This brilliant idea has thus bridged three continents and showcased the creative potential of young people in the homeland and the diaspora. We certainly expect to see the Toys at Heart project join the ranks of other long-standing and fruitful CHF programmes and that these toys will continue to find their way into our hearts for decades to come.
Croatian Heritage Foundation headquarters was the scene on the 4th of December for a multimedia exhibition of the winning artwork, photography, video and literary works created by children and youth in the Croatian communities around the world and from schools in Croatia. The competition saw the participation of over two hundred children and forty mentors in Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Italy, the United States of America, Serbia, Sweden and Germany.
Toys at Heart is a multimedia international programme inspired by our traditional culture. The project is a joint effort of the Croatian Heritage Foundation, the Croatian School of Boston (USA) and the Croatian Studies Foundation of Sydney (Australia), joined by Croatian language schools, Roman Catholic missions, associations, and other relevant ethnic Croatian institutions abroad. It aims to encourage the development of creativity among children and youth, to teach and promote Croatian traditional culture, nurture our language and create links and networks between the homeland and diaspora.
On hand for the opening of the exhibition in Zagreb were children from Bački Monoštor, Čitluk, Sovići, Dubrovnik, Ljubuški, Bregana and Zagreb. The event included a workshop on authentic Croatian toys and an In Honour of Wood workshop. The exhibited works of the competition participants, participating schools in Croatia and participants of the Little School of Croatian Language and Culture were submitted in four categories (artwork, photography, multimedia and literary). Also on hand for the opening of the event were students of design of the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Architecture.
The first part of the programme covered the competition conducted by all three coordinators/organisers. This wrapped up beautifully with the exhibition at the CHF headquarters. The opening of the exhibition and the workshop on authentic Croatian toys and the In Honour of Wood workshop were streamed in real time on the Internet.
The event at the CHF headquarters opened with a performance by the children’s section of the Bodrog Croatian Culture and Arts Society of Bački Monoštor, wearing folk costumes, followed by a welcome from the project head Lada Kanajet Šimić. Also on hand to greet everyone was CHF director Mijo Marić. Guests of honour at the event were the personal representative of the President of Croatia Renata Margetić Urlić, state secretary Zvonko Milas as the personal representative of the Prime Minister, Maja Zrnčić as the personal representative of the Minister of Culture, president of the CHF board of directors Milan Kovač and representatives of the City of Zagreb department of culture.
The welcome greetings were followed by an excerpt from one of the prize-winning works, read by Gabrijela Dugančić of Čitluk and a Christmas song played on the tamburitza by Karolina Šoić of Bregana. Also on hand to greet everyone on behalf of the organisers was the exhibition author and the head of our culture department Snježana Jurišić. There were also greetings from the personal representatives of the President and Prime Minister, and a video message from pupils attending Croatian language instruction in Sweden’s Helsingborg and their teacher Martina Mihalić. A greeting to everyone gathered for the Zagreb event was also sent from pupils in Australia. Speaking ahead of the presentation of the prizes were Goranka Forjan, the director of partner institution the Ethnographic Museum, and writer Nada Zidar Bogadi, a member of the panel of judges.
The prizes and recognitions were presented to the competition participants from Herzegovina, Vojvodina and Croatia by Croatian Heritage Foundation director Marić, with many gifts also presented and photos taken. The final act in the programme was a ganga performed for the delighted audience by Marija Spajić, Petra Spajić, Marija Bušić and Lana Galić of Fra Stipana Vrljića Elementary School in Sovići.
The exhibition and the project that led up to it are a significant new success for the Croatian Heritage Foundation, above all for our education, science and sports department head and our culture department head. It has also seen a very fruitful long-term collaboration with Irena Stanić Rašin, the director of the Croatian School of Boston, and with Jasna Novak Milić, the secretary of the Croatian Studies Foundation of Sydney. This brilliant idea has thus bridged three continents and showcased the creative potential of young people in the homeland and the diaspora. In his greetings CHF director Marić noted that the Croatian torch was in safe hands among our youth abroad, while state secretary Milas, opening the exhibition, noted that this project was a message and living proof of Croatian unity. We certainly expect to see the Toys at Heart project join the ranks of other long-standing and fruitful CHF programmes and that these toys will continue to find their way into our hearts for decades to come.
By: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek; Photography: Snježana Radoš