Golyamo Vranovo, Rousse, Bulgaria. January 19, 2020. A portrait of Asiye Novmanova in her home. She’s spent here whole life there, since she was born in 1937. At the time of her youth, it was the norm to only spend 7 years in primary school, then continue with life. At 13, her classmates and her graduated from the only school in the village, where besides the main subjects they were also taught Bulgarian, Latin and Arabic. Once every week they had to read from the Quran as practice in school. She continued working for her family at the field and with their animals and recalls riding a horse to get to the fields. She married at 18 years old and gave birth to her first child at 20. She then started working at the mayority in the village until she retired. When she started getting her pansion, she started reading as a hoca more professionally. Hoca, or hoxha is a Turkish term for a Muslim schoolmaster or teacher, that derives from the Persian word Khawaja, used as title or surname – Asiye Hoca. They are present to perform necessary ceremonies at events like mevlit (reading of the literary texts from the Quran) on holy days, after childbirth, the day before a wedding, before a funeral, etc. She is one of the two remaining women to read, making them deeply respected by the people who know them.

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