Everything that attracted my attention over the past year or two in town, was done by them. The most beautiful graffiti across the movie theatre Central, the one that fits into the groups of colourful and beautiful graffiti that delight me throughout the world. Gatherings of bicyclists called ”Critical mass”, for example. Although I am not a cyclist, but rather a pedestrian, I have been talking for years that every normal city, and especially one that has been known for pollution for years, should be working on promoting bicyclism, or at least reduced use of cars. A street festival during which they did various things, including also the activities ”Food, not arms” and ”Flea market without money” – absolutely unusual for this region, but quite well accepted. And finally, ”Gotiva Fest” – a festival in Smetovi that I did not attend personally, but I followed the reactions of friends and acquaintances, who did, and I understood that it was something completely different.
To be honest, at the beginning I did not understand that all of that was done by the same team, until I started researching and found their website where everything is explained in detail. And then I met them. This time, it was Majda, Ajla, Emir and Mario, and they explained the details.
They are actually an association promoting environmental and alternative culture in Zenica. They came together spontaneously, as a result of their personal socialising and activities that they used to do anyway, and then they decided to formalise it in order to try to expand the activities. They are a real alternative, because they are completely different from everything that is a trend today. In a time of consumerism in which everything is an advertisement and in which there are attempts to sell everything, they show through their actions that it can also be different. For example, during the ”Flea market without money”, you can take away what you like without leaving a dime, you do not have to leave anything. It is confusing for persons at the beginning. They frequently confound that action with humanitarian activities, thinking that it is a place where they can bring everything they do not need. However, the real sense is to do an exchange and to raise awareness about the fact that we are spending too much on things, and that there is always an alternative.
The activity ”Food, not arms” also carries a message – that we must not throw away food and that there are many hungry persons in the world due to an unfair distribution and other resources. They make a larger quantity of meals from the food they gather at the market and then they distribute it publicly to everyone who is hungry. There, you can also get such a leaflet with the message of the activity.
The essence of all of their activities is to encourage persons to be themselves, to be original. They show them that they do not have to fit into a category. And I am really happy that they exist and do all these things, because this town certainly needs an alternative in all respects.
I am Majda Ibraković, one of the members of the association ”Priroda i društvo”. One of the friends of the association, actually. One of the things that I am mostly focused on is the ”Critical mass”. When it comes to this, we have rides that take place every month and we are trying to encourage urban bicyclism in Zenica and we socialise nicely at the same time. We support environmental protection, music and various other topics through bicyclism, so that every monthly ”critical mass” has its own meaning and is also a very nice get-together.
Critical mass – September
Is there a fixed date when it is held?
Yes, we do – it is every last Friday of a month, potentially also Saturday. It depends, it is not that fixed. We create an event on Facebook, agree to meet, meet and drive.
Is it attended by many persons?
Yes, it is, there are around 70-80 persons that are there all the time, and we are even more glad when more people join us, younger, older persons, and it is usually very interesting. It is not just a common bike tour and drive. It is actually a result of the fact that we all drive bicycles and when we go out, many of us go in bicycles, so that additional persons join.
Ajla Vrškić, also a member of the association ”Priroda i društvo”. The street festival we did this year was very interesting, and we are quite proud of it, because we managed to combine many of our interests. What is typical of the street fest is the fact that it was held for four days on the streets of our town and focused on various contents – activism, various types of training, musical contents. What is also interesting is the fact that we left a trace on the streets – graffiti on walls… we did graffiti workshops with younger members.
And something else very nice – we managed to draw a mandala, a flower, together with the beneficiaries of the institute for children and adults with development disabilities, and it was very nice to socialise. We painted their garden and walls, we made the space more beautiful. There was great music at the park, young people were socialising and dancing…
We had a ”Flea market without money”, things were exchanged, we exchanged food, clothes, books, there were all kinds of things. It is difficult to list all of these activities, but we managed to show through the street fest that we can do everything even without having any premises and that we intend to move to the streets and make it available to everyone, common passers-by, youth, etc. So, that those that had only been passive observers, become trainers at the street fest and show us something new that maybe we inspired them to do, or that they inspire us to do some new things.
Flea market without money
I am Emir, and I will tell you about our baby, the first activity that actually brought us together and showed us that we can do so many things together, that we are able and that there are enough people here that will support all of this and that there are sufficient reasons to do so. This relates to the Gotiva festival.
This year it took place for the third time, in Smetovi, a place near Zenica. It is not a festival like other festivals in our country. We can say that it is the only of this kind, since there is no primary focus of the festival, so to say. The primary focus of the festival is for persons to socialise and exchange creative ideas, but not through some standard forms of workshops, but to rather try and offer some workshops, activities and exchange with persons that they have no chance to meet in their daily life. This year, they had the opportunity to participate in shaman drumming, yoga, various types of meditation, etc. Over the past years they learned how to make various items from recycled materials.
In addition to all of this, there is also the music and activist segment which is an opportunity to present every year the sound system of cultures on a single stage, which is the only permanent stage, all others change. The music on that one is dub reggae, bass music that is coming from hand-made boxes that so far people were bringing from the countries in the region and there was one sound system from Switzerland. In addition to this, there were performers from various countries, inhabitants of the planet Earth.
These are all some of the activities that we tried to do in order to attract young persons, to expand the horizons of these persons, in order for them to be free, to be able to express themselves. In order for them not to be in their imposed shackles, to be what they are and to be free, to exist, live, be happy and to laugh.
Although we are forced to spend a large period of our life in the system, at least we all can chose the remaining time that we have and spend it together by creating an added value, not just a material one.
I am one of members since the establishment. It started with the organisation of small parties at bars, and then it turned into travelling. We organised parties in other cities. And I think that that is the most beautiful thing, socialising, traveling, parties. Later on, it turned into Gotiva, an even bigger gathering and socialising. I think that it is the peak of everything. For me, the most beautiful thing was to be there and watch how everything is prepared, and then come to the festival itself. I think that that is the point, socialising and everything else.
You are all here – are any of you planning to leave Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Not at the moment, at least not in my case, I have no plans.
As far as I am concerned, I am not going anywhere. Maybe from time to time, and that is it. But to have plans to leave Bosnia and Herzegovina… I do not even have plans to leave Zenica, not to speak about leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina.
All media report on people leaving, what is keeping you here?
The association Društvo i priroda.
The association and the activities, what we have achieved in terms of joint activities. We have shown that a lot can be achieved here. One thing – I am not in favour of leaving the country if you have not done your best and tried everything. It is wrong not to try to do anything, not to make an even small step, and say that there is nothing to be done here.
I agree, everyone goes where it is better for them, but one should try to do something, and then leave.
 Gotiva is a BCS slang term and means beauty, wealth, abundance. (translator’s note)