Last Saturday, Sept. 29, thousands of students and families flooded the UNC Charlotte campus, attending its annual International Festival in and around the SAC. There were around 50 nations being represented at the festival, each having colorful booths filled with culture, music, food and traditional clothing. Live, cultural performances shined throughout the stadium. The Ifest is what gave the Charlotte community its international glam.
As I walked by the booths, every country had its own kind of uniqueness. Every country had a particular style and every country had something noteworthy about it. However, there was a particular area that stroked me as fascinating, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This booth has been consistently represented at the UNC Charlotte Ifest for years upon years. It is not every day you hear about such a place. There are so many countries on the world map that it makes sense to take a closer look at ones that are not dominant in our news or surrounding communities.
“Our booth has been displayed at the Ifest since 1982 and the only year we could not participate at Ifest was the year Hurricane Hugo hit the Charlotte area,” said Kenan Tokmic, UNC Charlotte student mastering in chemistry.
Thirty people volunteered at the Bosnia and Herzegovina booth. The volunteers were a mixture of UNC Charlotte students and board members from the Bosnian Herzegovina American Cultural Center.
“The cultural center is highly involved in the Charlotte community. The cultural center participated in the Breast Cancer walk in uptown last spring,” said Tokmic.
Tokmic’s pal Sara Muharemovic, a senior in high school, explained that all the volunteers, teens and children, partake in a traditional, group dance called the Kudsafetisovic. They not only perform this dance at the Ifest, but also at Imagine On, a children’s library and theater located in Charlotte.
Interestingly enough, Muharemovic came to America with her family in 1996 because of the Bosnian war. Germany could not hold any more Bosnian and Herzegovinian refugees.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina booth was quite popular to say the least. The table consisted of informational brochures, table clothes, pots, traditional outfits for looks only and many other authentic, homemade goods. Nonstop lines of college participants were eager to try some of the good smelling food.
“One of the most traditional, common foods is the cevapi, a lamb and beef sausage in pita bread with a side of onions, sour cream and eggplant veggie mix,” said Muharemovic.
Photographer Matthew Jackson, UNC Charlotte super senior, really enjoyed the cevapi. He believed it to have a distinct, flavorsome taste.
The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina also eat lots of desserts, including baklava. Their baklava is not as dry as the Greek version of baklava, considering they add more syrup on their desserts.
The culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina is extensive. Being half Arab, I could relate to the coffee rituals that take place in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“Bosnian coffee all day long is a must, in fact, it is a custom. When people visit each other or any kind of gathering takes place, everyone sits around and has a cup of coffee. It’s what brings people together,” said Tokmic.
Oftentimes, where there is music or lots of people, all the Bosnians join hands and dance Greek style. All family members and friends go crazy and dance like there is no tomorrow.
The Bosnians dance collectively. In addition to the Kudsafetisovic, the name of another common dance is the folk dance, Kolo. The people hold each other by the waist or hands and form a circle. There are different steps that take place in Kolo. Men and women often dance together, however some dances are meant strictly for men and vice versa.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, surrounded by Serbia, Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, has a melting pot of religions. The country is known for its diverse nature. Surprisingly, pyramids have been found in Bosnia. Looks like the country has faced some strange findings in the past. Arab influences, perhaps?
“The former name for Bosnia and Herzegovina is Yugoslavia. The name changed once Bosnia gained its independence in 1992,” said Tokmic.
Tokmic enjoys volunteering at the Ifest. He loves meeting new people and telling them about his country. He finds that a lot of people are unaware that Bosnia and Herzegovina even exists.
“The best part about the Ifest for me is that it helps me decide what I want to do in life. The festival gives me a range of different perspectives. I learn a great deal about different nations cultures. The Ifest also gives me an idea of what I want to study in college. As of right now, I am looking to pursue a degree in international affairs,” said Muharemovic.
Along with the Bosnian Herzegovina American Cultural Center, Tokmic and Muharemovic plan to help out again at next year’s Ifest. A Bosnian Association is in the process of forming on campus. Hopefully, in the years to come, they can collaborate with the cultural center in handling the Ifest.