Besides Velika Hoca, one of the oldest settlements in the Drim river valley, also known as "little Jerusalem", well preserved Visoki Decani monastery, Gracanica and Pec Patriarchate, Belgrade public two days ago had a chance to see shocking pictures of monasteries Devic and Holy Archangels, and sacred buildings from Prizren, Ljevis Mother of God church and the Serb Orthodox Catherdal Saint George, all destroyed in March, burnt Potkaljaja district in Prizren, destroyed cemetery in the Serb village of Novaci... All these locations, including the destroyed monastery in Zociste, were visited by the participants in the forum during the work of the colony in Velika Hoca. The colony hosted painters and printmakers, art conservation experts, art historians and other experts from several European countries, as well as from Israel.
This year's, second in turn, ART Forum, besides including UNESCO on the list of its sponsors, in addition to the Serbian Ministry of Culture and the Coordination Center of Serbia-Montenegro and Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija, also increased the number of participants to 52, from 25. The "base" and location of all events was the Decani monastery winery (Decanska Vinica) in Velika Hoca.
Visual artists worked in two sections, split into painters and printmakers. Painters Olivera Gavric-Pavic and Ivan Pavic, founders of the art group "Atemist" extended the artistic achievement of the colony with their mosaics. Both sections this year included mostly young artists from Kosovo and Metohija, among whom were two young artists from Velika Hoca, Marko Spasic and Ivica Lukic, both second year students of the Zvecan Visual Arts Academy. Natasa Tomic, painter and restorer, originally from Djakovica, also sees herself as part of the "Kosovo visual art scene", even though she grew up, was educated and currently lives in Belgrade.
"When I came for the first time last year, I was simply charmed by the village. I spent the first five days ‘buzzing around' Orahovac and Velika Hoca, and spent the remaining five days to produce five good paintings. I feel personally satisfied with the work done here. I was bombarded by very strong impressions. It was simply pouring out of me," Natasa Tomic says.
If ART Forum awarded prizes for dedication and achievement one would, everyone agreed, be given to Ingrid Kruse Rosenfeldt, icon painter and icon and oil painting restorer from Denmark. Besides painting two icons, Ms. Ingrid dedicated herself to cleaning parts of the iconostasis that had been salvaged from the ruins of the destroyed Zociste monastery, currently kept in the Saint Trifun chapel of the Decanska Vinica. In two weeks, she completed the job for which local experts had not found time in the previous five years, although many of them could frequently be seen in Velika Hoca.
With the assistance of the OSCE, Ingrid Rosenfeldt managed to visit Zociste with our art historians for an hour. In the ruins of the monastery she found another ten fragments of the iconostasis. "I want to come back, perhaps next spring, and work on this material. I will present photographs and slides I took here in Denmark. People in Denmark do not know what is going on here; perhaps because they haven't had a chance to hear the other side," the guest from Denmark explains in pretty good Serbian, which she learnt working in the National Museum for the last few months.
The workshop for art history and archeology, this and last year led by Branka Ivanic from the National Museum, was reinforced by experts from the country and abroad. Their time in the limelight came after the discovery of a part of the [original] facade of the Holy Archangels Monastery near Prizren, with ram's head, found by the workers during the digging of the foundations for the new monastery refectory, at the time when the ART forum team visited the ruins of the monastery destroyed in the March disturbances.
Conservation center "Diana", as well as the workshop for traditional folk costume, led by Milena Vitkovic-Zikic, art historian from the Applied Art Museum [in Belgrade], and well received by the women of Velika Hoca, spent only one week in the village, but nevertheless managed to achieve a lot. Special attention was dedicated to children's workshops. Natalija Dabic and Olivera Indjic, fifth year students at the Visual Arts Academy and the Academy of Applied Art, used their experience from children's workshop they run in the Student Quarter in New Belgrade and painted a mural with kids from Velika Hoca.
Ljiljana Vojvodic, sculptor and art teacher at a high school in Ruma, and her pupil, puppeteer Sanela Milosevic, were in charge of the puppetry and theater workshop, whose attendees in the end performed an one hour play at the House of Culture. "The children had full freedom in selecting the text, but we have noticed that they do not speak correctly, since they watch a lot of Albanian TV. Their vocabulary is very limited, as they use less than 100 words on a daily basis. They need to spend more time reading in order to expand their vocabulary. Consequently, we focused on speaking practice during the workshop," Ljiljana Vojvodic says. She noticed that most of the kids seem very withdrawn and scared.
"They do not know how to be happy, to show off, to get out of their house, because neither the school nor their families can compensate for fears they are exposed to. I've encountered many more psychological problems than among kids living outside Kosovo. I thought that our poverty, especially the last few years of the economic crisis, was horrible. Now, I've realized that there is worse - fear for one's life. If parents keep their suitcases packed all the time, children cannot play and grow normally. These kids need friends, and that's why this was a beautiful and good mission," Ljiljana Vojvodic says.
Unlike the last year's ART Forum when Decanska Vinica was full of locals all the time, this year some sort of "fence" could be felt between the participants in the colony and residents of Velika Hoca, as well as Serbs living in Orahovac, four kilometers away, which this year remained outside the focus of the Forum even though it is also a very precious locale. Participants cited numerous explanations, included temporary disagreements between organizations in Belgrade and Velika Hoca, although all of them agree that the major burden were the events of March 17, which have instilled additional fear among the Serbs living in this part of Metohija.
"ART Forum has no intention of spreading merriment or offering solace. Velika Hoca does not need humanitarian assistance. They need assistance in getting back their self-respect, so that residents can return to living from their own work," Ljiljana Bursac concludes in the end.