Meet the People

18 Apr 2022, 20:32 PM

STA, 18 April 2022 - Composer and pianist Janez Matičič, one of Slovenia's most notable contemporary composers, has died at the age of 95. His oeuvre was centred around piano music, which he himself performed as well. He received numerous awards for his work, including the Prešeren Prize for lifetime achievement.

Matičič was born in Ljubljana in 1926. He graduated in composition and conducting from the Ljubljana Academy of Music. The first instrument he picked up was the violin, but he later became enamoured of the piano, reads a statement posted on the website of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, of which he had been a full member since 2007.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s he studied in Paris under Nadia Boulanger, a renowned French music teacher and conductor known for mentoring many leading composers and musicians of the 20th century. He later collaborated with the experimental collective Groupe de Recherches Musicales, led by Pierre Schaeffer, who is considered to have been one of the most influential experimental and electroacoustic musicians.

Matičič taught music at several schools, including the Ljubljana Academy of Music. He also taught piano at several conservatoires in Paris.

His debut compositions were influenced by Romanticism and Impressionism, but following the time spent abroad, his work acquired a contemporary feel. His best known works include two concertos for piano and orchestra, a concerto for cello and orchestra, and pieces created in a modernist and experimental mode.

On the occasion of his 90th birthday, he told the STA that beauty was what he was looking for. "My soul has pushed me to look for beauty, the beauty we have always admired in the wonderfully composed pieces of music..." he said.

Matičič received the Prešeren Prize for lifetime achievement, the country's most prestigious accolade in arts, in 2007. The news of his death was shared on Facebook by his musical colleagues.

05 Apr 2022, 12:23 PM

STA, 4 April 2022 - Emerik Bernard, one of the most important Slovenian painters and representatives of late Slovenian modernism and postmodernism, has died aged 84, the MMC news portal reported on Monday.

Art historian Tomaž Brejc described Bernard's contribution to Slovenian art as the most visible and successful synthesis of the principles of modernism with the artistic inventions of postmodernism.

Bernard received a number of awards, including the most prestigious national award in culture, the Prešeren Prize for outstanding achievements in fine arts in 1997.

His early work was made in various collage and assemblage techniques; these paintings objects were close to New Realism in their composition and the materials used.

In the early 1980s, he combined the collage technique with a poetic iconisation of landscape images from the coastal Istria region.

One of the highlights of this period is the monumental painting Materada, a kind of a synthesis of this period of Istrian palimpsests.

His works from the 1990s are marked by a highly urbanised construction reminiscent of Cezannesque rethinking of the design of space and the layering of colour in landscape imagery.

Bernard was also a philosopher of art, an expert in the history and theory of painting, philosophy and literature, publishing his writings in this field in two books, in 2000 and 2008.

Born in Celje in 1937, he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design (ALUO) in Ljubljana in 1965 and finished his post-graduate studies three years later.

He worked as a freelance artist for years before becoming an assistant professor for fine arts at the ALUO in 1985, where he worked as full professor from 1995 until retirement.

In 2001, he was elected an associate member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU) and became its full member in 2007.

31 Mar 2022, 12:56 PM

STA, 31 March 2022 - Robert Waltl, the director of the Mini Teater theatre and the Jewish Cultural Centre in Ljubljana, has received the Order of the Arts and Letters of France (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) for "deepening ties between Slovenia and France and promoting mutual respect and combating all forms of discrimination."

The French Institute in Slovenia has announced that the knight grade of the order had been presented to Waltl on Wednesday by French Ambassador Florence Ferrari on behalf of the French minister of culture.

The institute said that Waltl had earned the accolade for his work in arts that deepens ties between Slovenia and France and for opening the repertoire of Mini Teater to French productions, also in his roles as an actor and director in the theatre.

The director of Mini Teater is also promoting mutual respect and combating all forms of discrimination, especially as the initiator of the House of Tolerance festival, it added.

Waltl has furthermore invested his efforts in establishing and developing the Jewish Cultural Centre, an "exceptionally important cultural institution in Ljubljana that preserves Jewish cultural life as well as the memory of suffering, including the Holocaust, while calling for respect for others and peaceful coexistence."

