On the occasion ofthe Croatian Christmas Charity Concert
In Canberra , 9thof December 2000
REGIONALRICHNESS OF CROATIAN CULTURALHERITAGE
Dr Mladen Ibler,Ambasasador of Croatia
The contrasts of modern world somebody named it global village with its welfare on the side andpoverty and destruction on the other side, incites us from time to time to lookback to human, ethical, religious and cultural heritage in the hope finding ananswer for a better future.
In this context, folk artspresent a part of human cultural heritage as typical community-oriented art,i.e. the artistic expression of an ethnic environment, attached to traditions,primitive life conditions, and depending upon aesthetic views of many bygonegenerations.
The quality of folk arts variesaccording to single geographic areas and regions. There is one type of peasanthandworks in France or Holland, and another in Croatia or in Ukraine. There isno doubt that in Croatian folk arts many traces are left by the culturalheritage. So, for example, influences of antiquity Byzantine and West-European(particularly baroque) art are well discernible. But these assimilatedinfluences of cultural art can in no way be taken as standards fordeterming the inner qualities of folk arts.
In the Croatian folk arts manytraditional elements are preserved, which testify that folk arts has in itselfretained several ancient forms, some of which date as far back asprehistorically times.
The origin of peasant carving,pottery, building, weaving and design are to be sought in the many regions whereCroats lived trough their long history. Some of these cultural activities mayhave originated from their former homelands the areas around the modernKrakow in Poland and the regions in Iran. Others began and were adopted in theirpresent country of Croatia. Some cultural products, the origins of which havebeen traced back to the Mediterranean shores, are called Preroman or Roman.
Throughout the ages, manycultural influences have come to Croatia from other European areas, too fromPannonian areas and the Alpine areas, from the Germanic north, the Christian andMoslem east, the Apenine west and particularly from Venice in Italy. In thisway, significant artwork differentiations developed among different Croatiansregions, and were carried on in peasant art, especially in the regions ofBosnia, Herzegovina and Dalmatia.
The richness of Croatian folkart and its regional differences is well expressed in peasant cloth and items ofadornment for daily use, such as towels, bandanas and pouches.
Ornament is the typical formtrough which the artistic life of the peasant manifested itself throughgenerations. In Croatia typical ornamental motives are dots, straight and wavylines, vegetal configurations, geometrical figures, especially triangles andcircles, and triple-plait, carved in wood or stone, or embroided on clothe(three woolen or cord tails vowen through each other). These motives representsthe artistic form which bears the stamp of social environment from which itsprung up, notably an economic and social community.
The northern region of Croatia,between the Sava and Drava Rivers, and the territory surrounding the Kupa River,are areas in which the peasants showed great skill in tailoring, dying and inproducing decorative pieces, such as veils, aprons, shoulderttes and socks.
The best-preserved central areaor nucleus of the ancient art of dressmaking in its various forms is along theregion upper Posavina, east of Croat capital Zagreb. In the south innorthwestern and western Bosnia, and all of Herzegovina, the Dalmatian Zagora(Dalmatian hinterland), northern Dalmatia and Lika the art work of people isdistinctive, particularly with regards to vests, shirts, aprons, veils, socksand slippers, all of which are richly decorated.
A common characteristic ofCroatian peasant dress is its fine color harmony. Harmonious color combinations,achromatic black and white combined with red, yellow and blue, create beautifulcolor schemes. In some regions dominates red color, in other white, and in someregions black; so it is easy for an observer to recognize from which part of thecountry originates the particular costume.
Generally, red color plays theessential role. Among the secondary colors are violet, orange, purple and green.Violet is Croatian favorite color and more especially the shade of violet. Inevery combination of colors, the most favored colors are bright ones.
It has been said that Croatianpeasant costumes, revealing very fine taste, are among the richest and mostpicturesque costumes in the world.
For many past generations of theCroat people, folk arts with its ornaments, colors and rhythm of motives was notmerely a decoration, but what is important to note an expression oftheir inner life, ideals and religious riches. For Croatian peasants thisdecorative art amounted to what for urban population were large buildings.
One must bear in mind that alongwith the process of modernization goes also the decay of folk arts. This processcaused by the alteration of the economic structure of the village during the 20thcentury and cannot be stopped by any means. This decay is the result ofhistorical changes and economic transformation.
The tradition of folk artshowever, has to be preserved. It is not enough to store it inside the walls ofethnographic museums and scientific institutions. It is necessary to keep italive trough school programs. Courses, open exhibitions and festivals suchas International Folklore Festival in Zagreb and trough the use of peasantdress at public and family celebrations, as could be still seen in Norway,Sweden and Faeroes.
One could provide many answersto the question, why it should be necessary to preserve folk arts. The mostimportant ones are the following:
Folk art is one of the basic andoldest forms of cultural expression of human being and its inner spiritual life,enriched by national and regional differences.
When it dies, a great deal of human souldies, too.