International Forum Bosnia is pleased to announce that the Seventh International Summer School on Youth and Heritage, was held in Stolac (Bosnia and Herzegovina) in July/August, 2012.
The School is a practical development of many years of research on tolerance and draws on an extensive network of partners, both individuals and organizations, committed to social and cultural reconstruction, reconciliation, and respect for diversity.
The aim is to assist young people to reach a greater understanding and appreciation of the diversity and plurality in world cultures, particularly those that contribute to European diversity. Only in this way can the unity in diversity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a model of an open society, be recognised, conserved, and developed.
Through an integrated two-week programme of seminars, fieldwork, practical activities, and recreational evenings, participants were provided expert introduction to and hands-on experience of traditional crafts and bodies of knowledge, architectural heritage, sustainable ways of life, and environmental practice. They were also encouraged to think about how socially cohesive, but fundamentally open communities can be developed and maintained, as well as the importance of combining diversity with strong roots in local heritage.
The school faculty was made up of local and visiting experts in the promotion of cultural and religious dialogue, specific areas of heritage preservation and promotion, traditional crafts and techniques, and similar fields, as well as an appropriate number of support staff.
The school hosted 30 young people, half from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the remainder from Europe and other parts of the world. The international mix ensures a lively encounter between members of different cultures.
This year, particular attention was given to identity under conditions of European integration, as well as globalization and the reaction to it of cultural and religious prejudice, xenophobia and nationalist chauvinism. The school involved seminars and workshops on these issues of cultural dialogue, the complex interrelationships between cultures, and the causes and effects of conflict that targets cultural or religious difference.
As a forum for exploring certain aspects of traditional culture at first hand, the School involved an increased number of practical workshops on forgotten skills.
Fieldwork was focused on the renovation and rehabilitation of the damaged cultural and natural heritage of Stolac. There were also a number of field trips to local sites of interest on the Adriatic coast and in the hinterland.
Bed and board was provided in the town.
History of the International Summer School on Youth and Heritage
The First International Summer School on Youth and Heritage took place in 2006 (July 23rd to August 9th). It was a unique event, with eighty young participants from seven countries living together in a tent city. The programme was judged to have been exceptionally successful. Both the organizers and participants committed to developing the project as a long-term annual gathering of young people.
The second school took place between July 28th and August 11th, 2007. It was considerably smaller than the first one, with around 30 participants from five different countries.
The third school took place between July 31st and August 9th, 2008. This camp involved 31 young participants, again from five countries.
The schools used the practical example of cross-cultural work to counter segregation, discrimination and apartheid in Stolac, engaging local involvement in rebuilding some of the town's war-damaged cultural heritage, which includes some of the most valuable gems of traditional Bosnian architecture.
The first three schools involved major public works elements, including the rehabilitation of the mosque on the bridge, the mosque and school at Uzinovići, the Poljuba orthodox cemetery, cleaning of the old graveyards at Gorica and Bokulja, clearing and conservation works on the Podgrad water mill, and cleaning the Bregava riverbed, under the supervision of expert conservationists.
A major component was the restoration of old buildings to serve as public spaces. The first three schools rehabilitated the Podgradski Konak and the Hadži Junuz-aga Mehmedbašić Endowment House. Restoration activities included every aspect of rebuilding under the expert supervision of professional conservationists and restorers.
As a result of these activities, the Hadži Junuz-aga Mehmedbašić House has been designated the International Youth Centre for Cultural Heritage and Education (IYC), while the Podgradski Konak is now the Human Rights Centre of the Youth Forum of Stolac (HRC).
In addition to the public works, the schools involved lectures, seminars, and workshops on topics of religious and cultural coexistence and reconstruction.
The Fourth International Summer School took place between July 31st and August 9th, 2009, with forty participants, eleven lecturers, five professional assistants, and eight staff. The Fifth School took place between the 2nd and 17th August 2010. There were seventy participants and a similar faculty to the previous year.