In theatre, he has created a strong network of connections with France through good relations with many French authors and institutions, and he has performed in several plays that encompass the production from the era of Classicism to the present day.

As a great Francophone and Francophile, Waltl has been an irreplaceable factor in the French-Slovenian relations for many years, the institute added.

Related: The Return of Jewish Ljubljana in the Story of Two Men

10 Mar 2022, 15:22 PM

STA, 10 March 2022 - The Cukrarna Gallery will host an exhibition of works by almost 60 women artists, all either Slovenian or working in Slovenia, from the 1990s to the present day in a highlight of this year's programme. Opening tonight, Returning the Gaze deals with different social topics and presents various artist approaches.

The group exhibition offers an extensive selection of paintings, sculptures, videos, performances, interventions and audio events, as well as an accompanying programme of presentations, film screenings, lectures and discussions; the aim being to shed light on aspects of the Slovenian art scene by creating dialogical relationships between the works of artists from different generations, all using different media, practices and approaches, Cukrarna says on its website.

Blaž Peršin, the head of the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana, which manages Cukrarna, told the press today that the artists presented had become a constitutive element of Slovenian contemporary art. He said he was glad that the exhibition and the diverse accompanying events would offer an insight into Slovenian contemporary art, not only that created by women.

The artists presented had to overcome many obstacles to "find their place in the sun and they have not only found it but literately owned it", he said.

According to Alenka Gregorič, one of the four curators of the exhibition, artists who live and work in Slovenia are being presented as well as those who have left Slovenia but have been marked by the country. More than 150 artists were discussed and in the end works by almost 60 were picked, including some who are no longer active but their works were either characteristic of a particular period or groundbreaking in their approach or execution.

Some of them focus on specific social themes, such as issues of identity, gender and feminism and the way women artists are represented in the art system. Special attention has been paid to the artists who have consistently adhered to a particular style of expression, approach, form or concept.

The curators have identified four main themes: urban and natural landscapes; the body or figure; the art system; and the socio-political environment.

The accompanying programme will start in April and last until the exhibition closes on 21 August.

According to Cukrarna's website, the title of the exhibition alludes to the "eternal question of who is doing the looking and who is being looked at". In his book based on the famous BBC television series Ways of Seeing, John Berger explores the centuries-long history of painting and sculpture, highlighting the ways in which women have been looked at.

"Regardless of whether their role in the artwork is as metaphor or iconographical element, women have consistently been presented as objects of desire intended to satisfy the male gaze. And this has been compounded by the fact that women's artistic creativity has all too often been hidden from the public eye. Denied, misunderstood and, until fairly recently, marginalised," says on the website.

09 Mar 2022, 16:13 PM

STA, 9 March 2022 - Jože Pučnik, a leading dissident under the Communist regime in Slovenia who played a key role in the country's independence, was honoured with a bust at Brdo estate on the 90th anniversary of his birth. In his address to the ceremony, Prime Minister Janez Janša drew parallels between the situation in Slovenia at the time and the war in Ukraine.

The bust carries the famous quote with which Pučnik welcomed the outcome of the 1990 independence referendum: "Yugoslavia is no more, now it is about Slovenia", the words that Janša said should be kept repeated today.

Even though Pučnik did not spend much time at Brdo pri Kranju, the estate where state functions are held, Janša said the location for the bust was picked because it was here that one of the most momentous political decisions was taken.

After the plebiscite on 23 December 1990, where Slovenians voted overwhelmingly for independence from Yugoslavia, Janša said there were many doubts about Slovenia breaking free from Yugoslavia.

Pučnik then called a meeting at Brdo of the DEMOS government, which unified over the decision for independence, said Janša who at the time served as defence minister.

He said Pučnik was not burdened by grudges or the difficulty of building consensus between the great number of parties forming the DEMOS government, but fought for the Slovenian nation's right to self-determination.

"I'm glad Slovenia's main airport carries his name and that streets and squares are named after him," said Janša, regretting that this was not the case in the capital Ljubljana.

Janša said that just before his arrival at Brdo he got a call from Australian PM Scott Morrison, who inquired about the EU's steps in the coming days and weeks. What happens in Ukraine will also determine what happens in the South Pacific and elsewhere in the world in terms of peace and respect for international law, Janša quoted Morrison.

