Photos: Alexander Stemp

Hundreds of artists in opening ceremony

Year of culture under way at Novi Sad

Novi Sad’s opening ceremony on January 13 for its year as a European Capital of Culture marked a historic moment for the city on the Danube that is the capital of the Voyvodina region in northern Serbia. The country’s second city, 300 kilometres south of what was once its own capital, Budapest, a time when it was known as Újvidék in Hungarian, Novi Sad is unusually a non-EU Capital of Culture, being in a candidate country.
23. January 2022 18:03

Novi Sad is the first of the three European Capitals of Culture for 2022 to stage its opening ceremony, with the other two, Kaunas in Lithuania and Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg, due to hold theirs on January 22 and February 26 respectively. A succession of events proceeded on January 13 by celebrating the great names of Serbian science through the arts and local culture, as will be the case throughout the entire year.

On this grand occasion, more than 400 artists from both Serbia and around Europe took part, alongside various high-ranking guests and officials. It’s clear that those locally who influence globally, such as the likes of Mileva Marić Einstein, Milutin Milanković, Dragiša Brašovan and Ljubomir Micić, will be honoured for their outstanding achievements in this field.

The first opening event was called “Doček”, which is Serbian for “Welcome”, and the accompanying “Time and Universe – Exhibition of Time” is described as a kind of journey from darkness to light, chaos to space, through a multimedia blend of digital and analogue artistic expression. Further, framed by a story about duration, the exhibition leads viewers on the path of the development of civilisation, and culminates in the opening of Serbian mathematician and geophysicist Milutin Milanković’s code, revealing a secret woven into time itself.

The author of the visual-artistic part of the exhibition is Dušan Jovović, PhD, the author of prestigious multimedia and interactive exhibitions with an international impact. The author of the narrative is Professor Aleksandar Petrović, PhD, an exceptional connoisseur of Milanković’s life and work, which he has been studying for more than 50 years.

‘Time and Universe – Exhibition of Time” is a high-tech interactive multimedia presentation celebrating the world-famous Serbian-American inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla, and can be seen during the entirety of the title year. Its unveiling was hosted by multimedia artist Dušan Jovović. Others in attendance were Novi Sad European Capital of Culture Foundation CEO Nemanja Milenković, President of the Provincial Government of Voyvodina Igor Mirović and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture and Information Maja Gojković.

Novi Sad’s official opening ceremony was hosted at the Serbian National Theatre by Nemanja Milenković and Maja Gojković, with best wishes sent by EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel in a live broadcast. Guests were welcomed by Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Emanuele Giaufret, Mayor of Novi Sad Miloš Vučević and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić.

The year-round programme of this particular European Capital of Culture is based on four programmes – Rainbow, Freedom, Love and Hope. The Rainbow programme includes the Doček and migration matters. Freedom deals with children, youth and the future of Europe. The culture of Love and peace and raising environmental awareness speaks for itself. Finally, Hope relates to togetherness. With these four mantras, Novi Sad will celebrate the merging of its various cultural assets and offer ongoing cultural continuity.

The evening’s events continued with the grand opening of the play “ZENITEUM: 2022” in the Banovina Palace. This explores the connection between art and science, and more than 60 artists participated, including Boris Kovač and the New Ritual Ensemble, Ballet Ensemble of the Serbian National Theatre, multi-award-winning ECoC Accordion Quartet, pianist Aleksandar Bahun and the Velos Tamburitza Orchestra, all directed by Slovenia’s Dragan Živadinov, who also composed the music that contributed to the whole swirly-whirly audio-visual extravaganza.

Popular duo Synspecies greeted the public in robust and bombastic style, and the highlight was embodied in two characters – Milutin Milanković played by Boris Isaković and Mileva Marić Einstein played by Anita Mančić. An impressive ensemble of actors, singers, ballet dancers, acrobats, solo trumpeters Laura Vukobratović and Nenad Marković, and an entire brass band played to an enthusiastic crowd. DJs Miloš Martinov and Dejan also delivered to the masses. The spectacle concluded with host Lazar Jovanov giving a toast to the city and to those in attendance.

At this grand pivotal moment Novi Sad was greeted by three spacemen from the International Space Station: cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov and astronaut Matthias Maurer. Rounding off the night, concerts and shows were held throughout the city, such as the quintessentially Serbian no-frills local “Guca-esque” trumpet and brass band playing live on the streets.

Day two of this European Capital of Culture year was dedicated to Novi Sad tourism, with the foreign press contingent shown the central city sites by guides. Most of the attractions, such as the grandiose City Hall, the prestigious Roman Catholic church, the exotic Bishop Bacha palace and many other architectural gems, draped in pre- and post-imperial 19th- and 20th-century architecture, are generally accessible from the Bulevar Mihajla Pupina road and easy to find. All lead the way with further graceful charm and pleasant atmosphere to the Danube. High up on the other side of the river is the beautifully restored Petrovaradin Fortress and its towering and distinguishable clock.

This symbolic and quirky timekeeper that defines the city is a sure sign for those travelling by the river that one has arrived. It is remarkable for another reason, as this 18th-century landmark is informally known as “The Drunken Clock”, with its hour and minute hands purposely switched from one to the other. The clock still operates today, delivering its idiosyncratic version of “time” – not necessarily scientifically but serviceably so to all grateful passers-by regardless of whether they are on the drink or not.

A welcoming lunch can be enjoyed at the traditionally themed and splendid Sokace restaurant, serving the best of locally produced Serbian fayre. The evening programme took attendees to the “Slava” cultural station to explore the spiritual and traditional Serbian life and culture. This insightful event, which began with a Mass, is always celebrated each January 14.

St. Slava is the patron saint of families. Put briefly, Serbian culture is a reflection of many different cultural influences that have shaped it throughout history. These range from old Slavic roots that were Christianised during the Middle Ages through to Byzantine and Ottoman influences, and all the way to Western European and global cultural currents in the past two centuries. Each time period has left its mark on this refined culture.

One cultural phenomenon that continues from early beginnings to this day in Serbia is the Slava. It is also an Orthodox holiday that is related to the family, which in the original pagan context meant paying homage to family ancestors. This is an opportunity for families to gather each year on this day and enjoy a round-table feast, complete with the obligatory wine and Slava bread. As a cultural and religious phenomenon unique in the world, the Slava has been inscribed in the register of intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO since 2014, the first cultural asset of this type from Serbia to be inscribed on the list.

Throughout 2022, Novi Sad will host more than 1500 cultural events. See

The city, whose name translates as “New Plantation”, has enjoyed global attention lately from its summertime Exit Festival, similar to the Glastonbury and Sziget festivals. It was cancelled last year but the authorities will give it a run this year from July 7-10 with headliners Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. See

Novi Sad is twinned with Pécs in Hungary and Norwich in the UK, and makes an ideal weekend break in a delightful city. See

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