The Influence of the Covid-19 Pandemic od the Practice of Certain Elements ICH and Transfer to Young People – Experiences from Local Communities
(Within the pilot project “Digitization and preservation of elements of intangible cultural heritage 2021.” – UNESCO’s project implemented by the Society for DTKB Široki Brijeg in partnership with Section CIOFF® BiH in three local communities)
As part of the project, we paid special attention to research on crisis situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on the preservation of ICH elements. Through seminars for local communities, we clarified the importance of continuity in the transfer of ICH for their preservation and discussed examples in practice that were a good response to the challenges.
We then designed questionnaires through which local teams collected data on the experiences of ICH holders and transmitters in their area and local communities’ response to the crisis in terms of ICH preservation, by providing data on each element of ICH present in their area.
Local teams submitted completed questionnaires to project managers.
Based on the data thus obtained, we present this summary of the report.
1. Traditional events held on the occasion of religious holidays (several places in Puračić and the surrounding area – Muslims; St. George’s Day and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Derventa – Orthodox, Ivandanski svitnjaci, Assumption and St. Anthony in Široki Brijeg – Catholic), or on the basis of folk beliefs and legends or traditional annual farming and livestock activities (Dovišta Ratiš and others – invocation of rain, Purački vašer; Our Lady’s Fair in Derventa; Bilska Misa and Orovnik in the vicinity of Široki Brijeg) are events that have centuries of continuity and gather a large number of participants. In addition to the religious part within each ritual controlled by the local religious community, these events are meeting places, presentations and promotions of traditional handicrafts, traditional dishes, traditional ceremonies and traditional songs, dances, costumes – in short: places where all elements of traditional culture can be seen, to hear, feel, taste and smell. These events are the core of the cultural identity of local communities.
At the time of the pandemic, respecting the protection measures, the religious part of the events was adjusted to the prescribed number of participants, the duration of the ritual, the distance, wearing masks, etc. through the competent religious organizations.
In this way, the number of participants was drastically reduced.
Public festivities and gatherings that are an important component of these events do not have a responsible person or a named organizer. They take place spontaneously, there are no calls or programs, no pre-arranged roles. Therefore, the prescribed pandemic protection measures did not have a responsible person or institution for implementation. However, the number of participants, and thus spontaneous programs (songs, music, dance, traditional dishes, handicraft markets, etc.), has been reduced several times compared to the situation before the pandemic. Events with a traditionally particularly large number of participants, such as the Purački vašer, which has been held for 160 years, have been banned in 2021.
2. Traditional singing, playing, dancing and other traditional performing arts that have been passed on within the family from generation to generation, due to changes in the number of family members and lifestyles in this area have been passed on to new generations for decades through associations – cultural and artistic societies (abv. KUD). The work of KUDs in the conditions of a pandemic is considerably more difficult, in some segments and completely disabled by bans on socializing in order to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
The associations’ responses to these challenges showed ingenuity and the ability to adapt quickly. A large number of associations, using new technologies and social networks, organized distance learning. Audio materials recorded before the pandemic were used to teach singing and playing.
There were examples of learning traditional singing in nature, in secluded places, for small singing groups. This way of working helps that the thread of tradition transmission is not completely broken, but it cannot completely compensate for the socializing and sharing of tradition, which is the basis of these elements of ICH.
3. Traditional dishes, especially those that are prepared and served on special occasions, have lost their place in the community due to the reduction or cancellation of these manifestations during the pandemic. The skill of preparing and serving these dishes was passed on mainly to families. In the last few decades, recognizing their importance for the overall events, associations and festivals of folklore within their programs have organized workshops for the preparation of these dishes and their tasting at festivals.
The response of local communities to this challenge, according to the collected data, was diverse.
Some associations organized the preparation of traditional dishes and tastings as part of events held in a reduced form. KUDM Bosiljak Derventa organized workshops and tastings of traditional dishes within the CIOFF International Folklore Festival “Bosiljkovanje 2021”. KUD Puračić organized “sijela uz ćeteniju” – evening gatherings in the winter, with dancing, singing and preparation and tasting of traditional desserts – ćetenja. A particularly valuable positive example of preserving these skills during the pandemic was given by the association KUD Puračić. In that community (Muslims) it is customary to gather the family during the evening meal together after a full day of fasting in the month of Ramadan. When serving food, special attention is paid to the order of serving by type of food and drink, which after fasting will affect the body, etc. In order to preserve old recipes and the way of serving, KUD Puračić in its specially decorated space in the style of the old Bosnian house “Puračka sehara” organized the recording of a series of TV shows called “Ramadan sofra” in which they prepared and served dishes in the traditional way. A total of 54 traditional dishes were recorded for TV Tatabrada from Srebrenik and several shows for RTV Tuzla Canton. The shows were broadcast on their TV and youtube channels. These shows caused a great viewership, with some dishes having over half a million views. In addition, a large number of spectators sought contacts with the association, recipes, etc., and a large network of the same name was created.
