Today the few international cultural-artistic manifestations greatly contribute to affirmation of the city as a developed cultural environment in the country. The so far established high renown, popularity and eminent achievements are known in European and even wider geographic areas. Natural beauties, abundant cultural heritage that left their traces here throughout centuries, as well as the hospitality of Bitola people, make these manifestations interesting and attended by a lot of participants, and lovers of the things presented also.
ILINDENSKI DENOVI. The rich Macedonian folklore, including Bitola region, is famous outside the boundaries of our country. The necessity to preserve, and at the same time to popularize, authentic folklore imposed the need of establishing a special institution for folklore, which appears as a leading organizer of the National festival of folk songs and dances-Ilindenski Denovi. It is held each year as a celebration of the national holiday of Macedonians: 2nd August-Day of the Ilinden Uprising. The festival is always held from 29th July till the 1st August. It represents a dignified affirmation of authentic folk dances and songs, not only of Macedonian nation and the minorities living in Macedonia, but also nations from the world. It is an international folklore manifestation that arises significant interest in the world: in Australia, America, Canada, European and other countries, whose folklore associations and group have taken part in it.
During the performances, which take place on the sports courts and in the sports center “Mladost”, the audience is delighted by presentations of songs, dances, customs from pagan times until present days. This fact speaks in favor of always present admirers of authentic folklore and culture. Additionally, the institution works actively with associations and groups throughout the year, organizing their work, helping them professionally and selecting the best ones for participation at the festival. What is especially important is the presence of folk groups of our immigrants abroad, as well as other foreign groups that nourish Macedonian folklore.
The Festival “Ilindenski Denovi” consists of other important additional manifestations: Exhibition of children drawings with folklore motifs, Exhibition of folk costumes, “Ilinden Caravan” by the festival participants who give concerts in other places in Macedonia, scientific gatherings about folklore etc. Here, a special accent should be put on the big Bitola defile through the city streets, which is organized on 29th July on the eve of the festival start. It is a real holiday of folklore in Bitola.
After the end of the festival on the 2nd August one part of the festival program is presented on the traditional national gathering-Ilinden Fair in village Trnovo-Bitola area.
The festival of folk songs and dances “Ilindenski Denovi” has an irreplaceable cultural mission in preservations and presentation of our culture and tradition Macedonian folklore instigates significant interest in scientific circles because of its originality, authenticity and enormous richness of different spiritual content of the collective creator. Even in very difficult political, economic and cultural darkness through centuries, our anonymous creator succeeded to develop spoken, handmade, dance, instrumental, custom-ritual activity to perfection and handed it down from generation to generation.
In order to save this priceless cultural heritage, not only from oblivion of the time, but also from the invasion of various usurpers, the institution of folklore “Ilindesnki Denovi”, the organizer of this utmost international folklore festival is, among the other, concerned with keeping this national richness in its abundant video, audio and photo-documentation for the generations to come.
INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN ART COLONY “Small Bitola Monometer”. During the last two decades, yet another cultural-artistic manifestation drew public attention, not only in Bitola and Macedonia, but wider. That is the international children art colony, known under the popular name of “Small Bitola Monometer”. Its young creators are constantly contributing to popularize rich artistic tradition of Bitola in the world.
In order to nourish and spread art, starting from the earliest age of children, the cultural-educational institution “Cyril and Methodius” was established in the city in 1981. Under the supervision of the renown art pedagogue Costa Hagi Antonovski, here, young art talents from primary schools and pre-school institutions, unveil the secrets of art. The interest for this art workshop was and remains to be of immense intensity among the young. Their achievements, on artistic ground, were very quickly popularized outside the borders of our country.
As a result of these achievements, in 1982, the Studio organized the first art colony “Small Bitola Monometer” during which participants chose the theme individually. The next year, the Colony “Bitola 83” the manifestation acquired its current physiognomy, that is, the basic working motif was established under the title: “Old Architecture of Bitola”.
Henceforth, the real growth of the Colony commenced, both, in organizational and creative aspect. For that purpose abundant range of artistic forms of work have been used: exhibitions in the country and abroad, organization of a summer school, making of frescos-murals, organization of art caravans, participation with art works of its participants at various artistic manifestations in the world etc. In 1992 the Colony became an international manifestation.
