Where politics ends, culture starts

By Amila Kahrović-Posavljak

December is probably the liveliest cultural month in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the summer vacations and festivals and the autumn silence, December is when the realm of culture wakes up.

The December book fair in Sarajevo is traditionally held in Skenderija from December 13-24. This event seems to be the last link holding together a fragile chain of regional publishing, given the challenges facing book production. This year there were fifty exhibitors from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia. In the last few years, there has been a visible rise of sales of religious literature.

Theatre activity is far healthier than publishing, occurring all over the country. One of the most well-known and traditional theatre festivals, called The Days of Jurislav Korjenić, took place in December and was popular. Similarly, Napredak, the traditional Christmas concert organized by the Croatian cultural association was also a success. The Frog, a play directed by Elmir Jukić – who made an exceptionally successful movie based on the drama – celebrated its tenth anniversary in the Chamber Theatre 55, in Sarajevo.

Mostar, however, has a cultural scene that relies upon enthusiasts, since the city lacks good governance and cultural management. Also, there has been a very thought-provoking debate about the relationship between culture and politics, involving speakers across a wide intellectual and political spectrum. For example, a famous rock group, Zabranjeno Pušenje, were meant to be giving a New Year’s Eve concert in Mostar.  But Davor Sučić (alias Sejo Sexon), the leader of the band, gave an interview for the newspaper, Oslobođenje saying the he – as a Croat – supported Željko Komšić for membership of the State Presidency. It sparked controversy. Bosniaks are blamed for electing the left-of-centre Komšić in order to stop the Croats from voting in the far-right Dragan Čović, to the State Presidency and as their “legitimate” president. The band cancelled their press-conference in Mostar, the western part of which is known to be a stronghold of Čović and his Croatian Democratic Union.

There seems to be a lack of cultural activities for children, but Banja Luka does offer something special. A premiere of the children’s play, A New Year Picture Fairy-tale, was performed here in the Jazavac Theatre, and the public response suggests the play has sparked new life into children’s production as well as into the city theatre. Probably the most important cultural event in Banja Luka was one that opened on a weekend in the middle of December in the gallery of Banski Dvori. The International Exhibition Salon Fotografije Banja Luka 2018 and Foto BiH 2018 exhibited the best pictures out of a selection from forty-five different countries of the world.