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News 10 Dec 15

Bosnian Arts Save Vanished Script From Oblivion

A group of designers and artists are highlighting the common cultural roots of the people of Bosnia by trying to revive interest in the long disused script known as Bosancica.

Rodolfo Toe

Some of the artworks created using the Bosancica font

A group of Bosnian artists and designers is trying to bring back to life an ancient script used during Medieval times in the region of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The project, called "I write to you in Bosancica", gathers students of art and graphic design from the Art Academies of several cities, such as Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Trebinje and Siroki Brijeg, to save from oblivion an autochthonous script which was never converted into a typographic font, and was abandoned centuries ago.

"Bosancica was really popular inside the old cultural space of what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina," Amra Zulfikarpasic, a professor at the Art Academy of Sarajevo and the coordinator of the project, told BIRN.

"Saving Bosancica from general oblivion is a duty we have towards our country because it's a clear sign of a common cultural past for all of us, especially in these days where disputes about our languages and alphabets are used to divide us," Zulfikarpasic said.

Bosnia has three official languages, Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, and two alphabets, Latin and Cyrillic. Disputes about languages and scripts are common, as they are widely considered a badge of ethnic membership.

The first phase of "I write to you in Bosancica" involved reconstruction of all the characters. This was done using ancient, handwritten documents.

Afterwards, the Associations of Applied Artists and Designers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, ULUPUBIH, which is implementing the project, organised a contest, calling on all Bosnian art academy students to send in their works.

The submitted works, more than a hundred pictures by artists from Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro, were displayed in Sarajevo at the end of November. Other exhibitions will follow in Siroki Brijeg and Trebinje in 2016.

"We had really positive feedback and we're now planning other presentations in Zagreb and Belgrade, too", Zulfikarpasic told BIRN.

"I write to you in Bosancica" started in the framework of a project financed by the United Nations in Bosnia, called "Dialogue for the future" [Dijalog za Buducnost], set up to promote culture dialogue and mutual understanding between the different communities.

"Our generation has a duty to preserve this cultural heritage", Aleksandra Nina Knezevic, the designer from Sarajevo who won the contest organised by ULUPUBIH, told BIRN. She created a book to learn Bosancica.

"It obviously looks as if it is designed for kids but in the end, it's for everyone of us, because we all forgot our common past and we clearly don't know anything about it today," Kezevic said.

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