Like the earlier schools, the fourth and fifth schools included physical reconstruction, with a focus on the 17th century house and garden complex in the Uzinovići part of the town that now houses the House for International Dialogue and Reconciliation (HIDR). The house have been fully rebuilt and restored, including traditional stonework, woodwork, and carpentry. It is fully functional in time for the 2012 school. The 4th, 5th and 6th school also continued the lectures and seminars of earlier years. A new departure was the introduction of workshops at which participants gained a basic proficiency in woodworking, bookbinding, copper craft art and carpet weaving. The fruits of their work have been used to outfit and furnish the HIDR.
The town of Stolac is in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, 160 km from Sarajevo, but just 30 km from the Adriatic coast and 100 km from Dubrovnik. It lies at the juncture of two valleys, through one of which the Bregava River flows in an East-West direction. During July and August, the Stolac region celebrates the fig and welcomes the ripening of the grape, watermelon, and muskmelon. Flocks of goats are to be seen on the surrounding hills.
Throughout its history, Stolac has been a very open town, renowned for its rich cultural heritage, dating back to the Palaeolithic. Ancient roads lead one from Illyrian forts and Roman settlements past mediaeval monuments to the coexisting forms of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish culture. Until the 1992 to 1995 war against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Stolac was a typical plural society. Due largely to the impact of outside forces, the town suffered extensive damage, much of its heritage was laid waste, and a large part of its population expelled. Since the war, Stolac has embarked on a difficult process of restoration and social reconstruction. The restoration of cultural memory and history is crucial to building its future, but for that public opinion and attitudes and behaviour must change. This has required international help and cooperation.
As in previous years, the programme of the Seventh International Summer School was organised by International Forum Bosnia in Stolac, with the support of the Stolac Youth Forum, the Association for the Restoration of Civic Trust in Stolac Municipality, the Stolac Church Parish Council, the Franciscan Seminary in Sarajevo, and the Franciscan Friaries of the Silver Bosnia province, as well as a number of international donors and organisations.
The Summer School binged together young people from across the globe, providing an opportunity to contribute to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of a plural community devastated by war and by ideological images of irreconcilable difference. By countering current conceptions of identity and difference, the School strengthens the development of civil society based on mutual tolerance and trust among individuals from different backgrounds.
The programme have four complementary aspects:
1. a set of coordinated working activities,
2. a series of practical craft workshops,
3. a number of educational activities, and
4. a recreational aspect for informal socializing and cultural encounter.
The activities of the school were based around the three buildings restored by the schools in previous years – the Podgradski Konak, the International Youth Centre, and the House of International Dialogue and Reconciliation.
Working activities played a central role in the concept of the School. The aim of the school is to develop social engagement and reconciliation through a combination of practical activities and discussion-based activities. There is a special sense of achievement to be gained from seeing how the themes discussed in abstract or historical terms can take on concrete form in the restoration of historical treasures or the creation of new works in traditional modes. This sense of achievement is reinforced by the knowledge that the results of group work are put to use for the community, restoring a sense of continuity and providing modernity with roots in the past.
In previous years the schools have involved reconstruction of a number of historic buildings in Stolac, communal works on the Bregava River, the development of town garden spaces, and the protection of local natural heritage. Participants played a very active role in the reconstruction of the Podgradski Konak, the Hadži Junuz-aga Mehmedbašić Endowment House, a 17th century traditional residential complex in the Brade area of the town, and a second 17th century house in the Uzinovići area of the town, as well as number of mosques, graveyards, and other public buildings. Restoration activities included every aspect from rebuilding walls to reroofing and finishing works, under the expert supervision of professional conservationists and restorers. As a result of these activities, the Hadži Junuz-aga Mehmedbašić House is now the International Youth Centre for Cultural Heritage and Education, while the Podgradski Konak is the Human Rights Centre of the Youth Forum of Stolac. The Uzinovići house is the new House of International Dialogue and Reconciliation. Details of these projects may be found at www.ifbosna.org.ba
In 2012, participants were performed a range of conservation tasks, learning both the how and why of responsible conservation and reconstruction. Final decision regarding which projects participants will be working on was pending agreement with the local authorities. All reconstruction activities were accompanied by the appropriate technical documentation and supervised by conservationists authorised by the Commission for the Protection of National Monuments. Working activities were envisaged on the following sites:
1. Site preparation and reconstruction works along the course of the Bregava river bed, at the ancient watermills, and the town mill, and on the ancient system of watercourses and cisterns that used to provide the town and its gardens with water.
