Folklore Dance and Intercultural Dialogue

Published October 24, 2018 by Maja B Lolic

Intercultural Dialogue, Folklore Dance, Bosnia And Herzegovina, NGO "Pomozimo Djeci", Identity, Cultural Heritage, Citizenship

The world would be much safer place if more people understood different cultures and tried to consider points of view of "other" groups.

Of course, one of the best ways to do that is through art. We could even speak about art therapy on a collective level. Different mediums can be used; literature, drama, visual arts, music and dance. Each of those mediums plays a significant role.

I was looking for an adequate way to promote intercultural dialogue among children when I decided to choose folklore dance as a medium. I created a project with the aim of bringing together children who belong to different ethnic and religious backgrounds to dance traditional folklore dances characteristic of the geographic location (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

It was taken in the village of Bistrica - Josikova Voda, municipality of Banja Luka in the spring of 2018

In the 1961 census, the municipality of Bronzani Majdan had 18,046 inhabitants and included villages: Bistrica, Borkovići, Bronzani Majdan, Vilusi, Golesi, Zelenci, Kmećani, Melina, Obrovac, Pervan Gornji, Pervan Donji, Radmanići, Slavićka, Stratinska and Subotica. Later this municipality was abolished and the local communities were connected to Banja Luka. Unfortunately, this area remained underdeveloped. With the long-awaited opening of the road to Sanski Most, development of this neglected part of our municipality finally began.

Two primary schools are active within the district but, with falling pupil numbers, cultural aspects of the curriculum are almost non-existent.

Approximately, 800 children live in this area. Unfortunately, there is no accurate data. We did not manage to get the information we wanted in local communities, but we came to figures using data from primary schools. Two primary schools are active in the area - "Mladen Stojanović" is located in Bronzani Majdan and has three regional units: Kmećani, Melina and Stratinska. The total number of pupils is 216, plus 16 enrolled for the upcoming school year. In Bistrica there is the elementary school "Miroslav Antić" and has two regional units: Borkovići and Pervan. The total number of pupils is 205, plus 17 enrolled for the upcoming school year. A further 250 pupils from these areas travel to "Sveti Sava" school. We have determined this number according to the list of students using monthly tickets for public transport (traveling over 4 kilometres). The total number of pupils according to this data is 704.

NGO "Pomozimo djeci" established a special unit, the Youth Centre of Bistrica and Bronzani Majdan and initiated numerous activities. We have a vision on how to make young people open their minds and communicate with their neighbours. Especially relevant to note is that Sanski Most belongs to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and is inhabited by a Bosniac majority. Banja Luka, on the other hand, belongs to the Republic of Srpska and is inhabited by a Serb majority.

The project focuses on intercultural dialogue and common identity through cultural heritage. This has enabled children – belonging to different nations and religions – the opportunity to accept the possibility of defining themselves not purely by ethnic or religious lines, but by citizenship and geographic position. What children need and appreciate is time to play and try new things. This is exactly what we intended to offer. We created a school of folklore dance for children in this area, and later we organised a common event where children met to dance together and meet each other.

In addition, we have organised a study visit to the Mosque in Bronzani Majdan and Orthodox Church "Sveta Petka" in Josikova Voda, Bistrica. Many Bosniacs had never entered an Orthodox church and many Serbs had never entered a mosque. This is due to the communist regime labelling religion as "the opium of the people", not to mention later civil war and further religious clashes. This has been a great opportunity for both groups to see that there are so many beautiful things in both traditions.

This post has been written by Maja B Lolic, President of NGO “Pomozimo djeci” (Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina). Details of the NGO can be found here. Maja is an alumna of the Woolf Institute having undertaken the online course, Jews, Christians and Muslims in Europe: Modern Challenges. She is currently taking Representations of Jewish-Christian Relations in Literature.

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