Encounters with Balkan ethnography

GDP

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An exhibition representing the ethnographic cultural traditions of Balkans and their multi-layered identities entitled "Textiles and Decoration in the Culture of the Serbs in the 19th and the First Half of the 20th Centuries" was inaugurated by Rashmi Verma, Secretary in the Ministry of Culture & Tourism, last week. This fantastic art display has been organised by the National Museum in collaboration with the Ethnographic Museum of Belgrade and would be on display till 31 August.

In his speech, the Serbian Ambassador Vladimir Maric recalled the relentless efforts of the National Museum staff in Delhi led by Director General BR Mani and Director of Serbia's Ethnographic Museum Mirjani Menkovic for making this happen.

Explaining the genesis, Menkovic says, "Well, the idea actually came from our Ambassador Maric. He first met me in 2014 and proposed showcasing Serbian textiles and culture. Presentations were made and our efforts started. For the Ethnographic Museum at Belgrade, this was a great challenge and now we are here."

In spite of being geographically a small country, Serbia has an extremely rich and diverse cultural heritage right from the beginning of the Roman and Byzantine empires. For the exhibition, one of the chief purposes was to display traditional handicrafts. Textile creation and colliding to something which is mutual to both Indian and Serbian cultures was the other goal.

Then there are wedding trousseaus. Bridal jewellery, which is typical of some parts of the central Balkan zone and the central part of Serbia and people here in India, give a shared bond. The most important characteristic of the bridal dress is the diverse range of scarves, head covers and neck ornaments because for local small communities it is very important for the woman to give a clear indication about her status. So the vest, the garment and the jewellery are used in accordance. The styles in the bridal costume ~ flowers, jewellery and the peacock ~ have similarities with Indian culture. They reflect the socio-economic status of the family as well.

The theme of the exhibition focuses on Serbian material culture, based on which the display is thematically sub-divided into three sections ~ carpetmaking; Pirot Kilim-making, and the role of jewellery in the traditional bridal outfit. These objects, both visually and technically, are diverse and represent a variety of materials and techniques used by the indigenous people of this region.

Speaking about common ground of both cultures, Menkovic remarks, "The geometrical patterns in the textiles and the embroidery used are so common. There are similarities in jewellery shapes too, though India is rich in material. Ring shapes are so familiar. The importance of family embedded in either cultures is another striking similarity. We too preserve our cultures irrespective of being in modern age."

"Indian culture is the most exciting. For the Ethnographic Film Festival in Belgrade, this year is dedicated to Indian films. Good contacts with the Indian Embassy in Belgrade help us conduct lectures, film shows on our shared culture and heritage, " she adds.

This exhibition gives a detailed insight on Serbian culture to all visitors and may motivate some to visit the Balkan nation. The event was attended by Indian dignitaries, representatives of the diplomatic corps, media as well as various educational and cultural institutions.

 

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