Empowering Youth and Women through Reviving Mirdita’s Cultural Heritage

August 15, 2023

15 August 2023

Thanks to the support from the EU4Culture programme, Mirdita’s cultural heritage is getting the recognition and conservation it deserves. Under EU4Culture grant,  MilieuKontakt Albania NGO designed and carried out an amazing professional course, “Embroidery and Traditional Clothing,” as part of the “Sustainable Development of Mirdita Tourism through the Promotion of Cultural Heritage” project. The participants, mostly young people, delved into various embroidery techniques and making of traditional clothing, immersing themselves in the rich cultural tapestry of Mirdita.

The one-week long “Embroidery and Traditional Clothing” course was designed to empower girls and women, although it was open to all interested individuals, as part of a series of skills development courses in Mirdita. These courses catered to new start-ups, youth, and artisans, fostering their growth and potential in various fields. Among these practical courses were pyrography (wood engraving) and woodwork, aimed at nurturing future artisans; and the course on hospitality services aimed at aspiring waiters, bartenders, and cooks, as well as a specialized course for culture and nature-based local tour guides. These diverse courses collectively contributed to the enrichment of skills and opportunities in Mirdita’s community.

The project “Sustainable Development of Mirdita Tourism through the Promotion of Cultural Heritage” aims to raise awareness of the pivotal role cultural heritage plays in driving sustainable economic development. It will breathe new life into traditional handcraft activities, ensuring their preservation for future generations. To enhance visitor experiences, the project will establish information boards at key cultural and historic sites in the area. Additionally, it will showcase the richness of the region through an agritourism and handcraft fair featuring local products, celebrating the authenticity and diversity of Mirdita’s heritage. It will span 12 months, and is supported through the EU4Culture grant.

The work of MilieuKontakt Albania finds its inspiration and focus in the Monastery Church of Rubik, a historical treasure recently restored through the EU4Culture project. This remarkable  church bears witness to a rich history, with some portions dating back as early as the 13th century. Following the successful completion of the restoration work on the church, the conservation of its wall paintings will be the next crucial step, as they are currently in a rather poor condition. Notably, the inscriptions on these paintings, dating back to the year 1272, offer invaluable insights into the church’s age and significance. The conservation of the paintings will begin shortly, adding significant value to the heritage-inspired work of MilieuKontakt Albania.

“The engagement of over 100 women and young people in our professional courses goes beyond empowerment; it fosters their active participation in the growth of our local communities, the strengthening of social bonds, and the enhancement of economic opportunities. This transformative journey will empower them to embark on income-generating ventures, breathing new life into the cherished tradition of artisanal crafts, and captivating the curiosity of tourists” noted Albana Joxhe, “Sustainable Tourism Development of Mirdita through the Promotion of Culture Heritage”  project manager.

“In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, we witness a significant shift towards mechanization in traditional crafts, often leading to the loss of their authentic essence. Recognizing this challenge, our course was important in reviving the age-old art of crafting clothing and traditional items. We not only aimed to preserve their originality but also sought to introduce innovative products, all while upholding the craftsmanship that defines their soul” explained Juljana Fizi, one of the trainers of the embroidery workshop.

“Throughout the course’s journey, we delved into countless creative ideas to craft alluring products that would attract tourists. What truly set this experience apart was the enthusiastic participation of young people who embraced the magic of traditional clothing and crafts, wholeheartedly immersing themselves in every aspect of the process. Their passion breathed new life into our shared heritage, blending the old with the new in a harmonious celebration of cultural artistry” she added.

“This activity highlights the paramount significance of our initiative in the Mirdita region. It vividly showcases the profound appreciation the people of Mirdita hold for the invaluable treasure of artisanal artistic values thriving in this land, lovingly handed down from one generation to the next.” explained Artur Nikolli, a trainer of pyrography (wood engraving) and woodwork.