4. Traditional crafts in pandemic conditions have not lost their importance. On the contrary, dealing with handicrafts such as embroidery, weaving, knitting, woodcarving, making ceramics and traditional musical instruments, knitting wicker items, etc., has a calming effect on people. Measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic included restricting people-to-people contacts, losing jobs and sometimes loved ones, distance school and constant bad news, which caused serious mental disorders to more people. Excess free time was spent by many in making handicrafts that acted as psychotherapy.
5. Herbalists, folk medicine: Pandemic Covid 19 and unknowns about the method of treatment, lack of adequate drugs and focus on strengthening immunity has contributed significantly to the inclusion of folk medicine and folk remedies to strengthen immunity.
Interest in learning about plants and their medicinal properties, as well as their effectiveness, has increased, which has increased the collection and use of these plants in strengthening immunity during the pandemic.
6 Folklore festivals as places to share traditional culture and a tool to increase the visibility and accessibility of ICH:
Folklore festivals could not be organized in the form and number in which they were held before the pandemic, precisely because of the restrictive measures prohibiting gatherings and the recommendations of the Crisis Staff. Most festivals have been canceled or postponed. Nevertheless, in the period of this report, KUDM Bosiljak managed to organize the international folklore festival “Bosiljkovanje 2021.”, with all the contents and a slightly changed program, adapted to the requirements of measures against the spread of the pandemic. Special emphasis should be placed on the role of KUDM Bosiljak in transmitting tradition to the youngest through all its programs, as well as the day within the festival “Bosiljkovanje” which is entirely dedicated to children’s programs. The festival “Evening of Folklore Vionica 2021.” was held in a reduced form. The traditional event in Široki Brijeg was held online, in the way that representatives of the association performed the usual open-air ceremonies with dancing and singing and provided a broadcast for the audience via the youtube channel. The “Dani ćaske Puračić” festival was not held in terms of CIOFF® rules. Instead, meetings of folklore societies with programs were organized during 4 weekends in July.
Regarding the preservation of the network of folklore associations and organizers of folklore festivals in BiH and international networks, numerous platforms have been designed through which “online workshops and folklore festivals” were held. Associations from three pilot local communities organized such events and participated in such events. The most massive such event in which they participated was the “Folklore Marathon 2021.” – a full-day program of folklore workshops on a global level, organized by CIOFF®.
** Intangible cultural heritage is a living tradition, which lives in the people who practice and transmit it, along with an important component of the audience, those who love and support it while enjoying their tradition. It is a social phenomenon. It has therefore suffered the most damage from measures to restrict movement and socialize to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
** Associations dealing with the preservation of cultural heritage have shown their ingenuity and creativity through numerous initiatives to maintain the continuity of transmission and promotion of tradition in a crisis situation.
** The slowness and insensitivity of state bodies in response to the crisis situation in terms of maintaining continuity in order to preserve ICH was noted. They generally did not recognize the threat to the preservation of the ICH caused by the pandemic, and did not support the described initiatives of the non-governmental sector.
*** Although the subject of this research was not the impact of demographic trends on the preservation of ICH, it is important to mention two points that are observed in this study.
* The first is the departure of young people from smaller communities to larger cities or abroad to continue their education (after the age of 18) and the emigration of families to more developed countries for economic reasons.
* The second is the impact of the war (1992-1995) in this area in terms of displacement and separation from the areas with which the ICH is associated, as well as the devastation of such areas, especially large demographic losses and long-term interruption of ICH transmission.
We believe that such influences are not unique to this area.
Therefore, we believe that this research at the global level and finding positive examples of responses to such challenges are necessary for ICH preservation processes.
Based on data collected from teams in local communities: Lukavac-Puračić, Derventa and Široki Brijeg, a summary of the report was made by:
Deputy Project Manager