The 17th Annual Meeting of the South-East European Experts Network on Intangible Cultural Heritage started on June 21, 2023 in the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade.
Speaking on behalf of the Ethnographic Museum, Director Marko Krstić wished the experts successful work during the upcoming 17th meeting, where some of the most important topics for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage will be debated, with a focus on the relationship between the intangible cultural heritage and higher education. He also reminded the audience that the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade and the Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage are actively working to safeguard and promote elements of Serbia's living heritage, and especially the elements included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Addressing the audience, Siniša Šešum, Head of the Antenna Office in Sarajevo, on behalf of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, located in Venice, emphasized the importance of regular regional meetings for the exchange of experiences and the improvement of joint action on heritage safeguarding within the region. He emphasized that such cooperation is highly important for overcoming the challenges faced by the countries of the region during the process of implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which was adopted in 2003 at the 32nd session of the UNESCO General Assembly. Bora Dimitrijević, President of the National Committee for Intangible Cultural Heritage, reminded the audience that the 20th anniversary of adoption of the Convention is an opportunity for the signatory states and all participants involved in the process of safeguarding the living heritage to once again highlight the fact that intangible cultural heritage belongs to everyone and that different communities may share some elements of heritage. He also pointed out that this is a new opportunity to emphasize the role of the 2003 Convention in raising awareness of the diversity and wealth of intangible cultural heritage, the importance of its safeguarding, as well as in encouraging international cooperation.
Stanko Blagojević, Assistant Minister for International Cooperation and European Integration in the field of culture, addressed the audience on behalf of the Ministry of Culture, which is co-organizing this year’s meeting in cooperation with UNESCO, the Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe (based in Venice) and the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe (based in Sofia, Bulgaria) and with the support of the Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage of Serbia at the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade. He pointed out that in the previous 20 years it was clearly shown how the implementation of the Convention from 2003 is a dynamic process, in which the acquired knowledge, good practices and above all the exchange of experiences led to improvement and adjustment of the principles guiding the activities in safeguarding of heritage, which has been passed down from one generation to another to the present day. Emphasizing that the concept of safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage is still a relatively new concept, he also drew attention to the fact that inclusion of intangible cultural heritage in educational programs, which is the topic of the upcoming meeting of the Regional Network of ICH Experts in South-Eastern Europe, is still insufficiently represented and requires joint work of experts from different fields.
At the end of the program, Danijela Filipović, the Coordinator of the Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage of Serbia at the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, thanked the attendees on behalf of the Center, reminding them that the Convention brought a new concept to the safeguarding of cultural heritage, in which local communities and heritage bearers, along with institutions, became the equal participants in the process of safeguarding their own heritage. This novelty has presented numerous challenges to experts dealing with the safeguarding of living heritage, and for the last seventeen years the meetings of the Regional Network of ICH Experts have been an opportunity to discuss them and find possible solutions.
One part of the introductory program included presentation of elements of living heritage of the Republic of Serbia included in the National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and expert guided tour was organized through the visiting exhibition “Re-KOD” by students and professors of the University of Arts in Belgrade, Faculty of Applied Arts and Faculty of Dramatic Arts.
The annual meetings of the Network of Intangible Cultural Heritage Experts in South-Eastern Europe have been organized since 2007 and represent a platform for strengthening the cooperation among the countries of the Region in the field of implementation of the 2003 Convention, where the Republic of Serbia is an active participant in the work of this Network.
Photo: Ivana Masniković-Antić