‘Zmaj Children Games in Novi Sad and Sremska Kamenica have always been and will remain the only games in our country that are not played, but make a wonderful literary, critical-poetical, sociological-pedagogical, aesthetic-ideological, and ethical effort aimed at providing the proper and honoured place in literature for the world of the youngest, from Zmaj to the present day…’ This is how famous writer Miroslav Mika Antić talked about one of the most significant festivals for children.
This year, the 65th Zmaj Children Games, will brighten up the whole week (6-12 June) with smiles, songs, creative workshops and music, celebrating the famous poet Jovan Jovanović Zmaj, under the slogan and verse by Arsen Diklić ‘Where the Blue Danube Whispers’. In the year when Novi Sad bears the European Capital of Culture title, festival activities will take place at more than 30 locations across the city, Youth Theatre, cultural stations, parks, schools and kindergartens, children’s playgrounds, urban green spaces, premises of the City Library in Novi Sad, the Museum of Vojvodina therefore making it more accessible to children and interested audience in the whole City.
We bring an interesting story about the creation and development of Zmaj Children Games, a festival with long tradition that children have been looking forward to for 65 years.
Zmaj Jovina Street – A Place Where Children Gather
Jovan Jovanović Zmaj was born in Novi Sad in 1833. He was a Serbian poet, playwright, translator and doctor. He was also the editor of numerous magazines for children and adults. He was an associate of prominent Serbian politicians in the second half of the 19th century. He was the first writer in Serbian literature to create poetry for children. One of the main streets in the Novi Sad centre, where the children’s festival takes place, was named after the poet. The street used to be called the Main Street, and it runs from the Liberty Square to the Bishop’s Palace, where it intersects with Dunavska Street, one of the oldest in Novi Sad. The space in front of the Bishop’s Palace is adorned with the statue of Jovan Jovanović Zmaj, one of the places where children gather and where part of the Zmaj Children Games programme takes place every year in June.
This Is How Zmaj Children Games Were Created
Back in 1954, on the occasion of the opening of the restored Jovan Jovanović Zmaj Museum in Sremska Kamenica, proposals for organising the event Zmaj’s Days that would be held annually between 1 and 20 June were made. That is how Zmaj’s Days began in Sremska Kamenica in 1958 with the presentation on Children’s Poetry by Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj given by academic Veljko Petrović and poetic expression by Desanka Maksimović, Stevan Raičković, Dušan Radović, Božidar Kovačević and Gvido Tartalja. That is when the foundations of one of the oldest festivals of artistic creation for children were laid. In 1969, the name of the festival was changed to Zmaj Children Games, and it has remained the same until the present day.
The organiser’s main idea, from the very beginning, was to gather writers, illustrators, critics, publishers, editors, librarians, pedagogues, artists, and readers of children’s literature. The Zmaj Children Games have their own publishing in the form of the magazine ‘Detinjstvo’ (Childhood), while the first issue was published in 1975. Since 2015, it has been on the list of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia, as an art-scientific magazine. Rich publishing activities consist of editions of contemporary local and European literature, critical reviews, theoretical books on children’s literature, world folk literature, etc. Zmaj Children Games, being the International Centre for Children’s Literature, implements various projects throughout the year. In addition to the June festival, there are the December Zmaj’s Days of Beautiful Words, a festival of monodrama for children, guest appearances of artists in other cities, multilingual programmes in multinational environments, programmes for children belonging to vulnerable and marginalized groups.
The Zmaj Children Games manifestation, within which children, their mentors and families participate every year, while the audience enjoys, includes multimedia programmes for children and youth that features all forms of artistic expression for children, as well as children’s creativity (theatre, literature, music, art, film screenings, workshops, exhibitions and, above all, meetings of writers and readers). We invite you to stay up to date with this year’s rich programme of Zmaj Children Games and take your loved ones to the family festival within which you will readily join children’s activities
Author: Anđela Dalmacija
Photo: Documentation Centre of Zmaj Children Games, Vladimir Veličković