He noted that many Ukrainians who live in various European countries are now returning home to help defend the country. "Pučnik too came from the comfort of a foreign country into the turbulence of Slovenian Spring."

Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti praised Pučnik for his fearlessness which allowed him to keep his faith in life and the future. He saw the future in Slovenia and was one of its pillars.

The bust of Pučnik was unveiled by Janša and Pučnik's son Gorazd Pučnik.

In tribute to the 90th anniversary of Pučnik's birth, a guard of honour laid a wreath at Pučnik's grave in his home village of Črešnjevec in the north-east on behalf of President Borut Pahor. One of the halls in the Presidential Palace was named after Pučnik in 2015.

Pučnik (1932-2003) was one of the most outspoken Slovenian critics of dictatorship and lack of civil liberties in Yugoslavia during the Communist regime. He was incarcerated two times in the late 1950s and 1960s because of his critical writing, after which he emigrated to Germany.

After returning to Slovenia in the late 1980s, he co-founded the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia (SDSS) in 1989 and remained its leader until 1993. From 1989 to 1991, he also headed DEMOS, a coalition of parties that won the first multi-party election in Slovenia after World War II.

In 1990 he run in the election for the president of Slovenia's collective presidency, but was defeated in the run-off by Milan Kučan. Pučnik was deputy prime minister in 1992 and in the 1992 election he was elected MP. He retired from politics in 1997. He died in Germany in 2003.

14 Feb 2022, 12:47 PM

STA, 14 February 2022 - Anthropologist and sociologist Nika Kovač, the founder and head of NGO the 8 March Institute, has been named the Slovenian Woman of the Year 2021 by the women's magazine Jana and its readers.

The 8 March Institute has been warning of inequalities and the problems of the most vulnerable, the magazine said. "She (Kovač) is aware that the power lies in the community and she has been proving this constantly," Jana said in a press release.

Kovač has mobilised more than 600,000 citizens to vote on changes to the waters act, which were overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum in July 2021, the press release stressed.

"That she is definitely a future leader had been noticed by the Obama Foundation as well, which first accepted her to a programme for 40 future European leaders and then picked her as the only representative of Europe among 15 young people who have been changing the world for the better and will continue to do so."

Currently an Obama scholar and researcher at the Columbia University, New York, Kovač remains active in Slovenia as well, building a community with her compassion and perseverance.

At last night's ceremony, she accepted a unique statuette, a work of artist Ljubica Ratkajec Kočica, from Jana's editor-in-chief Melita Berzelak.

Among those shortlisted for the award were climber Janja Garnbret, actor Zvezdana Mlakar, Špela Miroševič, a researcher who initiated research into her son's rare genetic disease, activist Andreja Slameršek and Emilija Stojmenova Duh, the professor who supported students protesting against school closure.

Shortlisted as a group were also founders of the NGO Legal Network for the Protection of Democracy.

11 Feb 2022, 15:17 PM

STA, 11 February 2022 - A collection of the best known fairy tales by Ela Peroci (1922-2001) will be published by Mladinska Knjiga to mark the 100th anniversary of birth of one of most popular Slovenian children's authors. The book entitled Med Pravljice (Into Fairy Tales) will feature nine stories and some legendary illustrations.

Many generations of readers know Peroci by the fairytale Muca Copatarica (Slippery Cat) and Moj Dežnik je Lahko Balon (My Flying Umbrella) illustrated by Ančka Gošnik Godec and Marlenka Stupica, respectively.

According to the Mladinska Knjiga editor for children's literature, Irena Matko Lukan, Peroci in a way created an original version of a modern fairy tale after the Second World War, drawing from children's world and intertwining it with imagination.

Born in Sveti Križ near Rogaška Slatina on 11 February, Peroci taught and worked as a journalist at the youth magazines Pionir, Ciciban and Mladi Svet after the war.

Then she got a job at Radio Slovenija and was the editor of the an educational radio show from 1962 until her retirement in 1978.

She established herself as an author by publishing her stories in Ciciban with illustrations by some of the greatest Slovenian illustrators.

Her first published book was My Flying Umbrella in 1955, which sold in over 120,000 copies, becoming one of the most popular Slovenian fairy tales. Even more popular was Slippery Cat with almost 150,000 copies.

