Zmijanje embroidery is one of the embroidery techniques of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is rather unique, complicated to perform, and beautiful. But the question is, will it survive in the modern world? Is Bosnian youth willing to keep the tradition and learn to embroider when they have so many activities and entertainments to keep them busy? What can ordinary craftswomen do to popularize and develop Zmijanje embroidery technique? Let’s find out the answers.
Zmijanje embroidery is made in cross-stitch or other stitches using dark-blue threads. It was formed in the middle of the 19th century. At first, embroidery was made on linen and hemp cloth; today, mostly cotton cloth is used. Such embroidery designs are used to adorn female clothing (day-to-day, festive, and wedding gowns) and household items (tablecloths, linens, décor elements, etc.).
The difference between Zmijanje embroidery and other Bosnian techniques of embroidery is in the number of colors of threads. Mostly, embroidery patterns of Bosnia and Herzegovina use two or four different colors. Zmijanje embroidery uses only one – dark-blue on white background.
Here are several stories of Bosnian craftswomen and people who work to preserve the local culture. They will help you to understand this craft and its position in the modern world better.
“My name is Djuja Anicic, embroidery instructor at the Mladen Stojanovic Elementary School in Bronzani Majdan. Otherwise, I am a teacher also teaching at this school. I began working with embroidery since I was a child, at the age of 10-11 years. Since I lived in the countryside, where there was no electricity and television, all of my time I dedicated to this work. When I grew up, I continued to work with embroidery.
“All of my embroidery knowledge I transferred to my daughter, daughter-in-law, and many young girls over the course which was held at the Women’s Humanitarian Association “Duga”. Apart from young girls, there were also women of my age. Then came the opportunity to bring the embroidery into our elementary schools, so I started with this youngest group, with children from 7 to 9 grade.
“There is a great interest for embroidery, especially by our girls. There are 12 girls who are interested in Zmijanje embroidery. And I hope that they will still continue to do embroidery. The main aim of all this work is to protect Zmijanje embroidery from oblivion. And now those trained and skilled girls already use their skills on their garment and furniture, such as photo albums and trays on which embroidery can also be done. Those trays are still well known today, and they are selling as souvenirs”, explains Djuja Anicic, craftswoman and teacher.
“Women’s Humanitarian Association “Duga” for the past 18 years in its ethnic workshop makes various handicrafts that are original and authentic, and are still making today in the form they were producing a long time ago in the old times. Older women who are already familiar with the work are transferring their knowledge to younger generations. Among other things, we are especially dedicated to Zmijanje embroidery as authentic embroidery in our region. So far, in those embroidery workshops, we have trained hundreds of women and girls, maybe over a thousand of women and girls. We find various motives on the old originals and in the literature. We sometimes use those motives in modern clothing and as souvenirs so they can be alive and useful in the modern times. This way, women from Duga Association have some profit, and we preserve the old crafts and traditions”, tells us another craftswoman.
“My name is Radenka Jungic. I live and work in Banja Luka. I am doing embroidery since I was five, and professionally since 1999. I founded my own Art Workshop “Radinost R”. One of the ornaments that I find particularly interesting and which I devoted my attention to was the blue embroidery from Zmijanje. The blue Zmijanje embroidery is an ornament from a woman’s shirt. It’s called the “rodni krst” and I think that I managed to bring it into this civilization in another way on which it does not lose from its original ornamentation. And in composition, it gets new forms applicable in this civilization.
“Confirmation for this is my work for the Küstendorf World Film Festival. I created a special award for 2011, 2012, and 2013. This year, the blue embroidery rodni krst from Zmijanje as a special award was given to actress Monica Bellucci”, says Radenka Jungic, craftswoman, master of Zmijanje embroidery.
“As a great association in its 65 years long tradition, Macedonian Cultural Artistic Association in Veselin Maslea is trying to preserve the intangible heritage of our people from oblivion. I can freely say the heritage of people of former Yugoslavia, from Macedonia to Slovenia. But somehow our priority is our Zmijanje area that is very specific in terms of a certain ethnographic level. The most important thing in our work is to preserve the heritage of our people: games, songs, and especially folk costumes that we use in our association; they are more than a hundred years old.
“The costumes we are showing you now come from Zmijanje, they are made by hand in workshops of our grandmothers, great grandmothers, and so on. Absolutely without the use of any technology, only by their hands. Embroidery that was created in this area is very important and significant. They are recognized as such in the former Yugoslavia. A number of catalogs of the National Museum in Sarajevo and of the Museum of the Republic of Srpska in Banja Luka wrote about this embroidery. It is this Zmijanje embroidery, the dark-blue thread on natural canvas and on a fabric which is also made by hand, something that is very specific to our region.
“Of course, with costumes always comes the folk tradition, folk dances and custom, songs that we very often and gladly show to our audience that is willing to see our performance. Our association has performed in many countries around the world. So far, over 7 million viewers have seen our performance, directly on stage, on TV, and so on. In these countries, we have also brought our rich tradition. By playing in these original costumes, we are representing what songs and heritage of our people really are. And we are very proud of it because we have always listed among the five Yugoslav Associations that have so many original folk costumes from our grandmothers’ and great grandmothers’ workshops”, representative of Macedonian Cultural Artistic Association tells us.
Zmijanje embroidery is an important part of local culture for all former Yugoslavian countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, and others. It is their heritage by right and history, a valuable part of their culture.