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.
My interest in costume comes from a variety of angles. One of those is the physical origin of the threads, yarns and fabrics from which they’re made. There are historic, cultural and even biogeographical reasons for the various raw materials any culture uses, and the Serbs have their own story, too.
Nicknamed “the Chameleons of the Balkans”, the Cincari or Aromani are perhaps one of the smallest, yet most influential ethnic groups that has lived among the Serbs. Continue reading
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
An eternal question, one that pops up very frequently in Serbian folk songs… Sorry, Madonna – before you, it was the Serbs who asked, “Who’s that girl?”
A coloured egg at Easter is a joyous reminder of spring, of rebirth and resurrection. The art of egg decoration almost died out entirely among the Serbs, but has survived through the traditional lives of remote villagers and the efforts of educators, museums and cultural institutions in both Serbia and the diaspora. Continue reading
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
Serbs still widely celebrate their old calendar (julian calendar) new year. Unlike the gregorian new year, which they often call kalendarska or gradjanska nova godina (calendar or civil new year), the 14th of January is called many things: srpska nova godina (Serbian new year), pravoslavna nova godina (Orthodox new year), and confusingly, stara nova godina (old new year). However, the oldest traditional name for this day is Vasilica – the feast of St. Basil.
Probably one of the most well-known paintings in the art heritage of Serbia, “Preparing the Bride” by 19th century Serbian painter Paja Jovanović, is a favourite of mine. It has been reproduced on cards, posters, as needlepoint, even on the lids of chocolate boxes, and is a snapshot of a time that has past but is still somehow remembered by the collective Serbian psyche.