Landscaping our Memories: Beautiful Croatia

The week speeds by. We have our first meeting with Mirjam, one of the Croatian women Kristina befriended on previous trips to New York. She shows us age old photos of her island of Ilovik. She reads us poems she has written commemorating the island, its precious church, and the cemetery. She sings a song that was written by a group of young immigrants who wanted to remember the beautiful things they had left. Mirjam cannot let us leave without ensuring that we’ve been fed. She makes us chicken and vegetables. There is plenty of bread, and she winks and smiles broadly while shuttling between the dining table and the kitchen of her small and lovely apartment. She sends us off with the apple cake she’s made this morning and we head down to The Kitchen to meet with several of the artists who will be participating.

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We meet in The Kitchen’s theater. In a rich and lively discussion, each participant speaks about their background, interest in the project and past artistic ventures. We toss around ideas for developing the structure of our culminating presentation. And of course we have a bit of Miriam’s apple cake.

Throughout the week we continue to meet with members of the Croatian community and our artist participants. Every story we hear is connected to longing. Connected to the beauty of the island. Connected to the physical and emotional landscape that was left and that remains.

We close the week by attending an event at the Croatian community center on 41st street in Manhattan. We enter a full swing celebration of Statehood Day, a Croatian holiday commemorating the 20th anniversary of Croatia’s Declaration of Independence from Yugoslavia. The hall is festively decorated in red and white. Folk dancing, Klapa singing, spirited speeches and blessings come together with spirited conversations and a hearty buffet. Several of Ivica’s songs from the Children’s Festival are also performed and many familiar faces from the picnic in Croatian Land are here. We eat, drink, mingle and search for a few Ganga singers to join us at our event. Wouldn’t that be incredible?

CEZNJA: BORN LONGING (tales and songs from croatia)  is part of One Big City, a series of collaborative residencies and events produced by CEC ArtsLink in partnership with leading cultural venues to engage New York City’s diaspora communities through international arts initiatives.  One Big City is funded by The Rockefeller Foundation’s NYC Cultural Innovation Fund and the Trust for Mutual Understanding.
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