2. Continued rehabilitation activities at the International Youth Centre for Cultural Heritage and Education at the Hadži Junuz-aga Mehmedbašić House in the Brade quarter of Stolac.
3. Continued rehabilitation of the House of International Reconciliation and Dialogue (HIDR).
4. Reconstruction of the old house HIDR 2.
In order to support openness and to stimulate intercultural behaviour, young people and adults from Stolac were invited to join the working activities.
Forgotten Skills Workshops
Working activities were accompanied by practical workshops that introduce the participants to hands-on experience of traditional crafts and forgotten skills. These workshops help participants connect in a highly personal way with the texture of the past as lived experience. Participants were introduced to the nature of a craft or skill, how it functioned as a part of social life, and how it was imbued by the symbolism of the traditional world-view. Participants thus learn not just the basic skills involved in a given craft, but how to "read" their own cultural heritage and that of others from the inside and how to use it to enrich their own lives.
In previous years, participants carved chests, furniture, and doors and made carpets for use in the buildings under restoration. Others provided much needed first aid to journal collections and archival materials of importance to the local history of Stolac.
The set of practical or learning-by-doing workshops have been expanded for 2012. The following workshops have been on offer, dependent on demand from participants:
1. The Fifth Stolac woodcarving workshop,
2. The first workshop on Bosnian love songs
3. The Second copper craft art workshop
The workshops were described in the accompanying information sheets. These workshops had a competitive aspect and participants were receiving awards for creativity. Participants have been able to take part in two workshops and contribute to the revival of two forgotten skills.
A number of more formal educational activities were supplementing the practical aspects of the School. They included related lectures, seminars, and discussions on various aspects of the contemporary world, cultural heritage, the sources of conflict and the abuse of religious and ethnic identities, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and tolerance, democratic plurality and social cohesion, and the ways in which a critical encounter with the past can promote a deepening of modern ways of life. The participants were introduced to traditionalist, anthropological, ecological, environmentalist, and conservationist approaches to recapturing the art of living. In particular, they were considered the need for memory and the fair and balanced memorialisation of injustice for the purposes of reconciliation. A particular emphasis was placed on the balance between personal, group, and institutional responsibility for social injustice and for social reconstruction.
Workshops have been led by experienced academics and activists. In previous years this has included committed academics from Sarajevo, France, Great Britain, the United States, as well as leading members of human rights organizations from Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, and Great Britain.
Recreational activities are an integral part of the Summer School programme. They were including poetry readings, dancing, and music and form an extension to the educational aspects of the programme in order to promote community and fellow feeling. Participants have been invited to add their own suggestions.
As in previous years, a number of outings were also planned, for which transportation will be organised. Provisional day trips include: Mostar, Žitomislići, Počitelj, Kravice.
Participants at the Seventh International Summer School on Youth and Heritage have been selected by means of a public invitation to be announced in January 2012. Young people between 17 and 27 years of age were applying. All candidates completed the application form accompanying this document. The total number of participants was up to 30.
Participants covered their own travel costs to Stolac.
Staff involved in the programme on a voluntary basis, the cost of organizing the School were in excess of 700 Euro per head (50 Euro per day). Participants are asked to make a partial contribution to cover bed and board for 14 days. This has been set provisionally at 250 Euro, but may be less, depending on success raising funds from donors.
In the case of clear and demonstrated need, applicants were applying for a stipend and we were doing our best to meet their needs.
As in previous years, participants were housed in two different locations:
1. The Youth Centre for Cultural Heritage and Education.
2. The House of International Dialogue and Reconciliation.
The meals were prepared by a professional caterer in local restaurant. Lunch packages were provided for field trips.
Participants at International Summer School are expected to build long-lasting friendships, which it is hoped will be continue to grow in the future, as participants become involved in similar enterprises across the world. The organisers believe that the entire programme can be expanded and developed as an important contribution to developing new approaches, building tolerance, and increasing understanding between people from different cultures and religions. The implementation of School will be used to explore different possibilities and options for future continuation.