New East Digital Archive

Good mourning: celebrating the Day of the Dead in Slovenia

6 May 2016

Every year on 1 November, Slovenians celebrate the Day of the Dead by visiting the graves of their loved ones. Preparations for the national holiday begin a week early, during which time each grave is decorated to excess, as the cemetery turns into a colourful market. “The whole cemetery is quite hectic. People are rushing, making last changes to arrangements, bringing extra flowers. Police officers must direct the traffic and cars are parked all over nearby fields,” says artist Anže Sekelj. Interested in the different ways people pay respects, Sekelj visited Žale, the largest cemetery in Ljubljana, to document mourning paraphernalia in its various shapes and sizes. In addition to leaving candles and fresh flowers, as is the all-year-round Slovenian tradition, people have adopted customs brought over from the southern Balkans after the Bosnian war. “After the breakup of Yugoslavia and the arrival of capitalism, cheap, kitsch items like plastic flowers and ceramic angels became widely popular.” I Care is a visual record of the country’s cultural diversity, yet Sekelj also casts a satirical eye over consumerism in his home country. As the photographer discovered, Slovenians “produce 3000 tons of waste per year only from candles”, spending more money on funereal candles per person than other nations in the world. “We even have vending machines for them.”