The decision to organize such an international children art manifestation in Bitola proved to be a productive and an excellent idea. It contributed to enriching Bitola cultural heritage with yet another interesting segment-children art creation. Here, in the city under Pelister, children from different meridians of the world master the finest requests, of course for their age, of art magic, playing with tones, lines, light and shadows. The result of that childish art fantasy is fascinating-reaching the boundaries of mature art pieces. It is amazing how children’s frangible hands create a work of art with such a feeling of color, space and order, while creating the pictures and their color, graphic and construction elements. Without such an attitude of theirs towards this serious art letter and the imagination of children’s world it would have been impossible to admire the beauties of old buildings, balconies, architectural decorations, iron works, eaves, gates etc. During the period when the Colony is held, the desire to draw better than others is present, especially in the Old Bazaar and its decorative streets and “cikmaci”. They are in some way festival days in Bitola. Actually, it is characteristic for youth to compete and compare.
Numbers themselves also speak of the achievements of “Small Bitola Monometer”. During the past 17 years 2500 art talents form about 40 countries from Europe and the world have been creating here. They have painted over 5000 drawings solely on the motif of old Bitola architecture. They constitute a number of attractive and completely prepared collections of the most valuable works, known under the name of “Pearls of Small Bitola Monometer”. They are exhibited throughout the year in numerous exposition premises, galleries, salons in the country and abroad.
The participation at the Colony is possible after applying to an international competition, which is organized each year in September. At the so far organized competitions in the Studio over 250.000 children works have arrived from all around the world. This rich fund of drawings represents a very significant cultural abundance, not only for the institution but wider. All the works are made in different art techniques and materials. It is this fund that enabled the Studio to organize a few exhibitions for Guinness, in the country and abroad, where over 11.000 works were exhibited.
The interest for exhibitions of this Colony, seen by the people in Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Turkey, Australia and others, speaks in favor of the popularity of “Small Bitola Monometer”. It should also be pointed out that in the building the Studio is located in, which is in the attractive part of the Old Bazaar, there is a permanent art exposition of works made by the young art creators, participants of the Colony.
Last year, the Colony successfully presented itself with an exhibition in Stockholm-cultural residence of Europe for 1998, and this year in a few cities in Australia as well.
In the rich collection of national and foreign awards that the Children Art Studio has received so far, the highest and most numerous are those from Japan, at the international exhibition of children drawings which is held in Tokyo every year. Some of the members of the Studio won numerous prizes and awards, among which are even the highest: super gold, gold, silver etc. It was similar in 1999 also. Such awards were presented in India, Poland, The Czech Republic, Russia and other countries.
As far as the prizes awarded to the Colony by the international jury are concerned, we can say they are numerous. The most outstanding award of “Small Bitola Monometer” is the “Grand Prix” award. Among the others are: “Golden Medallion” for the participation of the Colony with best collection; “Golden Medallion” and a Diploma for individual achievement; Special Award etc. It should be pointed out that the Colony is held in dedication of the Slavic education Cyril and Methodius, from 23rd until 30th May.
INTERNATIONAL GRAPHIC TRIENNIAL. As a developed art center in this Balkan region, Bitola has always accepted new tendencies of art, including graphic. The dynamics of living in our time, development of technology, and as a result of that the so-called industrial culture, inevitably set into this region of spiritual existence. Although graphic art, that is, graphic belongs to the kind of modern art tendencies of 20th century, it can be said that this kind of art started its affirmation here some time later. The pioneer steps of a group of Macedonian artists, who started their artistic career before World War II (Nicola Martinovski, Borko Lazarevski and Vasilie Popovic-Cico), later, in the 60s opened the prospects for a quicker acceptance of graphic as an interesting work field of artists who used to belong to the younger generation of artists at the time, a part of whom were educated or professionally developed in European centers (Avramovski, Mazev, Hagi Boshkov, etc). In the 70s a group of artists-graphic appeared in Bitola who acquired well artistic education in the country and aboard, thus providing the city a place among developed environments with high graphic culture.
There is another reason for this up-going tendency of graphic art in Bitola and that is the opening of the exhibition of that time Contemporary Yugoslav Graphic in 1967 organized by the Art Gallery. This was followed by transformation of this cultural institution into Gallery of graphic designers of former republic, and later became the basic environment of this art discipline. In 1972 the Art Gallery started housing the Triennial of contemporary Yugoslav graphic, the organization of which stopped in 1990. During that almost two decades long period, the Gallery affirmed itself as a competent organizer of such artistic events. Renown artistic names exhibited their works here, such as: Bogdan Borcic, Edo Murtic, Andrej Jemec, Petar Hagi Boskov, Dimce Nikolov and others. Today the Gallery has over 400 graphic prints with high quality and value in its depot.
