Last week, 31 participants from Albania, the Balkans, Europe and the USA gathered in Gjirokastra for the 27th Regional Restoration Camp, organized by Cultural Heritage without Borders Albania from 16 – 28 May, 2016. In the meantime, the 26th Regional Restoration Camp was taking place in Rogljevo, Serbia.
The practical work and lectures during the camp in Gjirokastra were led by international heritage experts from the USA, Great Britain, Sweden, Albania and Serbia. The combination of international experts and local craftsmen with young professionals has already created a solid tradition for the education and inclusion of the young generation in cultural heritage issues in Albania.
The work of the Regional Restoration Camp in Gjirokastra was centered on plaster work, wood work and stone work. One of the most challenging interventions was the one done on the Alley of the Mad “Sokaku i të marrëve,” a narrow cobblestone walkway that winds through a historic neighborhood. Over the years the sokak underwent different interventions in some places. Camp participants fulfilled the need for cleaning, repairing and replenishing its segments, using traditional tools and techniques, under the supervision of the experienced stone craftsmen of Gjirokastra.
For Bashkim Loloçi, a stone master from Gjirokastra, “the practical work is very important, because to preserve an old city you have to learn the way you restore it, the way that the elders were working.” “On the theoretical grounds, the participants are all well-prepared. Here we are doing the practice,” he concludes.
Taylor Chenevert, who came from the United States to participate at this Regional Restoration Camp, undoubtedly declares that “this experience has been one of the greatest.” “I love working with everyone here. I love being in Gjirokastra. Not only do I get to learn about a new culture, but I get to do this hands-on restoration work, and I really feel like it’s not only benefiting me for my future career, but it’s also benefiting the site that I’m working on,” says Chenevert.
At the 26th Regional Restoration Camp in Rogljevo, 13 participants and 2 volunteers from Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Greece attended the camp. Their work was focused on carpentry, documentation, plaster and stone chiseling. They received lectures from professors coming from 8 different countries in Europe and were engaged in practical works with four craftsmen from Serbia and Kosovo. A novelty this year was the participation for the first time in Rogljevo of 12 members of the Fulbright Association from the United States. They were there to learn about Serbian history and culture, as well as contribute to the restoration works at the camp in Rogljevo.
According to Birgitta Jansson, the Head of Swedish Development Cooperation in Albania, “the Regional Restoration Camps are a way to make the young generations believe that they have a future in their countries in the Balkans.” “These kind of activities makes it possible for them to find ways of working together and building the future of the country. It is wonderful that cultural heritage has had this continuity in the work. The young people that I met were working eagerly together, and I believe this is a good starting point when you want to do things together; you also want to build another future,” pointed out Ms. Jansson.
Višnja Kisić, Secretary General of Europa Nostra Serbia, believes that “the Regional Restoration Camps are a unique opportunity to build bridges among the region.” “Heritage has been used in many occasions for political manipulations and building of different contested identities. I think this is the right place to discuss all these issues. The camps does not only put participants to work on a site, but it also creates discussions about the values and significance of heritage and how some of the values can be conflicted, can be contradictory and about how to work with these values,” added Dr. Kisić.
In 2016, the award-winning CHwB Regional Restoration Camps are back with a series of 7 camps held across the Western Balkans. This year, we are also introducing new thematic Camps, which cover the classic themes, such as building conservation, along with new topics, like historical arts and crafts. The Regional Restoration Camps are held with the support of the Ministry of Culture and the University of Tirana and are financed by the Swedish Government and the Albanian-American Development Foundation.