Vermont Folklife Center 2012 Governor’s Heritage Traditional Art Award: Mediha Jusufagic

Written by Vermont Life on . Posted in Web Exclusives

Mediha Jusufagic learned traditional dance as a child in Bosnia and in the years before the war toured with her dance troupe in Yugoslavia and other parts of Europe. She was a star performer and dance was a vital part of her childhood years. Arriving in Vermont as a refugee, Mediha looked back on this experience as a kind of cultural touchstone, and in her new role as community activist and parent. recognized the impact that dance could have on Bosnian children who had been displaced by the brutal Balkan war.

Thus was born the Bosnian Lilies, a dance troupe founded by Mediha in partnership with Amila Begovic and Ervina Ramic in 2001. An all-volunteer effort, the troupe quickly grew to thirty members and performed locally and at Bosnian events region wide. Today the Bosnian Lilies are widely recognized as a cultural emblem and source of pride for Vermont’s Bosnian community, and as “ambassadors” to Vermonters who are new to Bosnian culture.

Mediha is an extremely skilled dancer and an expert teacher. She is also a visionary with a seemingly endless reservoir of energy. Newly arrived and facing the challenges of mastering English, finding work, providing stability for her family and deciphering an entirely new culture, she nevertheless recognized that young Bosnian Vermonters needed an understanding of their own culture as a foundation for navigating the challenges of the American mainstream.

Through the Bosnian Lilies program, which includes instruction in traditional dance, instrumental music, language, and song, Mediha creates an environment where children are focused and excited about what they are learning and the unique and valuable contributions their culture makes to Vermont.

In the words of Mark Sustic, “Mediha is one of Vermont’s most important cultural treasures, part of a living tradition from far away, with roots now planted firmly in her adopted home.” Mediha’s ability to welcome and nurture young people in traditional music and dance is remarkable. Today we celebrate her work as an artist and her formative influence on an entire generation of Bosnian-American youth.

Gregory Sharrow, Vermont Folklife Center

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