Territories and traditions to (re)discover: the challenge overcome by Etnomreža

At the beginning of Etnomreza‘s adventure, protecting and promoting the Serbian textile craft tradition might have seemed more a goal for ethnologists or historians. Perhaps few understood that semper weaving has ensured weaving not only threads but bonds within communities and outside them. Teaching weaving techniques to the youngest, buying tools and yarns together, working out new designs, and selling the results of this collaboration together was for centuries a form of exchange of acquaintance that created friendships, ensured mutual help and strengthened bonds between women and trust between families, thus enhancing the capacity of local communities to collectively cope with inauspicious events, such as droughts and famines, or even to decide how to manage the resources of the land.

The wives of the President of Serbia and the People’s Republic of China, Tamara Vučić and Peng Lijuan, respectively, accompanied by Violeta Jovanovič on the occasion of their visit to the exhibition of artifacts from Etnomreza communities at the National Museum in Belgrade.

Today, in a country where in 2023, according to preliminary data from the National Bank of Serbia, Serbia generated record revenues from foreign tourists amounting to 2.5 billion euros and achieved a tourism growth of 80 percent over 2019, many have finally realized that the protection of local and traditional arts and crafts is an essential element of an area’s tourism offering and that the traditional textiles rediscovered and disseminated by Etnomreža are a pride for the entire country, becoming ceremonial gifts for the country’s most important guests, as in the case of the recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jin Ping’s wife.

What seemed like a personal passion of Violeta Jovanović, the founder and president of Etnomreža, has become something the whole country recognizes, with a national community of traditional weavers that has now reached twenty-six member associations throughout Serbia, from Sombor to Pirot (among the first towns to join), from Novi Pazar to Kladovo, from Kruševac to Bela Palanka. And what seemed to be extinct traditions are now living activities, increasingly attracting the interest of foreigners present in Serbia, interested in getting to know the whole country and not just the capital, interested not only in admiring the landscape of the Serbian countryside but also in learning about its architecture, local monuments and museums, food and craft products and their producers in person, talking to them and really experiencing for a day or a weekend what so many towns and cities in Serbia can offer.

The newly appointed Head of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina Government, Maja Gojković, during her visit to Šid.

On the occasion of the inauguration of the textile colony in Šid, which took place on Friday, May 10, in the presence of the Head of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina Government, Maja Gojkovic, sophisticated hand embroidery techniques were presented – white and Ruthenian embroidery, which reflect the rich cultural heritage of the people who have lived together in this area for centuries. In her speech, Ms Gojkovic confirmed her commitment to the preservation and promotion of local traditions and tourism, including through cross-border projects that Vojvodina intends to implement with Hungary, Bosnia and Croatia so that traditions, culture and new initiatives of so many territories that are still misunderstood today can be enjoyed by compatriots as well as by the many foreigners who attended the event, considering that Serbia, outside the capital’s borders, has so much to offer to those who want to get to know it and want to rediscover its traditions as the key to overcoming the challenge of achieving development and well-being in rural communities as well.

This post is also available in: Italiano

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