Research Researchers Distinguished, external and former scientists Nikola Bonifačić - Rožin (en-US)

Nikola Bonifačić Rožin

(Punat, island Krk, 1913.- Zagreb, 1995.)
Nikola Bonifacic Rozin, the Croatian writer and folklorist was born in Punat on theIsland of Krk on the 6th January 1913 . He died in Zagreb on the 25th April 1995 . He went to school in Kosljun, Krk and Susak and studied in Zagreb . As a writer, he grew up in the same literary circle as the great Croatian writer, Tin Ujevic, whom he befriended, and with whom he spent a lot of time in his youth. The following dramas have been performed a t the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb : U vrtlogu (1937, Dimitrije Demeter award) and Krsnik (1941). Among his published literary works, the following dramas are particularly valuable: Cvrcak (1946), Plijen (1955), Trinajstic (1956), and the collection of poems Poljubica (1964). 
At his best in his poetry in Cakavian dialect , which demonstrates that dialects should not be regarded as being poetically inferior to a literary language. Although his Cakavian poems are influenced by the atmosphere of his birthplace Punat, Krk and Kvarner, they masterfully and inspirationally deal with universal themes, and clearly show that poetry in dialect is just as able to go beyond the local and to go beyond mere description.
However, we, as folklorists and ethnologists from the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb are not called upon to judge Bonificic's literary work. We know that historians of Croatian literature and theatre will be the ones to seriously consider an investigation into, this not large, but worthy, literary work, and they will be the ones to allocate Nikola Bonifacic Rozin the place in Croatian literature and culture that he certainly deserves.
Nikola Bonifacic Rozin is known to us more as a folklorist, who was a valuable and tactful colleague at the Institute, and who successfully worked almost from the foundation of the Institute in 1952 to his retirement in 1979.
As a folklorist, he was mainly engaged in oral literature, and was the first in Croatia to systematically note and research folk drama. He is the author of two books: Narodne drame, poslovice i zagonetke (1963) and Gajusa (1973) . He is the author of about twenty studies and articles, (in the journal Narodna umjetnost and elsewhere), a number of papers given at conferences and about eighty manuscript collections of materials (which are kept at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb).
Although the materials of Nicola Bonifacic Rozin come mainly from the basis of oral narratives (i.e. he didn't directly note the performance), recorded without the use of tape recorders or other technical aids, they have shown to be more suitable for publication than many new materials transcribed from a tape recorder or video camera. His notes of the narratives give short, but succinct texts and short but very useful descriptions of the plots.
In normally long-winded folklore plays, Bonifacic Rozin knew how to write down, and isolate moments of extreme dramatic power in long sequences of 'low intensity' acting. With his subtle literary sensibility, as well as his gift for observation, he succeeded in doing that what contemporary electronic devices, with their lens' and microphones could not, which was the role of folklore in community life.
Bonifacic as a born Cakavian speaker (writing quickly with a pencil into his notebook), was perhaps not always successful in noting down every minute detail of local speech from his non Cakavian informants , something that was sometimes known to antagonise his colleagues in folklore studies who were engaged with oral poetry and prose. Nevertheless what is visible in his annotation of narratives in folk theatre, is that he proved to be an experienced and reliable note taker, and this was particularly true regarding dialogues. He almost always asked of his informants that they demonstrate these dialogues in their authentic spoken form. This research method could be said to interfere with the narrative habitus of the speaker, but it resulted in some very valuable records of dialogues. These dialogues are not, and cannot be said to be authentic records of dialogues of performance , but they can enable us to imagine the performance . When recollecting the dialogues, informants could not significantly shorten their narratives , and so they described the plots in minute detail as well as the other particularities of the performance and performative situation. It is important to point out that in his notes, Bonifacic always remarks whether they are records of the performance or records of the narratives . His feeling for the entire event often gives us information about the context, the role and the importance of performance in the life of people. He always noted all the details about genders, ages, interests and activities of his informants and performers and this showed his relationship towards the people with whom he worked.
If we exclude the first initiatives from the nineteenth century, we can say that the first systematic research of folklore theatre in Croatia started with the work of Nikola Bonifacic Rozin. He showed us the dramatic worth of rituals and customs, pointing out their theatrical features and arguing for the emancipation of folk drama as a genre that is on an equal level to other genres of folk art . His book Narodne drame, poslovice i zagonetke (Zagreb, 1963) was the first in Croatia to choose the theme folk drama, and has brought to us a valuable anthology of folk drama texts. The small number of recorded folk dramatic texts, and fragments of texts, preserved from the last centur ies do not contain enough data about the context of the performance . This came to our attention only in our century, particularly in the research of Nikola Bonifacic Rozin. We will say once again: we are indebted to his dedicated and long-term work, since it has produced the majority of the records of Croatian folklore theatre. This is by no means a small achievement in one person's life work, above all if we remember that Nikola Bonifacic Rozin started to work as a folklorist already as a mature person, as a forty years old.
If we look at the materials collected by Bonifacic, we can quietly claim that folklore theatre in Croatia by no means lagged behind folklore theatre in other European countries. If we have perhaps less 'half-folklore' drama, ( i.e. those that come from high-class culture), than, for example, the Italians or the Russians, we can for this be proud that we have more still-living forms of ceremonial performances that developed states in western Europe no longer have.
