Bosnian culture makes up a big part of Bowling Green and Western Kentucky University life; Doug learns about the flavors and traditions of Bosnian coffee; enjoy the a capella stylings of the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood; and Wyatt Severs’ woodworking is a collaboration between the tree, his tools, and himself.
Bosnian Culture in Kentucky
Bosnian culture has had a significant impact on the Kentucky city of Bowling Green, and a new exhibit at Western Kentucky University explores that culture and influence.
Many Bosnians came to Kentucky in the mid-1990s, fleeing the war at home.
“My parents wanted to just find a better place for us to live because they did have five children who needed to go through school,” says Senida Husić, a member of the exhibit committee. “Schooling was very important, so they wanted to go somewhere where it was safe and where they could get a fresh start and have the opportunity to provide ample education for their children.”
Americans love their coffee, but for Bosnians, drinking coffee is more than just getting a caffeine hit. Enjoying coffee is about sharing time with the people close to you.
“In Bosnia, there’s a process to drinking coffee,” says Sabina Husić. “You take a part of your day out and you preserve it just for drinking coffee with your family or your loved ones. It’s all about stopping time for a second and just really making time to relax and unwind and just enjoy that change.”
There’s even a Bosnian term for slowing down and taking pleasure in something as seemingly simple as coffee: ćejf.
“It embodies basically a stop in time and just really thoroughly enjoying the process of drinking the coffee,” says Husić. “We live in a society that is so rushed and so fast-paced and you forget to just pause for a moment and really reflect and really enjoy something as good as coffee. That’s the whole purpose of ćejf.”
Husić says that any time of day is a good time to enjoy coffee. Many Bosnian families will take their time in the morning. It’s a welcome afternoon break from work. It’s even enjoyed in the evening, despite the caffeine.
Bosnian coffee is brewed very strong and usually served black, although people can add creamer if it’s their preference. Traditionally, Bosnian coffee drinkers who like a sweeter flavor will use sugar cubes.
“Part of ćejf is again taking your time so you don’t necessarily just drop the sugar cube in there,” says Husić. “What you want to do is just melt the tip of the sugar cube so that you can bite into it, and then you pick up the fildžan (coffee cup) and you take a sip of your coffee. You do that until the entire coffee is gone.”
Husić says there are several Bosnian cafes, restaurants and shops that will make traditional Bosnian coffee for visitors to enjoy with their loved ones.
The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood
An a capella group out of Covington has been entertaining crowds for more than 30 years, and they have their beginnings as a church choir.
“We started back in 1986 out of Ninth Street Baptist Church, which had a fantastic male chorus at the time,” says Northern Kentucky Brotherhood member Eric Jennings.
After the group disbanded, Jennings and others started a new group under the current name. Now the group is active and busy, performing throughout the year.
“Our drive and desire was to rehearse every week so that in case things happen where we needed to be sharp with the songs that we wanted, or we wanted to introduce new songs, we had the opportunities to work on them,” says member Stace Darden. “It evolved to probably anywhere from 40 to 50 gigs a year, including funerals, national anthems, and also just regular performances in churches, and also abroad. “
There can be challenges in having five different personalities come together. But working together makes them stronger, and the singers complement each other in vocal styles.
“When they bring the personalities together, they don’t hold anything back,” says Jennings. “It’s the tone, the sounds we put together and artfully blend them into that flavor, that spiritual flavor, that makes it pleasing to the taste buds of the soul. “
Woodwork by Wyatt Severs
The Kentucky Arts Council named Murray’s Wyatt Severs the Emerging Artist of the Year. His creative and thought-provoking woodwork is always evolving.
Severs explains why he loves working with wood.
“I’ve always been connected to wood,” he says. “Loving trees as objects, as amazing plants that provide us with basically everything, from oxygen to building materials that we have created our civilization out of. Working with it, it’s the grain patterns within it, the way that they document their experiences. They are calendars of past days. They document drought, wet seasons. Trees don’t heal themselves. If they get scarred, they grow around it, they cover it up, so if I cut into a piece of wood I see all those things. It’s like looking back through time. It’s pretty magical.”
Severs works with students at Murray State University, where he honed his craft under the direction of his mentor, professor emeritus Paul Sasso. Sasso says that, as a student, Severs was meticulous almost to a fault. He looked at tiny details before the overall picture. But that trait has served Severs well as an artist.
“He does these technical tricks with power tools. And he’s always taking chances. He’s a risk taker,” says Sasso. “He likes turning these giant chunks of wood. He just gets right in there and is not intimidated by it at all. He has a real natural sense of design. It’s just ingrained in him.”
As a Murray native, Severs has earned the pride of the local community. His success as a working artist and his involvement at Murray State have been inspirational to other woodworkers. But Severs is quick to give credit to Sasso.
“Paul is really been a better mentor than I ever imagined,” he says. “He’s changed my life in so many ways. He’s kind of opened this door to all these woodworking possibilities. Paul showed me how the tools work and how wood works, its characteristics and just taught me how to teach myself more than anything.”
Severs worked with Sasso as his technician assistant, which has been a learning experience in its own right.
“I would help him in the intro classes with the students and their problems,” says Severs. “That was probably the most incredible way for me to really learn a lot of what I do, is helping other folks figure out how to make their impossible-to-make things. It’s just problem solving, which is what I really love about wood and making.
“Paul showed me a world that made sense and so here I am, a decade later doing it, loving it, teaching it to adults and kids, and maybe someday I can be somebody’s Paul.”