Bosnian Doll Clothes Maker

11/01/2023
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    Esma Gljiva, an 11-year-old Bosnian girl, shows dolls that she dresses in traditional costumes. (Reuters/Amel Emric)
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    Esma Gljiva displays her dolls. (Reuters/Amel Emric)
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    People from many different countries order Esma’s dolls. (Facebook/Esma Gljiva)
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    Esma also carefully styles the dolls’ hair and makes tiny jewelry. (Facebook/Esma Gljiva)
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    Young women wear traditional costumes from eastern Herzegovina. (AP/Amel Emric)
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    Esma’s doll costumes are very detailed. (Facebook/Esma Gljiva)
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To honor her country’s culture, a Bosnian girl crafts traditional costumes. She designs detailed miniature apparel for Barbie dolls—and hopes to spark interest in Bosnia’s folklore.

Eleven-year-old Esma Gljiva hails from Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina—often called B&H or just Bosnia.

In early July, Esma started a project. She had seen poor quality dolls in a souvenir shop. The simple figures did not move. Their tacky clothing was glued on.

“They were not properly dressed at all,” Esma says. For contrast, she shows several new dolls from her collection. “I tried to do it in a better way, and I think that I succeeded.”

Esma has succeeded! She is very precise with her doll clothes. She dresses the jointed dolls in detailed traditional costumes from various cultures and religions in her country. She even carefully styles the dolls’ hair and fashions miniature jewelry.

In Bosnia, traditional women’s apparel usually includes a white blouse paired with a flowing skirt and an apron. The aprons are often thick and rug-like with long fringes on three sides. Bosnian women might choose instead to wear wide, baggy pants tied at the ankles.

Over their blouses, women place vests or laced, sleeveless bodices. They also wear round, flat-topped hats called fezzes. The fez usually sports a veil or cloth. Finally, no Bosnian folk outfit is complete without jewelry, socks, and leather shoes.

Raised in a family of devoted amateur folklore dancers, Esma has learned a lot about Bosnia’s traditions. She is a member of a local folklore group. Her friends and family say she is already an independent entrepreneur.

She’ll need some good business sense. Esma receives orders for her “Bosnian Barbie dolls” daily. She has sent them to Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Turkmenistan, Norway, Great Britain, and other countries.

“We are so proud that she embraced this project with such devotion and spent her summer holiday days doing this,” says Esma’s mother Adana Gljiva. “She also earned her pocket money.”

Next up for this budding entrepreneur? It’s no surprise: Esma is planning costumes for a Bosnian folklore Ken.

Why? Awareness of other cultures and traditions prepares us for the fullness of God’s kingdom, the members of which are called from all nations and tongues. See Isaiah 66:18.

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