STA, 8 February 2019 - Slovenia is observing Culture Day on Friday, a bank holiday dedicated to artists and their work. While virtually every town will hold at least a small ceremony, President Borut Pahor will honour writer Florjan Lipuš, a member of the Slovenian minority in Austria, with the Golden Order of Service for his contribution to literature.
However, the main event already took place, as the Prešeren Prizes, top national accolades in arts and culture, were given out last night.
Two lifetime achievement prizes were given out this year, going to theatre costume designer Bjanka Adžić Ursulov and independent documentary director Filip Robar Dorin.
The Prešeren Fund also gave out six prizes for exceptional artistic work over the course of the past three years. These went to choir conductor Martina Batič, composer Tomaž Svete, poet Jure Jakob, actor Maruša Majer, animated film maker Dušan Kastelic and architects Aljoša Dekleva and Tina Gregorič Dekleva.
The award ceremony is usually a topical affair and last night was no different. In the keynote, Prešeren Fund board chair Vinko Möderndorfer was critical of the employment situation of many artists who are forced to freelance and barely making ends meet.
Last year being the 100th anniversary of death of Ivan Cankar (1876-1918), considered the greatest Slovenian writer, the country should have done more to improve the lives of artists, Möderndorfer said.
The many celebratory events did nothing to improve the situation, although this would have been the best way to honour Cankar, who himself struggled with financial troubles most of his life.
Drawing a different parallel, Möderndorfer noted that 120th will have pass this year since Fran Milčinski (1867-1932), wrote Butalci, a satire critical of small town mentality.
He believes that Slovenians intentionally sidelined Milčinski because Butalci hits a little too close to home. But Milčinski should be celebrated as well, because sting is the very point of satire.
"Are we a mature nation, capable of laughing at ourselves or are we Butalci," Möderndorfer wondered, referring to the residents of Butale, the fictional town in Milčinski's work.
He was also critical of the recent resignation of Culture Minister Dejan Prešiček, who was forced to step down after allegations emerged that he bullied a ministry employee who later committed suicide.
Möderndorfer said that it seemed like this government would be able to sort out the issues in the purview of the ministry. But the opposite happened: they got rid of the cleaner and the Augean Stables remain dirty.
The Prešeren Fund board chair was also critical of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's statement about NATO, essentially saying that a a country cannot remain a member of a club without paying its dues.
Möderndorfer wondered what it takes to remain in "the club of the cultured" and told the eight award winners that the state had more appreciation for weapons that it had for them.
The Prešeren Prizes are named after France Prešeren (1800-1849), perhaps the most honoured Slovenian poet, while Culture Day is observed in the date of Prešeren's death.
Prešeren's poetry has left a deep mark on Slovenian national identity. Ultimately, his Toast, a toast to the Slovenian nation, peace, friends and neighbours, has become the country's national anthem.
The poetry readings in front of Prešeren's house have become a modern-day pilgrimage for many Slovenians, etymologist Janez Bogataj said at this year's event. Lovely weather several thousand people to the idyllic village of Vrba near Bled today.
Thousands also visited the Prešeren Fair, an annual event hosted by Kranj, Gorenjska regional centre that prides itself on being "Prešeren's town".
What is more, one of top tourism officials in the country, state secretary Eva Štravs Podlogar, praised the event as being a five-star experience, the kind Slovenia wants to develop more of.
Those walking through Ljubljana city centre could enjoy a poetry reading staged by professional actors, an annual event as well.
Culture Day was also celebrated by Slovenian communities abroad, as the country's embassies around the globe hosted events to observe the day.