Another of her well known stories, the 1952 Hišica iz Kock (House of Blocks), was first published in a book in 1964.

The same year, Peroci's stories were published in a collection of bedtime stories Za Lahko Noč (For a Good Night), which was reprinted on the 90th anniversary of Peroci's birth.

The new collection of Peroci's stories, marking her 100th birthday, will feature her best known fairy tales as well as three with brand new illustrations. One fairy tale, Amalija and Amalija, will feature illustrations by Peroci's daughter Anka Luger Peroci.

According to author Peter Svetina, who wrote the foreword, Peroci sided with the children and their imagination in her stories, which was a new approach in Slovenian post-war children's literature.

She also introduced several other narrative techniques that were used in literature only much later, in Postmodernism. Her fairytales were also subversive in the sense that they did not contain any ideological elements that were a must in children's literature in the 1950s-1980s.

In addition to fairytales, Peroci also wrote poems, prose, as well as screenplays for television programme for children. She received the Levstik awards for best literature for children in 1955 and 1956, and was a recipient of the Prešeren Fund Prize in 1971.

Her books have been widely translated to Croatian and German as well as several other languages.

You can order a copy here

04 Feb 2022, 16:33 PM

STA, 4 February 2021 - Marko Brecelj, an activist singer-songwriter best known internationally as the founder and frontman of the iconic progressive rock band Buldožer, died on Friday, aged 70, the Koper-based newspaper Primorske Novice has reported.

Brecelj was a Sarajevo-born performer and political activist who remained active and provocative until the very end despite his grave illness. News of his supposed death made headlines in July 2021 before it turned out to be the result of a misunderstanding.

He released his only solo album Cocktail in 1974 in collaboration with acclaimed composer Bojan Adamič (1912-1995), before founding Buldožer, a rock band inspired by Frank Zappa's music.

Released in 1975, Buldožer's first album Pljuni Istini u Oči (Spit into the Eyes of Truth) was a sensation in the former Yugoslavia. It sold out fast but the record company would not reissue it due to "inappropriate and controversial" material.

Employing satire and black humour, the band's concerts were veritable performances inviting applause as well as provoking shock and condemnation and they were often officially or unofficially banned by the Communist regime of the time.

Brecelj released a total of two albums and one soundtrack with Buldožer, contributing the socially charged and subversive lyrics for them before leaving the band.

He later worked with various artists and bands. In the 1990s he took over as the head of a youth culture, social and multimedia centre in Koper and founded the Association of Friends of Moderate Progress.

In his recent years he was known for his provocative protest performances such as sending paper planes to the US Embassy in Ljubljana to protest against the Iraq war and NATO, or silencing the bells of the Koper cathedral on Assumption Day by glueing tapestry over the bell clappers.

When former Koper Mayor Boris Popovič was still in office, Brecelj would kneel down and start praying every time he stumbled upon the mayor, whom he called a "democratic despot".

He thus established "soft terrorism" as a style of artistic activism. He was due to perform at Vžigalica gallery in Ljubljana on Culture Day next week.

He repeatedly run in the Koper mayoral elections and was elected to the town council in 2003.

In 2019 Brecelj won the Ježek Award, an accolade given out annually by RTV Slovenija to celebrate creative and witty radio and television oeuvres and achievements.

14 Jan 2022, 11:28 AM

STA, 13 January 2022 - A memorial site in Italy's Basovizza dedicated to four Slovenian victims of Fascism executed in September 1930, known as the Basovizza Heroes, has been granted the status of cultural importance by Italian regional authorities, the Trieste-based Primorski Dnevnik reported on Wednesday.

The Basovizza Heroes are regarded as symbols of opposition and resistance to the fascist regime and ideology, and as heroes of a free Europe built on the foundations of anti-fascism. The four members of the secret anti-fascist organisation Borba (Fight) - Ferdo Bidovec, Zvonimir Miloš, Franjo Marušič and Alojz Valenčič - were shot dead on 6 September 1930 near the village of Basovizza not far off from today's border between Italy and Slovenia.

