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Denis de Rougemont Forum live Sarajevo, bridging festivals from the Western Balkans with other European regions

29 November 2023

Sarajevo, the multicultural at the intersection of various cultures; Sarajevo, the tolerant with its long history of religious diversity. Sarajevo, the proud that has won international renown on several occasions since its creation. Yes, Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina is all these things at once. It is also the city that went through the longest siege in the world during the war in ex-Yugoslavia, one of the last wars in Europe before Russia invaded Ukraine. Sarajevo opens our imagination when we hear its name and seemed like the natural place to gather for the first Denis de Rougemont Forum live of the European Festivals Association (EFA).

Invited by the Sarajevo Fest, a delegation of 35 people came together to connect, think, and build collaborations on 26 and 27 November 2023: EFA Members, Board and Team, Alumni of The Festival AZcademy, festival makers from the Western Balkan region and other European countries.  

Two main topics were in the spotlight: On the one hand the performing arts sector at large, including theatre, dance, circus, and puppetry, and the other hand making links between the Western Balkan countries and other European regions. 

It was great to host the Denis de Rougemont Forum in Sarajevo. The philosophy and life work of the great thinker and humanist are so much in line with the cultural ideals of the City of Sarajevo and our Sarajevo Fest. Multiculturalism, mutual understanding and European idea are precious and urgent in today’s world. Our Forum in Sarajevo contributed to it in a very beautiful way.”, said Haris Pašović, Director of Sarajevo Fest and Chair of the EFFEA Jury.

There was indeed a need to listen to the festival colleagues from the region and get to know the Slavic culture better. These live gatherings and discussions serve to hear, feel, see, and discuss common goals and position officially the artistic and cultural sector. When speaking about the challenges of programmers, participants realised that they were facing similar issues. The pitch session was very useful, allowing festivals to present what they are doing, with the motivation behind of forming trios of festivals or more to apply for the two cross-boarder calls for projects opening soon: the European Festivals Fund for Emerging Artists – EFFEA and Perform Europe

This is a highly important period for the Western Balkan region finally approaching its reforming period. The Culture & Arts sector in the region needs intense, close partnerships and collaborations with EU arts/culture organisations, festivals, culture stakeholders and international artists from around the world to develop further.”, shared Sabina Sabic, Creator, Advocate, and Director of Art Lab and Alumni of The Festival Academy from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The artistic programme offered by Sarajevo Fest made delegates discover the regional scene. Concerts from local artists were scheduled the first evening: 'Dogmatik' by the Chamber Choir of the Academy of Music - University of East Sarajevo, conducted by Rade Radović; followed by Ivana Đurić & Zanin Berbić who played classic Bosnian songs in a unique arrangement for two violins. The second evening was devoted to political theatre with the Serbian play 'Neoplanta', which tackled the issue of the chaos of identities, a reality linked to the many invasions that the city of Novi Sad faced in the last century and which applies to many countries in the region.

Sarajevo humbles us. Strangely enough, we still feel and see the atrocities of the war 30 years ago, but that makes the artists of the Western Balkans so rich and fragile at the same time. An emotional confrontation, with positive vibes for all participants.”, concluded Jan Briers, President of EFA.

Sarajevo certainly marked the beginning of new relationships and friendships between festival organisers in the country, the region and across Europe. Through Denis de Rougemont, Sarajevo's multicultural reputation shines all the more brightly, opening up a world of new possibilities for festivals.

By Audrey Brisack