The CHF played host to the presentation of a new book by Tomislav Žigmanov, a writer, philosopher and the current director of the Institute for the Culture of Bunjevo Croatians in Subotica and the accompanying exhibition of photographs by Augustin Juriga, the leading artistic photographer in the Croatian community of Vojvodina.
The Croatian Heritage Foundation played host March 13th to the presentation of a new book by Tomislav Žigmanov, a writer, philosopher and the current director of the Institute for the Culture of Bunjevac Croatians in Subotica. Accompanying the book presentation is an exhibition of photographs by Augustin Juriga, the leading artistic photographer in the Croatian community in Vojvodina, entitled “The Bunjevac Ways of the Cross”.
Last year Žigmanov’s book, Bunjevački Put križa – za osobnu pobožnost virujućeg svita (The Bunjevac Way of the Cross – For the Personal Devotions of Faithful Folk), won the first prize for a literary work on the theme of the Passion of the Christ, an award presented every third year by the Croatian Writers’ Society and the Passion Heritage Association. The book is published by the Ivan Antunović Catholic Institute for Culture, History and Spirituality of Subotica. Žigmanov is prominent for his leadership of the Institute for the Culture of Vojvodina Croatians, which has for the past five years worked to preserve and reaffirm Croatian culture in Serbia and its contemporary literary production.
Welcoming the gathered, Croatian Heritage Foundation director Marin Knezović noted that Žigmanov observes that Christian spirituality, living this spirituality and writing about it, is the right and obligation of every Christian. He also calls our attention, Knezović emphasised, to the heritage of the contemplation – a philosophy of sorts – of the Bunjevac peasant, and to a language and world that is inexorably disappearing, but that through ever more distant voices continues to pass vital messages on to contemporary man.
Following an interpretation of an Antun Horvat prayer by poet Žigmanov, Jasna Ivančić, a lexicographer with the Miroslav Krleža Lexicographical Institute, Tomislav Šovagović, a writer and journalist with the Glas Koncila magazine, and the author presented the book. The presentation was moderated by publicist Vesna Kukavica, head of the CHF publishing department and the long-standing editor of the Croatian Emigrant Almanac.
Among the many gathered for the presentation – friends of the CHF, literature enthusiasts and leading Bunjevac Croatians in Zagreb – were Petar Barišić, deputy head of office of the State Office for Croats Abroad and Dinko Šokčević, director of the Hungarian Culture Institute of Zagreb.
Jasna Ivančić gave an exhaustive and fascinating presentation of Tomislav Žigmanov’s The Bunjevac Way of the Cross. To those who know Žigmanov’s oeuvre it comes as no surprise that he takes a somewhat surprising approach to a topic, employing an intriguing use of the Bunjevac dialect or some other literary component, but this time he has done so in an entirely innovative manner. The book is structured along the lines of the prayer of the stations of the cross, built up over centuries in folk prayer books, and the author leads us into it with a preparatory prayer, followed by the fourteen stations of the Passion of the Christ – each bearing its own title. Each station opens and closes with the established canon of prayer. Unfolding in the introduction, i.e. the preparatory prayer, is the spiritual and real world of the chief protagonist, Bunjevac Croatian Antun Horvat, the “last farmer from Sebešić”.
“And so Žigmanov, in the melodious, archaic Bunjevac Ikavian dialect, leads us – with an exceptional knowledge of the Bunjevac psychology – through a rich and layered text full of fine detail and human warmth, wrapped in folk piety, full of comparisons, and an ironic take on human stupidity and malice. The format and binding of the book, reminiscent of old prayer books, corresponds wonderfully with the archaic quality of the text, while the photographs of damaged and derelict roadside crosses by Augustin Juriga and the drawings of the stations of the cross and the decorative initials of Ante Rudinski nicely complement them. The musical notation and textual appendices at the end of the book are also illustrative, and above all the very helpful dictionary of less known words,” notes Jasna Ivančić.
Olga Šram, a Subotica-based art historian, spoke about the photographs of roadside crosses.
The exhibition was declared open by Croatian Heritage Foundation director Marin Knezović: “Dear friends, we are opening an exhibition at which the photographs are not works of great artistic value. Nothing of note for most art historians. There are, nevertheless, measures of value that elude the strict criteria of the academic community. This is an exhibition of another species of the consequential. This is an exhibition of the simple desire to grasp something apparently unattainable. It is an expression of a simple spirituality, of the narrow, nondescript path that often leads us more quickly to the goal than the broad, beaten road. These signposts on narrow paths are shown at this exhibition. So variegated and worn by time or human negligence, they nevertheless in this state of physical decrepitude seem to send a clearer and more powerful message than if they were new and intact.”
Juriga’s fourteen black & white photographs of roadside crosses on exhibit are drawn from the work of a photographer that uses classic techniques and methods and continues to ride his bicycle around the world, in Pakistan, America and elsewhere – and across the always inspiring plains of the Bačke region.
Juriga is known for his photos of the Dužijance festival, and a series of postal stamps on the theme that appeared in 2011 with vignettes drawn from his photos. He has worked as the illustrator of books, including a monograph on the first modern painter among Bunjevac Croatians, Stipan Kopilović. He has staged many noted exhibitions of which the “Faces of Bačka” exhibition is the fourth consecutive to be staged at the Institute for the Culture of Vojvodina Croatians. He is a member of the Applied Arts Artists’ and Designers’ Association of Vojvodina and the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia. Augustin Juriga is also a recipient of the Ferenc Bodrogvári Prize for Culture, the Pro Urbe Prize and many others.
Both Žigmanov and Juriga were active in the Bunjevac Way of the Cross project in 2013, which has continued in this year with the intention of collecting funds to restore the old crosses.
Text by: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek; Photos by: Snježana Radoš