A countryside woman

Multimedia exhibition
The project is implemented by NVU Art365 with the financial support of the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights

Do we hear each other?
Do we really hear each other?
Do we make a pause in order to listen for a moment to what someone is telling us?

Barely anyone listens to countryside women.Their work is often invisible. Despite the fact they manage households, take care of the home and property, they are seldom owners of the farms. They have grown up and lived in a patriarchal system in which female children are raised differently,  under more rigid control and predestined for roles assigned by birth.

In that rigid hierarchy they are subordinate to men- their fathers, brothers, husbands, sons. When they openly speak about their lives, one is under impression the system they have grown up in and live in has been a strict legal norm that has to be  indisputably obeyed.

The essence of Montenegrin patriarchal family was the subordination of women, the indissolubility of marriage and the principle of monogamy.The husband is the master, the head of the family but he is obliged to defend and protect his wife and children by all available means and to provide for them.
The main task a woman had was to bear children, primarily sons ("happiness") and to take care of their upbringing and education."(Vidak Vujačić)

We have asked countryside women of different ages about what their desires,  dreams, fears, plans, life decisions and obligations. Do they enjoy their surroundings?What  obstacles they face? Do they have aspirations to participate in community life and how do they engage themselves or try to be part decision making policies? We have inquired about the ways their work and dedication can lead to their personal change but have influence on the community life and broader.

We present personal and long-hidden testimonies by combining audio, video and photo contents.
These stories can help us individually and collectively face the deep trans generational traumas of Montenegrin women which are still present in our society.

The women we have spoken to have not been chosen according to strict snd predetermined criteria but based on informal conversations and contacts in the local communities.

Through a number of identical questions covering numerous aspects of life, we have gathered a range if different, often completely opposing answers from locations less then twenty kilometers apart. The diverse information out of those conversations guided us and provided indications for further shaping.With thd help of various media, we have managed to interpret these countryside women' s stories in an artistic manner.

It is with this project that we tried to respond in artistic manner, to place important life stories in the center of the public dispute, with the desire to hear each other, to understand the phenomena of these surroundings  correctly. Having this done, we can work jointly on the emancipation of our society.

Duško Miljanić

Anđela

24  years old, tourism profesionnal, Šavnik

”My mother was more patriarchal than my father. Whenever the issue of inheriting property came up my father was saying he would leave a piece of land specially to me. But mother, deadly serious, would say each time I shouldn't take it because she had also renounced all her property in the name of her brothers. In her opinion, it didn't belong to me according to any laws, divine, human, or legal.  I should leave everything to my brother.”

Draginja

91 years old, Kurikuće village, Berane


Draginja's difficult life story began long ago in 1941 when her father was taken to a German war camp. She was left with her mother, younger brother and sister at the age of nine. She was facing various difficulties every day, helping her mother to go through the wartime.

"Before I reached adulthood, they found me a husband from the village. He was 22 and already had a failed marriage because his mother was not pleased with her daughter-in-law.  We got our first child, a son within the first year of marriage. Everything seemed fine, he was doing well, but suddenly in his second year, he died.
In 1951, we started building our house. When a group of people helped us to cut wooden beams for the house in the woods, my father-in-law brought a lamb for the workers for lunch. After three days, my husband had to give a live lamb to his father in return for that gift!
In June 1953, we got another son. The child was only a year and three months old when, after six months of illness at the age of 27, my husband passed away in Belgrade. My misfortunes began to multiply significantly from then on.
My father-in-law was the wealthiest farmer in the village at that time. He served as a bank and a warehouse for many people, how it used to be said. However, he refused to give money to my husband and son for travel expenses to go to the hospital, first in Cetinje and then in Belgrade. Therefore, my husband borrowed money from a relative, which I repaid in full after his death.
When I went to Belgrade to retrieve his remains, I borrowed money from a man in Berane who traded forest products. For three years, I repaid that debt by giving him rosehips and other herbs.

On St.Toma's Day, I buried my husband. At the cemetery after the funeral, knowing my financial situation, a man from the village started a conversation about the necessary assistance to the widow. But then my father-in-law intervened, stating that it was out of the question. He considered it to be an insult for him, a wealthy man and assured me that if there would be any hospital bills to be paid he would cover them all. Just a few days later, my father-in-law called me and said: 'Woman, I don't want to know anything about it. Manage it all on your own any way you can!' I don't know how I stayed on my feet after that shock.

 

With a small child, I continued to struggle with the uncertainties and surprises that life gave to us. Our house was a decent place to live for the time and we had a substantial landholding for farming and livestock. My brothers-in-law didn't wait long- on the third day after their brother's death, they put  pressure on me to leave the house, but I was determined to stay and preserve the property and my son.

I fought, working and harvesting on other people's fields, while my brothers-in-law constantly caused me trouble. Once, while I was making hay with my mother, one of my brothers-in-law, who was mowing his own field nearby, approached me and swung his scythe to attack me. I defended myself with the handle of the rake I was using to gather hay.

One particularly painful memory is when my husband's closest relatives made the workers go away from the field and took my son away. For four days, I worked for others, weeding corn so that our communal field could be weeded in a day. The workers came to pay me, and we started the corn dusting when my mother-in-law, along with her husband and sons, arrived and made the workers go away from the field. They entered my house, shouting and threatening. The child, frightened, came to me crying and my mother-in-law took a mallet and starting hitting me on the head with all her strength, yelling, 'Let the child go, you whore!'

