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Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology News

'A Culture Carried: Bosnians in Bowling Green' opens Sept. 29

  • Author: Kentucky Folklife Program
  • Author: Monday, September 11th, 2017

The Kentucky Folklife Program announces the opening of the exhibit A Culture Carried: Bosnians in Bowling Green at the Kentucky Museum on WKU’s campus. 

The Opening Reception will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Kentucky Museum. The exhibit will be open through June 30, 2018.

For over 25 years the Kentucky Folklife Program (KFP) has been dedicated to the mission of documenting, presenting and conserving the diverse traditional culture and heritage of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Housed in the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology at Western Kentucky University, KFP conducts fieldwork and oral history projects throughout the state and produces educational programming and events that bring citizens into contact and dialogue with tradition and folklife.

For the past two years, the Kentucky Folklife Program has been collaborating with members of Bowling Green’s Bosnian American community to learn about the traditional arts and cultural practices that are significant to the Bosnian community here in Bowling Green.  In partnership with the Kentucky Museum and WKU’s International Year of Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with support from the National Endowment for the ArtsWKU’s International Programs, and BIH Express, KFP has curated a museum exhibit that explores the rich history and culture of Bowling Green’s Bosnian community.

“Based in a larger part on an ongoing oral history we have been conducting with our Bosnian neighbors, this exhibit is a way for us to share the intimate story of their journey to Bowling Green with museum visitors this year.” said Brent Björkman, Director of the Kentucky Folklife Program and Kentucky Museum. “Our staff is humbled by the way so many have let us into their lives.  This project continues to be a gratifying collaboration and we are looking forward to sharing their story with those in our South-Central Kentucky community and far beyond.”

The exhibit is divided into sections, with each section highlighting a particular theme. The sections include: “From Bosnia to Bowling Green”; “Commemorating Loss”; “Traditional Arts of Bosnians in Bowling Green”; “The Art of the Home”; “Expressions of Faith”; and “A Foot in Two World: Growing up in Bowling Green.”

The first section of the exhibit, “From Bosnia to Bowling Green,” provides a brief history of Bosnia and the Bosnian war, focusing in on personal narratives of wartime Bosnia and the refugee process. These personal narratives are shared through the stories of three individuals or families living in Bowling Green. For each individual/family, a display case features personal belongings that are part of their story: a suitcase carried; objects made by a teenager during the war; the personal effects of a loved one killed in the war.

Continuing from the previous section, “Commemorating Loss” highlights two sites of conflict during the Bosnian War – Srebrenica and Sarajevo – while also sharing ways in which these sites of conflict and loss are commemorated, both in Bosnia and Bowling Green more locally. The story of a Srebrenica survivor now living in Bowling Green is also highlighted.

With the first two sections explaining why Bowling Green is home to a significant Bosnian American population, the next three sections highlight various aspects of Bosnian tradition and material culture as practiced in Bowling Green.  “The Traditional Arts of Bosnians in Bowling Green” focuses on the recreational activities of music, dance, and soccer, as well as the importance of the Bosnian textile tradition. This section also explores how these traditions have taken shape Bowling Green and how material culture ties this immigrant community to their roots and home far away.  

Continuing the exploration of Bosnian culture and tradition, “The Art of the Home” looks at the importance of hospitality and neighborliness in the Bosnian community. Central to this and featured in this section are the Bosnian foodways traditions that continue to flourish in Bowling Green today, from cevapi and burek to baklava and Bosnian coffee. This section also features a re-creation of a modern Bosnian American living room in South Central Kentucky, complete with furnishings and decorations.

“Expressions of Faith” explores the religious diversity of Bosnia and the diaspora, a point of pride for many in our Bowling Green Bosnian American community. Bosnia’s three major religions are introduced (Islam, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism), and prayer bead/rope traditions for each of these three religions are on display for visitors to touch.  In particular, items used by members of the Bosnian American Islamic community are on display, including a prayer rug, tespih, and Quran book stand.

The final section, “A Foot in Two Worlds: Growing up in Bowling Green,” highlights several young leaders in Bowling Green’s Bosnian community. This section explores the ways in which these young leaders give back to their communities, while also showcasing how these young people straddle both their Bosnian and American identities.

This exhibit is complemented by the Kentucky Museum’s mobile app, which will offer the opportunity to explore themes on a deeper level, view more pictures, and hear audio clips from oral history interviews. At various points throughout the exhibit, iPads are available to view mobile content, so do not worry if you do not have a smartphone with you.

Monthly programming will be scheduled to further explore themes in this exhibit, the schedule to be announced. Keep an eye on the Kentucky Folklife Program and Kentucky Museum websites (www.kentuckyfolklife.org and www.wku.edu/kentuckymuseum) and social media accounts for more information as the programming schedule is developed.

About the Bowling Green Bosnia Oral History Project: In the Fall of 2015, with support from the WKU Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility (now WKU’s Center for Citizenship & Social Justice), the Kentucky Folklife Program began the Bowling Green Bosnian Oral History Project in collaboration with members of Bowling Green’s Bosnian community and faculty from the Department of Folk Studies & Anthropology. This ongoing project documents the stories of Bowling Green’s Bosnian community. For information about the exhibit or to find out more on how you can contribute an oral history to this project, contact us the Kentucky Folklife Program at (270) 745-4133 or kyfolklife@wku.edu

Contact: Nicole Musgrave, (270) 745-4133

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