ZAGREB, August 24, 2018 – The third festival of traditional folk singing known as “ojkanje,” which was to be organised by the Serb cultural society “Prosvjeta” in Petrinja on Saturday, August 25, has been postponed after 12 of 13 participating groups cancelled their attendance due to opposition from some local associations of Homeland War veterans and political parties, Prosvjeta said in a statement, noting that the festival would be organised in early November.
Given the current situation and political relations in Petrinja, the organising committee has decided that the festival should be deferred, with committee chair Mara Vilus citing the reasons for the postponement.
“Committee members and I toured all our villages on Saturday and Sunday, August 18 and 19, put up posters and distributed invitations to members of the Serb community. Most of those people as well as those who live in Petrinja are afraid and do not dare come to the festival for fear of unpleasant situations. They have information about the third festival of ojkanje singing in Petrinja having been banned, coming from the coordinating body of associations of Homeland War veterans and right-wing political parties, such as the HSP (Croatian Party of Rights) and similar parties in Petrinja. We have tried to change their mind, but fear and uncertainty continue to exist,” the organising committee said, noting that the festival was being postponed for early November until which time it hoped the local political situation would be more favourable and recalling that it had also encountered threats and provocations while organising the previous two editions of the festival.
Mayor Darinko Dumbović has told Hina that he regrets the postponement of the festival, noting that Petrinja is a free town open to all people. No one has the right to threaten or restrict anyone else’s freedom because Petrinja has always been a town of culture and multiculturalism, said the mayor.
War veterans associations in Petrinja opposed plans to hold the festival, saying that ojkanje is not part of the town’s tradition and proposing that it be held in some majority Serb community rather than in Petrinja, where, they say, such an event could be considered an act of provocation.
Prosvjeta and the Serb National Council (SNV) have notified UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee of the attempts to ban the festival which promotes that oldest form of folk singing, inscribed on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010, and threats sent to its participants.