They took the child and locked me in the house. Someone later unlocked the door, but they did not return the child. As evening approached, I thought they had taken him with them to the mountain where they stayed with the livestock. Shepherds returning from pasture saw a child sleeping on the ground at a crossroads by the road. They recognized my son. Unable to call me out of that place, they called someone from the lower part of the village. That person called me to say that my child was on Ostrom krs. Out of my breath, in panic, in a few minutes, I reached him.
'What are you doing here, son?' I asked him and he replied: 'Mother, I tried to get home, but I didn't know the way.'
When my mother-in-law and brothers-in-law went to the mountain, they left the child on the crossroads. He started looking for the way, but being small, he got lost. Tired, he lay down on a slope and fell asleep.
I was working all kinds of hard work, like man, like woman, all except plowing. I engaged in livestock farming and agriculture. I mowed, threshed, prepared firewood, brought on horses’ back woods and hay, threshed wheat, picked blueberries and much more.
In summer, I used to bring snow from the mountain to the town of Berane with my horse for the soda makers and confectioners because there were no refrigerators at that time. I had some amazing strength! Once, they measured the hay I brought and the scale stopped at 87 kilos. And so, day by day, the child reached university age. Financial needs multiplied. I had to take care of that all by myself again.
I fought against devils themselves, bad and worst people, but the harm constantly turned me back. I could have built a skyscraper with all I threw into the stream. I lost a lot of livestock. Whether someone poisoned it or something else was involved, I don't know. Only God knows! Probably the child and I would have ended up the same way if they could be sure that this evil act would not be discovered and that no one would be found responsible for it."

Milica
77 years old, Kolašin


Milica was born in 1944 in the village of Raško, in the Morača region. She grew up with her mother, sister and two brothers. The early loss of her father might have influenced her unconventional life choices. She started school in 1951 but finished in 1955.Despite her teacher's encouragement to continue education, she left school for her mother needed her to help her with the housework. She began to lament at the funerals at the age of 21, she liked to go on such occasions, to listen to other women lament. She used to lament as a child while she was keeping her sheep in the mountains out of fear from wild animals. The first time she lamented was at her sister-in-law’s funeral. Being well-respected and naturally gifted, she often lamented even outside Montenegro. She lamented at Marcel Duchamp's grave in Paris, attended as a guest a promotion of folk art at Kolarac in Belgrade. She met her partner in 1969 with whom she spent almost 42 years together.
(For more, visit https://fenomeni.me/milica-milosevic-od-sinjavine-do-disana/) Many thanks to Miomir Maroš for the audio fragments!

Milijana
83 years old , Motički gaj village , Žabljak (photo sheep -  Bare Žugića)


”I finished four years of elementary education. I was forbidden to go to school. I was not allowed to because I needed to take care of the sheep. I used to take the sheep to the pasture and then ran to the school. The school was near and I had an aunt living next to it.
I would tell her – “Aunt, please, take a look at my sheep not to go up in the mountain. So that dad cannot see them!“
“And where are you going, ...
“I am going to school“, I would say. I liked school.”

Rada
74 years old, Polja village , Mojkovac


Rada was born in 1949 in the village of Bjelojevići, beneath Mount Bjelasica. She grew up in a thirteen-member family (parents, five sisters, four brothers and an aunt). Her mother took care of the children whereas her father was a self-taught wage laborer without his own property. Despite the challenging conditions in which she grew up, Rada completed elementary school in Mojkovac, secondary school in Sarajevo and the Faculty of Preschool Education in Nikšić. She worked as a preschool teacher. Rada has three children and eight grandchildren. Rada engaged herself in "naive" art and had her group and solo exhibitions in Mojkovac. Thanks to humanitarian actions by foreign organizations, her works reached beyond the borders of Montenegro.
As a girl, she dreamed of becoming a singer!

Rada
74 years old, Polja village , Mojkovac


Rada was born in 1949 in the village of Bjelojevići, beneath Mount Bjelasica. She grew up in a thirteen-member family (parents, five sisters, four brothers and an aunt). Her mother took care of the children whereas her father was a self-taught wage laborer without his own property. Despite the challenging conditions in which she grew up, Rada completed elementary school in Mojkovac, secondary school in Sarajevo and the Faculty of Preschool Education in Nikšić. She worked as a preschool teacher. Rada has three children and eight grandchildren. Rada engaged herself in "naive" art and had her group and solo exhibitions in Mojkovac. Thanks to humanitarian actions by foreign organizations, her works reached beyond the borders of Montenegro.
As a girl, she dreamed of becoming a singer!

Rada
42 years old, Ubli, Podgorica


Zorica was born and raised in a working-class family in Podgorica. Recognized for her singing talent early in the elementary school, she joined the school choir and later the church choir "Sveti Marko." Before she married, she actively participated in spiritual music. However, when she moved to the countryside, taking care of children and the farm there was no time left for this hobby.

"Art and music fulfill me completely. I experience so many changes while listening to music—so many emotions. Music makes me laughing but crying, as well! Certainly, in my youth, I imagined that music would be my call, but on the other hand, I was raised in a patriarchal manner and wanted to have my own peace, my family, but to have art still present in my life!"

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