The decision to grant the memorial (Spomenik Bazoviških junakov/Monumento Eroi di Basovizza) the status of cultural importance was endorsed by the Friuli Venezia Giulia authorities on Monday, Simonetta Bonomi, the head of the region's Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, confirmed for the Slovenian minority's paper.

The institute launched a procedure to grant the memorial site the status in August last year. By going through with this, the region has laid the groundwork for the memorial to become a monument of national importance in Italy in the future.

This is also the aim of the Basovizza Heroes committee at the Slovenian National and Study Library in Trieste. Moreover, together with the two umbrella minority organisations, the committee is striving to rehabilitate the four victims, who are still officially considered terrorists in Italy.

Since the Basovizza Heroes were convicted by a fast-track court, the rehabilitation procedure will be lengthy. The case falls under the purview of a military court, where a retrial and rehabilitation are difficult to achieve, the committee said.

The granting of the status was welcomed by President Borut Pahor, who thanked all who had worked for many years for "this important shift in the status of the monument", which he visited together with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in 2020.

"Following the actual return of the Trieste National Hall to the Slovenian minority, this is another important step in the Slovenian-Italian relations," the president said in a statement posted on Twitter.

The umbrella organisations of the Slovenian minority in Italy also expressed much satisfaction with the move, adding that this "historic step should be put in the broader context of the current historical moment".

The Slovenian Cultural and Economic Association (SKGZ) and the Council of Slovenian Organisations (SSO) said that the visit to the monument by the Slovenian and Italian presidents "undoubtedly contributed to the favourable outcome of the procedure."

"By paying tribute to the four fallen lads, the president of Italy recognised the importance of their fight against Fascism, and the status ... further underlines that the heroes were on the right side of history, and not terrorists."

The organisations added that this also opened a legal avenue for the annulment of the verdict with which the four were sentenced to death.

Related: Slovenian Victims of Fascism Remembered 90 Years After Executions in Basovizza

12 Jan 2022, 10:06 AM

STA, 11 January 2022 - Nataša Kovačević, a research project manager at Kolektor Group company, has become the Woman Engineer of the Year. The title has been awarded for the fourth year to encourage young women to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The Woman Engineer of 2021, selected by Mediade company and IRT 3000 magazine, was declared at a hybrid event at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday.

Kovačević started her professional career as a young researcher at the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) and earned a PhD from the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in the field of corrosion and passivation processes on the surfaces of metal materials.

In 2013, she started working for Kolektor, a major Slovenian supplier for global car industry giants, and soon became a project manager.

On her own initiative, she also started researching basic and applicative corrosion processes in metal and composite materials, Mediade said in a written statement.

Kovačević is also a member of the supervisory board of and a partner in the international project MAMI Magnetics and Microhydrodynamics.

She shares her know-how and experiences at lectures and workshops for talented secondary school children, and mentors doctoral candidates at Kolektor and at the IJS's international post-graduate school.

The winner was selected from a total of ten nominees as four juries had scrutinised the nominations. Woman Engineer of the Year is part of We'll Be Women and Men Engineers, a project promoting STEM among secondary school kids.

04 Jan 2022, 16:08 PM

STA, 4 January 2021 - Dramaturgist Vesna Jurca Tadel is taking over as acting director of SNG Drama Ljubljana, Slovenia's leading theatre company, on Tuesday. She succeeds Igor Samobor, who stepped down in November after eight years on the job.

Jurca Tadel, a dramaturgist, critic and translator who has worked at the Culture Ministry since 1995, has been appointed as acting director by Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti for a period of up to one year.

A call for applications to fill the post of director will be published in the meantime, the Culture Ministry has told the STA.

Jurca Tadel has a degree in dramaturgy and worked at multiple Slovenian theatres between 1985 and 1994. After a brief spell with the publisher Cankarjeva Založba, she joined the Culture Ministry in 1995. Most recently she headed the arts division of the ministry's Creativity Directorate.

She is planning to decide on her priorities based on the paperwork handed over to her by Samobor, who cited the Culture Ministry's foot-dragging over the theatre's renovation as the reason for his resignation in November, a claim the ministry has denied.

Jurca Tadel has also been on the judging panel of the Kresnik Prize for best novel for several years and in 2007 headed the judges of the Maribor Theatre Festival, the biggest such event in Slovenia.

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