Small but immense, Stolac is not a typical BiH gem that yet needs to be discovered. This is a European’s last jewel that was discovered back in the ancient time and back beyond the modern world. It is a last cultural scape that urges to be rediscovered, reclaimed and recognised.
This incredibly authentic town has above and beyond of everything you could wish for. From a stunning intact nature all the way to archaeological and anthropological sites dating back from 14,000 BC, there is not a single person who could not find his safe haven at this place. Therefore, it is a little wonder why this sleepy hinterland used to be an administrative and cultural centre over many years.
Since the ancient times many have found a refuge and safe haven right in this town. Stolac was a hideout of prehistoric man, the Illyrian acropolis, an ancient municipality, a medieval city, a resting place of stećak tombstones, a resort of Ottoman beys and Austro-Hungarians stop over. Stolac is above and beyond an ordinary history of a size-like town. Many different cultures and civilisations have intertwined and left their mark here. As a result, in 1980, thanks to its enormous cultural heritage, Stolac was inscribed as a “museum city” under the protection of UNESCO. So, what happened with this small open air museum?
Unfortunately, just as history can be a wonderful tool for writing the most beautiful pages and the richest adjectives about the significance of a particular location, it can also dictate a destructive fate that often leads to dark curtains and unfair denial of everything the place once represented on the world’s stage. As a result, Stolac became a puppet in the theatre of absurd politics in the 90s and is still struggling with the consequences. It’s spatial and geographical position has largely determined its socio-political development in the 90s.
Once a safe haven that provided an opportunity for every human being in need for a refugee, in the 1990s Stolac became a tool for absurd authorities to accomplish their destructive ideas. This kind of history, just as James Joyce says in his novel, is a nightmare from which we must wake up. Thus, once in the spotlight of culture, Stolac nowadays became a sleepy town, back and beyond, and unfairly neglected.
Fortunately, the world is always striving for balance. Stolac is a town of complex cultural intertwining, a meeting place of cultures, civilisations and religions and, auspiciously, there are people who understand an urge in which Stolac needs to be recognised as a border, crossroad and place of reconciliation.
Gorcin Dizdar, a grandson of Mak Dizdar and devoted guardian of memory on Mak Dizdar’s life and work was one of those who started promote this pearl of nature.
In order to foreclose the scars of the terrible war sufferings and the ruling apartheid in Stolac, Mak Dizdar Foundation decided to follow the idea of supporting the reactivation of the cultural scene of Stolac and Herzegovina region.
Their goal is to return the Stolac to its pedestal of proud intellectual, cultural and artistic endowment. Most importantly, to spread the idea of unity among the BiH people where all the mutual differences are only a tool we should use in contributing the pluralistic and common future of the country.
If you take a walk through Stolac, one of the first things you will notice is the amount of bridges, the symbolism of bridges also dictates the idea that the world always strives for balance. This is a perfect chance to mention famous Nobel winning author Ivo Andric who was also fond of Stolac and who describes bridges as an expression of the eternal human struggle to connect, join and make peace with something on the other side.
Stolac was a second home and inspiration to many great minds and artists throughout the former Yugoslavia. Among others, refugees in Stolac found the famous Nobel laureate Ivo Andric, Alija Isaković, Hamid Dizdar, Mak Dizdar etc. Mentioning Stolac without mentioning Mak Dizdar would be like mentioning the English Renaissance and ignoring Shakespeare’s contribution and innovations to core values of play writing.
Although he spent his last years in Sarajevo, Mak Dizdar was born in Stolac and for that, but also a plethora other reasons, he devoted most of his time writing about this town, the Bosnian medieval man and the Bosnian stećak. In fact, the somewhat later poetry of this eminent poet could be said to have translated the obscure and mysterious language of the Bosnian Stecak into the language of poetry.
