macedonians, before I realised they were just.. not Macedonians. Turned out they did speak Serbian though.

Ironically, the separation of European pavilion into separate country representatives has now made it almost impossible for less well-off countries like Bosnia, Albania or others to set up a stall of their own. What this means is that countries wishing to participate now have to agree on an entire pavilion, which costs a whole load of money that most of them simply do not have. For a comparison - I do not remember Russia ever having a stall at all, although I am sure my motherland does have money. 

But back to the year of 2013. 

Recycle, reuse Slavic Folklore Style or how KFC Ronaldo Clock turned Polish.

Before I begin with another short hand-made makeover entry of mine, let me warn you in advance: if you like football more than anything else, and especially if you like this Ronaldo (this is Ronaldo, right?) guy more than anyone else, this post is NOT for you! If you do not fall into either of these categories, then watch 

On my way from my early Greek classes to the office today I ran into the nearest KFC before getting into the bus and ordered a kids' meal without a toy. I actually always have to tell them not to give me the toy, I buy the meal for it's relatively smaller size and price. No, really! I don't need the toy. The lady still suggested I take one of the toys and told me she had a nice large posted with one of the football stars, so I had to agree and while the meal was being served, I started listing inside my head all the people I knew and wondering whether there is anyone with a child who I could pass the toy to instead of throwing it in the bin and doing my slight damage to the environment. There was no one, so I tried to tell her again that I did not need the toy, before noticing a nice simple square clock in the toy selection section.

Oh, and I just noticed it actually says Ronaldo on the clock, so I was not wrong. So here was the nice toy, and I took it for free with my KFC Child Meal, because from the first second I saw it, I knew what it was going to turn into. This was love from the first sight, and my folk senses proved to be working just well.

I printed a nice Lowicz ornament in the office and placed it neatly inside my Greek book before returning home and beginning a new quick makeover which I give to most of the things that are 'not traditional enough to stay inside my house' and yet 'not recyclable enough to be thrown away to be bin'.

So here is the nice cutout ornament from Lowicz, somewhat similar to the ones I used to paint the cup.

Memo Board turns into a Jewellery Hanger

Another makeover from over here. The memo board that I had was not used for it's original purpose from the start as I hardly look at it, so I first used it to display my postcard collection, but the postcard number was increasing and there was no more place for them, while there was nothing I wanted to post on it that would not ruin the entire look of  the studio apartment I stay in. At the same time, I had a lot of ethnic jewelry that was getting tangled in the boxes, so this is when the idea came.

Simple pins were used for holding the jewelry, although I could not hang all of it. I am also planning to replace them with something more beautiful, or paint them in white or blue. Then I painted the wooden sides in white acrylic and placed my jewellery on it. You can see some of the pieces fro Afghanistan, particularly those earrings in the middle, as well as the pendant above them. The red necklace on the right was made by me and I was trying to replicate a Hutsul necklace from Ukraine. The red necklace on the left is a simple wooden necklace that I purchased in Zlatibor, Serbia, in 2010. There is a set with the same earrings which I usually wear with all my folk costumes.