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Biljana Doj?inovi?

Embroidery – textile and/or textual art : Jelica Belovi? Bernadžikovska


The history of Serbian women’s writing starts both symbolically and literally from an "embroidered text". Since the nun Jefimija until today embroidery has had a very important role in it. However, this has not been well recognized nor appreciated.

In my presentation I will focus on the text by Jelica Belovi? Bernadžikovska, published in 1913 in the journal entitled Srpkinja. That text about Serbian embroidery was published six years after Belovic-Bernadzikovska's important monograph on Serbian embroidery, and sums up both the meaning of embroidery for women, as well as the reactions to her own collecting and describing textile art of Serbian women. Both textile art and her collecting work were perceived as lesser, unimportant in comparison to male art, by some male contemporaries. Belovic-Bernadzikovska strongly opposes such opinions and theorizes the craft. She wants to prove that embroidery for Serbian women meant a way of self-expression (she analyzes symbolic meanings of various colors, embroidery in folk poetry, etc.). She describes the difference of Serbian women’s embroidery in comparison to other European nations and traditions, and advocates embroidery as a suitable profession for women.

Bernadžikovska’s text opens up the theoretical issue of "literature" itself – first of all concerning the material used by authors: is embroidery also a way of writing? Are the motifs on textile comparable to motifs in fiction? Is therefore writing about meaning of symbols in embroidery a kind of literary theory, and/or literature by itself? Her text also underlines the issue of national identity as a kind of difference. These questions are important for cultural history, especially in stressing the economic importance of this craft for women, as a way of emancipation within the patriarchal society. The text is therefore comparable to another text on women and literature by the same Belovic-Bernadzikovska, and even to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One's Own.

AsK, September 2012

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