My earliest memories of my childhood are with mixed feelings. Although my childhood within my family and Croatian community was very joyful and content, it was difficult for me initially to blend in with my South African peers at school, as they were all English speaking and I had only spoken Croatian until the age of two. Children can be brutal and unfiltered and most unaccepting of someone that does not blend in with their norm, which is what I was, with my unpronounceable name and lack of common language. Today as an adult I can laugh off the awkward childhood as my upbringing within my Croatian community as a Luška (Female from Vela Luka) is what stirred up my strong feelings and absolute love of my roots and rich heritage and culture. Living as a Croatian in South Africa has been a very positive experience, which has taught me the importance of embracing other heritages, cultures, and countries, and the significance of loving who you are.
Velo Lučani (Croatians from Vela Luka), are bound by a common love for singing and acapella choirs. Gathering with our friends and family, was always a frequent occurrence. Every opportunity was taken at any given time, to get together where much eating, drinking, and singing took place. Upholding the traditions from home seemed to fill the void of living in a foreign country. It was these joyous get-togethers that prompted a group of close-knit Lučani friends, including my father to start their singing journey.
Soon after, they gave their group a name, and “Ova Klapa” (This Acapella) was born. Ova Klapa ignited my interest in music, particularly our traditional folk music. The klapa (acapella group) would sing traditional folk songs after dinners during our many gatherings, which in turn prompted them to record a compilation of their favourite and most revered songs in an album.
One very fond memory has always remained with me, Ova Klapa’s introduction of themselves and their complete cover album ‘’Jo, Da Mi Je” (Oh, How I Wish), as well as some teaser songs from their then-upcoming, second cover album, to the South African- Croatian community at the Saint Jerome Croatian Catholic Church in Johannesburg.
A memorable concert was organised and performed on the evening of the 28th of February 2004, which told the story of their love for Vela Luka and their longing to return someday.
This nostalgic and emotional event showcased a variety of songs from their cover album as well as their appreciation of South Africa, by including a native South African choir to perform some of their own traditional dances and recitals. There were many laughs and tears throughout the journey of the tale that they told, and the concert concluded with their rendition of ‘’Sjećanje na Velu Luku’’ (Remembering Vela Luka).
I recall waiting patiently all night for my big moment to arrive. All the children of the members of Ova Klapa, were dressed in traditional outfits and given the task of presenting all the ladies and benefactors with a bouquet of flowers. I proudly executed my duty and then spent the finale in my father’s arms gazing into the audience. “Vela Luku, mala, ne zaboravi!” (Little Vela Luka, I won’t forget you!).
For more, check out our lifestyle section.