Mediterranean Festivals - Moreska
Moreška is a battle dance with swords which, together with the dramatic plot and musical accompaniment, forms a unique, connected whole. The armies of the Black and the White King fight for the righteous victory of love within the seven fencing figures or the kolap. Black King Moro has kidnapped White King Osman’s fiancée – the Bula. In the last figure, the army of Black King Moro is defeated. As a sign of humility, he falls to the ground and hands King Osman the weapon and the Bula. King Osman frees the Bula from her chains, lifts the veil covering her face and kisses her.
The moreškant (performers of moreška) are dressed in ornate uniforms which significantly contribute to the overall impression of the performance. The white soldiers are dressed in red uniforms, and the black ones in black. The kings have crowns on their heads, and the soldiers have hats which decorate and protect them in battle. Moreška was once accompanied by a smaller number of instruments, while today’s musical accompaniment of Korčula’s moreška was composed by Krsto Odak.
In the past, moreška was performed in numerous cities of the European Mediterranean and out of all the places on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, it has only been preserved in Korčula, where it has been maintained since the 16th century, although the earliest mention of Korčula’s moreška dates from the 17th century. Unlike the original kumpanijas of islands, moreška originates from the countries located in Europe which has become an integral part of Korčula, hence the name “Korčula’s moreška”. In 2007, this dance was declared an intangible cultural heritage of Croatia. The dancing skill of the moreškant is passed from generation to generation.
Moreška used to be performed once a year in Korčula, on the holiday of St. Theodore, the co-patron of Korčula, celebrated on the 29 July, and the bat (the battle) was enacted in front of the respectable guests of Korčula. More recently, Korčula’s moreška is performed at almost every important festival in Croatia and Europe (opening of the first International Folklore Festival in 1966 and the Mediterranean Games in Split in 1979), and it is performed several times a week during the tourist season. Performances within the country and abroad contribute to the promotion of Korčula’s moreška, Korčula itself, and Croatia, therefore Korčula’s moreška, together with St. Mark’s Cathedral, the confraternities, stone masonry, wooden shipbuilding and water polo, is a symbol of the city of Korčula. Today in Korčula the bat is performed by two societies: Cultural and Artistic Society (KUD) “Moreška” and Croatian Musical Society (HGD) “St. Cecilia”.
Marija Hajdić, dr. sc.
Director of the Korčula City Museum