If someone ever asks you to give them a lesson in the complexities of Balkan history, diversity of Balkan ethnography, and fluidity of Balkan linguistics, just point them to Vlasina and Krajište. It’s got it all.
I’m often asked why I do the things I do. Why I teach, why I collect, why I’m doing this blog. I can only think of my late kum Rastko Aleksandrov, who was an excellent cardiac surgeon but an even more passionate birdwatcher. He travelled the world photographing bird species, and published a book on the migratory birds of Serbia. Kum Rastko told me once that people devote a different kind of energy to their hobby than to their job, no matter how much they love what they do for a living. This has stuck with me, and it rang true when I began learning more about Nikola Arsenović, one of the most prolific ethnographers to document South Slavic costume, and one of the most obsessed people in his field during his time. Continue reading
Like most Slavic groups, the Serbs have a tradition of patrilineal descent reckoning, and this is reflected in many aspects of the culture, for example, inheritance of the slava or family patron saint. The kindred of a Serb can include individuals spanning ten generations; the Ѕerbian language has carefully defined these people with respect to their various roles and relationships in a rich vocabulary of kinship terminology.
Quick! Think of a Serbian folk song. A traditional one. Now, I’m guessing that at least half of you thought of a song that involved a shepherd or shepherdess, a flock of sheep, or something pastoral like that. This is how deeply rooted the idyllic shepherd’s life is in Serbian culture. Continue reading
Throughout their history, Slavic men’s costumes invariably have included some sort of vest or sleeveless upper garment. It is known among Eastern, Western and Southern Slavs, and the Serbs (belonging to the Southern Slavic branch) are certainly no exception. The vest, or jelek, has changed over the centuries, influenced by the cultures that shaped our history.
North of the Sava and Danube rivers, there is a vast plain sandwiched between branches of the Carpathian and Alpine mountain ranges. In prehistory, it was a great inland sea; today, it is an area of fertile land, peppered history and vibrant folkloric heritage. This is the Pannonian Zone.
The preparation of textile fibres and the production of fabrics engaged Serbian peasants for much of their year. While some tasks were performed by both men and women, it was the woman’s prerogative to produce threads and yarns from processed fibres using their spindle and distaffs, their preslice and their vretena. Continue reading
There is perhaps no costume element more elegant than the libade, a woman’s garment that became part of the urban costume. Its adoption into Serbian textile culture and spread throughout Serbian lands has some interesting historic roots. Continue reading