As part of Serbian Month the Serbian Council of Great Britain, in partnership with the St Sava Church in London, organised an event in the Bishop Nikolaj Community Centre on Friday 3rd February led by the Centre for the Study of the Cultural Development of Serbia on ‘Icons of Zica’ and the ‘Taste of Djerdap’.
A cold evening at the end of the working week is not an ideal time to attract a large audience. Despite this over thirty people came to the Bishop Nikolaj Community Centre to attend and participate in the event .
The Centre for the Study of the Cultural Development of Serbia will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year and it is not a well- known fact that the Centre is of the same standing as the National Museum, the National Opera and the National Theatre. Over the last fifty years researchers and associates from the Centre have created a rich resource on the ‘culture’ of Serbia, in the widest sense of the word.
For this event Marina Lukic- Cvetic, the Director of the Centre and Dejan Zagorac, a researcher, chose to present two projects which show the wide variety of interests of the Centre’s researchers and the way in which they carry out their cultural research.
As was appropriate, frozen guests were welcomed with a choice of rakija, not only to express a warm welcome but also to warm them up! The rakija was donated by the famous prize-winning distillery Zaric from Kosjeric.
Exhibition of Icons from Zica
The Monastery of Zica was founded by Stefan Prvo Vencanji (First Crowned) in the first half of the thirteenth century. Marina Lukic-Cvetic, Director of the Centre, spoke to the audience about the little-known story of the long and difficult journeys of the iconostra from Zica. The journey began in the middle of the nineteenth century with the departure of the Turks and when the rebuilding of the monastery began. Their journey continued in 1915 when Austro–Hungarian soldiers looted some of the icons from the iconostra. Some of the icons were returned after the war. Bizarrely, the earthquake of 2010 gave a new boost to the search for the lost icons. The earthquake which hit the Kraljevo region damaged a small church in the village Sirca. Whilst the iconstra was being dismantled an inscription, by an Austro-Hungarian soldier, was found on the back of the icon of the Last Supper ‘Mataruge Zica December 1915’!
After this Mrs Lukic-Cvetic and her associates began their quest to find the lost icons. The story from then on is like a forensic investigation. Mrs Lukic-Cvetic told the tale of the search for the icons which the audience found very interesting. The search continues. Out the thirty two icons only thirteen have been found.
The next part of the event was about the way in which the family slava were celebrated in towns and cities in Serbia in the 1920s and 1930s. Mrs Lukic-Cvetic showed a film ‘Three Lines of Cakes’ about the custom and added her own comments which enriched the audience’s understanding of the way in which slavas were celebrated. Of course cakes were served after the film, made by Mrs Lukic-Cvetic and ……of ‘Sweet Sensation’.
This provided an appropriate transition to the third part of the event which focused on the cookery and customs relating to food in the region of Djerdap. ‘The Taste of Djerdap’ is a part of a project to develop a culinary map of Serbia which is being led by the researcher, Dejan Zagorac. Dejan showed slides which reminded the audience of the rich variety of culinary customs from the different regions of Serbia.
‘The Taste of Djerdap’, a stand-alone element of the wider culinary project, was represented in a film and in a cookery book in English and Serbian under the same name ‘The Taste of Djerdap’. This region is particularly interesting because of its specific and traditional dishes and the way in which food is prepared.
Mr Zagorac’s presentation was made all the more interesting by his knowledge and experiences in the region. The presentation was followed by the preparation of proja with leeks, one of the specialities of the region, which was of great interest to the audience (the desire to prepare more dishes from the region was foiled by technical and health and safety regulations). Just when people’s mouths were watering the proja with leeks, or mamalijga as it is known locally, was served. As in other good cookery programmes this was one that had been prepared earlier!
This marked the end of the formal part of the programme but the guests and presenters remained to talk and enjoy the proja and cakes. As well as the hosts, who have already been mentioned, the St Sava Church, the Bishop Nikolaj Community Centre, Distillery Lazaric, it is important to acknowledge the support and donations of ‘Sweet Sensations’ the restaurant ‘Serbian Club London’ and the Dunav Shop. Without their support the event would not have been possible.