July 28, 2017 Faces

Telling the Bohemian Tales of Skadarlija

Lady Skadarlija keeps the stories and poems of Belgrade’s bohemian past alive with her nightly performances in the restaurants of the quaint cobbled Skadarlija district.

The safest bet if you want to find Lady Skadarlija is to go to Ima Dana or Sesir Moj, as she performs there almost every night. Photo: BIRN/Siri Sollie

Siri Sollie

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You might have noticed the woman who wears extravagant early 20th century dresses and strolls elegantly along Skadarska street, greeting people who are visiting the city’s former bohemian quarter.

‘Lady Skadarlija’ or Ljiljana Jaksic, her real name, has been entertaining visitors to restaurants on the street for the past 15 years.

“To be or not to be, says Shakespeare,” she exclaims to a group of diners who are watching her show at the Sesir Moj restaurant on Skadarska street.

Her body trembles as she skilfully impersonates a drunk who has drained too many glasses.

“In Skadarlija,” she continues, “we say ‘to drink or not to drink’.”

The character of Lady Skadarlija is the creation of Jaksic, an actor who graduated from the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad, and who was asked in 2002 to continue the tradition of entertaining guests in the quarter and maintain the connection to its late 19th and early 20th century bohemian heritage.

Her act includes greetings in many languages, as well as poetry, songs and anecdotes about the many cultural figures who have lived in or passed through Skadarlija.

Jakšić says that her persona is just the most recent in a series of characters who have performed for visitors to Skadarlija since 1968.

“Skadarlija has existed since 1863-4; that was the time when the first kafanas opened in Skadarlija,” she says.

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