[Blic] There are no limits to preserving tradition

Since March last year, the project „Together for cultural tourism“ has been implemented in the border region between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, spanning across 18 cities and municipalities. The project aims to enhance cross-border cooperation in the field of cultural tourism and to train women artisans to improve their skills in creating and marketing their products as part of the tourist offer.

This project is jointly implemented by the Ethno network and the Association  „Bosnian Handicrafts - BH craft“ from Bosnia and Herzegovina, in partnership with NALED and with the support of the European Union, organizing thematic workshops involving hundreds of women. These workshops have been held in Sremska Mitrovica, Šid, Inđija, and since last month, they have moved to Bosnia, specifically to Tuzla and Sarajevo. The aim of these workshops is to educate participants about identifying local heritage and linking it with contemporary design, as well as assessing the market potential of handmade products in the context of the area's tourism offer. Additionally, participants have had the opportunity to learn how to brand souvenirs and promote them on social media, aiming to contribute to the development of local (cultural) tourism.

A group of about twenty women from Loznica, Sremska Mitrovica, Inđija, Ruma, and Stari Slankamen had a two-day visit to the neighboring country. They had the opportunity to learn more about the partner association 'Bosnian Handicrafts - BH crafts' and their work, as well as to discuss further activities and the organization of colonies, multi-day events where participants have the opportunity to improve their knowledge and skills. In this regard, the first colony of wool felting was held in Sremska Mitrovica in October last year. Twenty women from several cities in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the assistance of members of the Association 'Golden Fleece of Sirmium,' worked on wool felting products for four days, using motifs inspired by mosaics found in the Imperial Palace.

According to Violeta Jovanović, president of the Ethno network and Executive Director of NALED, the visit to the partner association in Tuzla and Sarajevo was particularly useful for knowledge exchange and relationship building for long-term cooperation.

The members of the Ethno network had the opportunity to learn more about the work and products of the partner association, which also aims to empower women who preserve old techniques for making handicrafts. The project plans to create joint tourist products with motifs from the border area and elements of cultural heritage that connect us. In addition to handicrafts, the project's product will include a program of creative workshops and visits for tourists and diplomats with the aim of promoting the tourism potential of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina,' said Jovanović.

During the project, experts from various fields will work on training women artisans to recognize the tourism and commercial potential of traditional handicrafts they produce. Furthermore, the project focuses on connecting tourism stakeholders (tourist agencies, development agencies, professional associations, etc.) to create a more favorable environment for the development of local tourism and the promotion of new, joint tourist products from the cross-border region.

In this way, women artisans will be recognized by local stakeholders, which will contribute to balanced socio-economic development in the border regions of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as to preventing depopulation and slowing down migration from rural to urban areas.

We have witnessed in recent years that cultural tourism is becoming increasingly important as foreigners shape their perception of the country they visit. Therefore, every region or country emphasizes the specificities of its culture as a factor that attracts tourists. For this reason, every tourist wants to buy an authentic, traditional item to better understand the local culture. Our region is rich in cultural and historical heritage, natural beauties, and old, authentic crafts, which continue to thrive through such projects as they strive to rescue old crafts and techniques from oblivion and restore their economic and cultural value. Additionally, it is essential to motivate, encourage, and engage young generations to contribute to the preservation of their cultural heritage by participating in creative workshops.

By definition, cultural tourism is most prevalent in countries that place great emphasis on preserving their own cultural heritage. We have recognized this, but it is up to us to fight for its preservation through various activities because the two essential elements of a culture are authenticity and continuity.

Text from the printed edition of Blic, Saturday, April 6, 2024.

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