A DAY IN PERNIK
by Ayubu Mbarazi
Edited by Stacy Oswald
My name is Ayubu Mbarazi from Tanzania and I am currently doing my EVS volunteering in Sofia Bulgaria in Open Space foundation.
In my first week in Bulgaria I heard about this “Mask” Festival in a town outside Sofia called Pernik. Many people talked about it and it did sound interesting. So my volunteer friends and I made a pact to visit the festival with high hopes of having a day filled with nothing but fun.
We planned to go to Pernik town on the last day of the festival, we were saving the best for last. We took a train to Pernik around 10:00 in the morning and arrived at 11:00 am. The trip felt like nothing actually, the company made everything fun (I have videos to prove it!)
The first thing that caught my eyes and attention was the “Kuker”. Okay, let me rewind a bit, Kuker are people who wear the masks during the festival and they were very beautiful, awesome, scary and amazing. A little bit of everything actually. The whole place was crowded with Kukers all over and a lot of people were taking photos with them, some asked for blessings and it was quite an experience.
As we got carried away with the awesomeness of the festival we came across a very beautiful young lady who was with her mother and she asked for a picture. Well we said “sure, why not?” besides, it’s just a little girl in a big festival, how could it be any harmful? What we did not know was that a whole crowd of people wanted to take a picture with the two African guys in the festival. We ended up stealing the show. I wish someone told me earlier that I would be having an unofficial photoshoot, at least I would have carried my favorite jacket.
But I wasn’t as surprised with people wanting to take a picture with me until the stars of the show (the Kukers) left their show and joined the photo shoot. We used almost four hours taking pictures with different smiling people and Kukers that I couldn’t really tell if they were smiling or not, due to their masks.
The food part was my personal favorite part of the festival, it was astonishing. The festival was surrounded with food vendors selling Bulgarian traditions foods like banitza, kifla, bosa, mashed potatoes, cheese which was almost in everything, pork (though I don’t eat pork), vegetables and so many that I have never seen before. I could feel my nose confused from all the smells. My eyes were rolling nonstop from trying to spot the perfect food and they were all looking delicious. I ended up buying mashed potatoes with some vegetables. That was my first time with that dish. Couldn’t finish them as my mouth was freezing, turn out the food was actually “FROZEN” mashed potatoes, thankfully my volunteer friend offered to help, I would like to think of this as an act of kindness.
The day ended with a tour to some souvenir vendors around the festival who were selling some handmade sculptures of kukers, also necklace, bracelet, knives, Bulgarian tradition clothes, earrings and kitchen stuff like plates, bowls and spoons. I bought a small sculpture of a kuker to bring with me to Tanzania.
As we were coming back to Sofia I said to myself the world is not as divided as I thought it was. The kuker I saw in Pernik own reminded me a lot of some of the African tradition mask in Tanzania like Makonde masks and also Sukuma masks. Maybe our ancestors used to be buddies before all the separating, who knows?
My greatest hope is to attend the next festival like this to learn more about it and the Bulgarian culture, and this time I will be prepared for the photoshoot.
My name is Ayubu Mbarazi from Tanzania, volunteer in Open space foundation in Sofia
The rubric “My opinio is important” is a part of our project “Art and Culture for Unity”
supported from European program “Erasmus+”, Key Action 2: Capacity building in the field of youth