- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- All Balkan Countries
The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are facing growing calls to clarify their strategy for culture amid deepening cuts in the budget for the sector. Across the country, state institutions and the independent sector are demanding that funds for culture be distributed with greater transparency, and to the worthiest recipients. Pročitajte članak na bosanskom / hrvatskom / srpskom jeziku
What can be done?
Many people in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina believe the problems faced in the cultural sphere could be solved by the formation of a state ministry responsible for the sector.
Sarajevo cantonal minister Ivica Saric believes this idea should not be abandoned.
"Culture needs to be reformed... I think there is a wanton wastage of funds, as if a home is being heated while all the windows are open."
"If we had a million marks, we would have had 300 premieres a year. That's how much enthusiasm we have in this theatre."
Recommendations by directors of cultural institutions
At a conference on May 31 in Sarajevo, around 40 directors of public cultural institutions submitted a written recommendation to the current authorities.The conference took place as part of MESS Sarajevo, the International Theatre Festival.
The EU delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be sent a letter of warning about violations and the failure by the state to implement provisions from the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Annex 2, Item 2 (continuity of legal regulations) regarding cultural institutions of state significance.
This investigation was carried out with support from Swiss Cultural Programme for Western Balkans, within BIRN’s project BICCED.
But the political division between the two entities is such that the formation of a unified ministry is nowhere in sight.
Nevertheless, many are now arguing that something must still be done in the meantime, chiefly to improve communication between ministry officials and cultural workers on critical issues.
These include questions such as how best to develop neglected parts of the country; improve regional co-operation; approach the EU for funds; reward good managers and distribute money fairly.
Ljiljana Labovic-Marinkovic, the director of the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Banja Luka, believes ministries should be linked and cultural institutions should be taught how to apply for funding from Europe.
“If they won’t give us money, they should enable us to obtain money from other sources,” she says.
Jasmila Zbanic, the director, believes it would be good to have a state ministry that handled major cultural projects, strategy, large investments and European funds.
But she would also like to see more action at a local level, with greater encouragement for talent and more attention paid to smaller towns.
“Culture in the smaller provincial towns is being systematically stifled,” says Zbanic.
“Before the conflict [in the 1990s], each village had a cinema, shows were played in local cultural institutions, cultural and art associations were receiving investment... There was a central idea of the importance of culture.”
Zbanic compares conditions in the former Yugoslavia in the middle of the last century with current conditions in the region.
“Fifteen years after the World War II, the formerly rural, illiterate country of Yugoslavia had developed an energetic cultural industry. It had won the Nobel Prize for literature and the Oscar for animated film.”
“Fifteen years after the latest war [The Bosnian conflict of 1992-1995], the country that had a highly sophisticated culture has become rural,” she concludes.
Until a broad public debate is launched, the cultural arena is surviving on its last remaining asset – the optimism of its managers.
“I have been doing managerial jobs in culture for more than two decades... There’s always a plan B and beyond, right up to Z,” says Ljiljana Labovic Marinkovic.
“I am a hardened optimist. I believe that the managers of cultural institutions must roll up their sleeves, work hard and take risks!”
This investigation was coordinated and written by Gordana Igric, BIRN regional director.