“A bullock learns from the oxen…” Old Skills, New Purposes
Original title »Od vola uči se volič.« Stare veščine, novi nameni
In the course of several years of researching the relationship between people and their working oxen I came across only two farms in the wider Karst area where the farmers still used an ox for certain jobs – ploughing and digging up potatoes. Watching a TV programme on agriculture with an enacted, costumed presentation of digging up and harvesting potatoes last autumn, I suddenly noticed the “performance” of a pair of old working oxen. The trail took me to the Karst village of Merče, granny Lea, farmer Ivan, and his sons Denis and David. On this farm a blend of love of the cattle and a penchant to perform (at local and regional agricultural festivals and tourist events) led Ivan, who is otherwise a stone layer, after nearly half a century and using skills revived from his childhood to teach – under the watchful eye of his mother – his bullock Pepa how to draw. To have a working pair, another bullock, Riko, was engaged and they are now teaching a third one – Miška. Ivan’s and Lea’s knowledge and skills are passed on to their sons and step by step to their grandson as well. Coexisting with working oxen has thus been preserved on their farm, albeit for a new purpose.
Author/s Inja Smerdel
Research Inja Smerdel
Photography Damir Smerdel
Sound Damir Smerdel
Editing Boštjan Abram, Inja Smerdel