Mak Dizdar’s poetry is almost always, necessarily dualistic. The dualistic worldview is one of the constant themes of his work in general. It implies the eternal struggle of good and evil, material and spiritual within a human being. At the heart of his dualistic poetry lay the two principles, the principle of good, and the principle of evil. These two stand as the fundamental metaphysical opposites responsible for the material world creation. To sum up, a symbolic picture of the entire world can be found in a small Bosnian gem known as Stolac.
Writing about the stećak tombstones and Bogomil times, Mak Dizdar immortalised his name and entered the list of immortals, artists whose interpretation of the past and the present confirmed the future of some new generations.
Mak Dizdar’s poetry laid its foundations in both – surrealism and folklore. His deeply native poems are rooted in Bogomils’ inscriptions on stećak tombstones. On the other hand, surrealism assisted Mak in his search for a freedom of linguistic expression. His remarkable and intellectual, cultural and artistic heritage managed to establish a true, non-violent connection with tradition. He simply found a way to renew and upgraded the knowledge and feeling of today’s man towards the content of medieval records.
Makova Hiza (Mak’s House) is a way to follow the idea of Mak Dizdar and to promote the amazingly diverse cultural heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, it is meant to serve as a media and institution which will point out the values of a large part of the common past that equally belongs to all of the citizens of BiH.
Mak Dizdar (17 October 1917 – 14 July 1971)
Mak Dizdar was a dualism in itself, a personality where two opposites do not conflict, but harmoniously merge – bohemianism and tradition, religion and science, past and present. For this reason, although he has never had a chance to spend a day in this house, it is very easy to accept an idea of ubiquitousness of his being at every corner of this home that represents an ode to his essence. Makova Hiza will let you feel the immortality and eternity into which the famous minds are meant to go to once they leave the material world.
The idea for Makova Hiza (Mak’s House) was born in 2006. Although he never managed to actualise it due to his premature death, Mak Dizdar’ s wish was to spend his last years of life in Stolac. Therefor, Makova Hiza is meant to be Mak’s symbolic return to Stolac, the town where he was born and grew up. Despite this small museum is motivated primarily by his unfulfilled desire, it is also a place which serves as an evidence that Stolac is stronger than any attempt of destruction or barbarism.
Nowadays, after a lot of effort, modest fundings and persistent work, you can witness the amazing interior and exterior. Although Makova Hiza consists of exhibits related to Mak Dizdar’s life, it also became a home of science and art. It is a place dedicated to Bosnian Stecak, medieval monoliths which left such a deep track onto Mak Dizdar’s life and work, and whose most famous specimens are found in the immediate vicinity of Stolac.
Makova Hiza was an old and typically Herzegovinian residential complex which, over the years, turned to be a true model of Mak’s dream house which he described in his famous poem “Hiza u Milama”.This is a home of art where you can observe the exhibits while listening to recordings of Mak’s verses or indulge into rich library of the Mak Dizdar Foundation where you can also enjoy an exhibition of photographs, drawings, monumental reliefs, sculptures and charming garden which contains stecak tombstones replicas.
Stolac, along with an inevitable Makova Hiza should be visited right now, at this moment, immediately. Moreover, it should be left inside of you so that, when you leave this place physically, you will be able to return to its premises in bright corners of your the mind. Regardless of the period you are visiting, the door of Stolac and Makova Hiza are always open.
Still, it may be best to opt for a visit during the Festival “Slovo Gorcina”(Letter/ Alphabet of Gorcin). The Slovo Gorčina Cultural Festival has been held since 1971 in Stolac at the Radimlja Necropolis.
It is a festival that offers an opportunity to gather the people and content that can be poetry, music, painting, film, philosophy, history and all other media of the human spirit. The idea of the festival is making a spiritual connection and communion of all of that is beautiful and useful. These are meetings that strive to symbolically represent the area, region and state of Bosnia and Herzegovina on a platform of unity and humanity.
May the house of our elders
Be always and wide
For those who never tend
For those who do not tend
Upon their might riches
Upon golden ducats
“The House in Mile”