Due to known changes, after the Seventh Triennial (1990) the accumulated experience and renown enabled organizing a graphic manifestation of international character. After long preparations, on 27th May 1994, with participation of many famous national and world names, the biggest artistic manifestation of this kind in Macedonia-The First International Graphic Triennial, was opened in the Institution, Museum and Gallery. 430 authors from 54 countries took part in it. The International jury awarded six prizes to Bogdan Borcic (Slovenia), Tetsuo Jamashita (Japan), Maja Raunik (Macedonia), David Kid (Canada), Ilija Kocovski (Bitola-Macedonia) and Martin Garcia Rivera (PuertoRico).
The estimation of this international Triennial, given by most eminent names that work with this kind of exhibitions, was very favorable, both from organizational-technical and artistic aspect. A bilingual catalogue was made and sent to all the participants of the manifestation, and to institutions involved in modern art, various galleries and graphic centers in the world. That opened the way for organizing of the next-the Second International Graphic Triennial on 30th May 1997. 890 graphic designers from 74 countries participated with over 1600 graphics. The great number of participants and works with high art qualities confirmed the renown this Bitola art manifestation acquired worldwide in the best way. Thus, not only Bitola, but Macedonian contemporary art got new impulses in the ascending steps in this kind of art creation in the world treasury. High marks of this Triennial were present this time also.
As far as creating tendencies are concerned, it could be shortly said that in both exhibitions there was an evident presence of wide range of techniques, ideas, directions, schools etc. It was a certain pluralism of the immense creating possibilities offered by graphic art: modern solutions with abstract symbols viewed geometrically and lyrically, depending on the author’s urge to approach the real or imaginary, presentation of traditional techniques of deep print (cooper print, etkanica, dry needle), including numerous lithography and other techniques in processing graphic works. The participation of Bitola artistic-graphic designers conforms the assumption that they successfully follow their colleagues from other meridians of the world.
It should be noted that at the International Graphic Priennal in Bitola a few prestigious awards are given by an international jury: Grand Prix, Special Grand Prix, Premium, Gold medal of the city of Bitola etc. All this provides the Triennial a high rank in world’s artistic circles and instigates a great interest for participating. Various additional manifestations complement it: round tables, scientific gatherings, consultations etc. Eminent theoreticians, scientists, researchers and other people who follow graphic art participate at the manifestation. As a result, during the period of the International Graphic Triennial Bitola transforms into a real gathering place, not only of artists but of contemporary art admirers. Naturally, the majority is interested in the latest tendencies in art creation, including graphic.
CHILDREN MUSIC FESTIVAL “SI-DO”. As a result of the long musical traditional characteristic for this city, the Children Music Festival “Si-Do” was born. During the last half of the century, and till today, several organizations and associations have been directly involved in the care of educating the youngest population of Bitola-the children. One of those organizations is the Pioneer Center (previously known as Pioneer house).
Even two decades ago under the initiative of this organization, a performance under the name “We Choose Musical Talents” was organized every year. Children from kindergartens and primary schools who wanted to sing and complete to be the best singer among their generation took part in it. The interest was remarkably high and there was mass participation of children at all age. The organizers were: Pioneer Center, that time Cultural and Educational Association, Music School, The Cultural Center and some other public organizations and individuals. In 1978 the manifestation was named “Child-Fest Do-Re-Mi”, and in 1991 it got its present, very popular, name Child-Festival “Si-Do” or shortly Si-Do, in honor of the famous music pedagogue, composer and conductor from Bitola, Petar Sidovski, who died in that period.
The children music festival Si-Do was held for the eighth time in 1998. During all those years, in May, in the crowded big hall of the Cultural Center more than a hundred children of deferent age performed every year, either as soloists or members of the children festival choir. In this direction special contribution have the composers of children music from Bitola: Petar Sidovski, Kire Kostov, Slave Dimitrov, Petar Gorgiev-Kalica, Kiril Todorovski, Milko Lozanovski, Miodrag Necak, Snezhana Naumovska as a conductor, and many other music pedagogues, organizers, managers of various organizations etc. Some of the talented children, participants of this festival, today appear to be renown singers of Macedonian music life. Some of the songs which were first sang at the festival will enter Macedonian music anthology: “Super Grandma”, “Knee-height to the grasshopper” (Miodrag Necak) “Natasha” (Dragan Karanfilovski-Bojs), “It is hard without a friend” (L.Mirkovski), “Anushka” (Risto Samargiev), “Amadeus, Amadeus” (Marjan Necak) and many others. Today, this music festival has a significant place in city’s cultural life as well as many fans of this kind of music, especially among the youngest.