But, Nikola Bonifacic Rozin was not only a note taker of folklore materials. Although his theoretical works are small in number, it should be pointed out that he knew how to notice some important patterns and traits in the development of Croatian folk theatre. He perceived the development of speech as a phenomenon that was parallel to the development of folk drama. In one of his articles ( Gradja o dramskom folkloru u djelu Ivana Lovrica, 1979) he wrote the following, "Like all other aspects of people's creative work, the pantomimic magico-cultic actions in carnival change in the course of the influence of social, economic and personal human factors. With time, the actions of carnival participants can lose value or can change into a game, if during the moment of primary function it becomes weakened, the action is humanised by the human words. As these words evolve step by step from inarticulate bellows and grunts to intelligible content, folk works transform the magic o -cult ic form of carnival to modern theatrical dramatic literary works." His writings about the mysterious silence of masked ritual performers, (who perform mainly through movement , dance and the production of noise), and his writings about the transitional forms of " carnival" speech are particularly valuable, and show how it is possible to follow the evolution of dramatic speech. As well, this writing pointed out that theatre was not born only once a long time ago, rather that is still being born today with rituals, traditions and games.
Nikola Bonifacic Rozin was the first to recognise one more important pattern: that verse is often found connected to ritual, and "unconstrained folk drama, which became a social game , is often in prose". As well as this, which is correct and convincing, Bonifacic's writing about the evolution of drama from ritual shows that he was aware how the development of drama was not one short and unique process: mysterious silent masks and masks with altered voices exist today in Croatia, as do folk performances in poetry and in prose.
Bonifacic's contribution to the classification of masked characters is also important. He added a new category on the basis of his own field research to the customary definitions: zoomorphic, anthropomorphic, fitomorphic and fantastic masks, this category being "themed" masks. In some of his works (particularly in the text Covjek kao scenski rekvizit , 1961) Bonifacic Rozin mentions these themed masks, which could also be called ergomorphic masks: people masked in the creations of people, which people call upon during the proceedings of performances and games in the village, and at weddings. Examples of which are the man-mill who throws flour on the wedding observers, the man-grindstone who spits water onto the audience, the child-bag who receives a beating, and the man-oven who dirties his bakers' with soot. Bonifacic usually recognizes traces of initiation in these games.
Through his large amount of valuable field research and his hard work of collecting materials it is possible to see all shapes of folk drama, numerous genres of oral literature, and customs and folk life in general.
His contribution to the research of folk drama recorded in past written documents is important. He was the first to recognise similar scenes in Valvasor's description of wedding traditions of Istrian Croats in the wedding repertoires of many Croatian areas, pointing out the similarities of the recognition motif of the girl in the Istrian story about Jovanin and Jovanina, in the song about the marriage of Duke Janko from Kacic's collections and elsewhere in European folklore. He noticed that in two of Lovric's writings about wedding games in Biljeske o putu po Dalmaciji opata Alberta Fortisa , similar games could be found in contemporary Croatian folklore. He was the first to write about ' shaving with wood' in Drzic's Novela od Stanca , comparing this motive with shaving games in Konavle and in the Dubrovnik coast, and also in the northern Croatian areas in the Zagorje, Medimurje, Turopolje areas. These observations were based on his own records , but he also referred to similar games found in the areas around of Ogulin and in Hercegovina in earlier writing.
His research into the games in the kolo pointed out that the dialogue, where one actor sometimes directed the whole choir as collocutor, has a similarity to the ancient choir , which held an important role in the birth of theatre in ancient Greece .
Nikola Bonifacic Rozin also showed through his research that the old Dubrovnik mask called Turica could be found in contemporary folklore. He had a pioneering role into the research of folk puppetry - he pointed out the specific construction of puppets on the cross basis, and showed the international parallels of this type of puppet.
He was one of the first to research the dramatic aspects of the wedding ceremony , and was the first to write about the problem of directorship in folk theatre and so on. In brief: many, which only appear on the surface small, of his commentaries and contributions paved the way for the research of folk theatre in Croatia . He is the person who showed that folk dramatic expression also exists alongside folk poems, stories, proverbs and riddles.
He wrote about proverbs, riddles and legends. The book Vekivecni Zagreb by Ljiljana Marks received this year's award of the City of Zagreb partly due to Nikola Bonifacic Rozin. This book contains many of legends that Bonifacic wrote down in the city he loved and in which he died.
Nikola Bonifacic Rozin stays in our memories most of all as a tireless field researcher, as a lover of Croatian folklore, as a traveller who with a pencil and a notebook in his hands travelled around the whole of Croatia, travelling on buses, trains, always on public transport or by foot . Nikola Bonifacic Rozin was (and stayed to the end) the most ardent 'field worker'. Already in his first writing in the fifties, he showed his wide interest in folklore, recording literally everything, from folk customs to proverbs and riddles. With his wide range of interests, Nikola Bonifacic Rozin from the beginning of his own folklore work accurately anticipated the tenets of contemporary folklorist practice, whose aim is to show the life of folklore in its context.
Ivan Lozica