For the first time in some days, the sky was blue, the Sun was shining bright, and the air was hot. In the central courtyard of the city museum of Mitrovica, the trees gave to this day a particularly pleasing vibe. With the different booths set up, it quickly became a festival of colours, and smells, and sounds. On Saturday 18th May, 2019 GAIA Kosovo organized the final event of its “Storytelling Caravan”, by inviting the audience to meet people who have skills and stories to share. This little fair, called “Mitrovica, City of Diversity”, had seven corners: music, knitting, herbal knowledge, permaculture, woodcarving, bread-making and information about our organization. The people who attended the event were free to join any corner, talk with its host, then leave it to join another one. This freedom was unsettling for some, as they were not guided but invited to see, to explore, to ask, to participate. But after a few minutes of adaptation, everyone went on easily with the activities.
The central courtyard of the city museum of Mitrovica has never been so colorful.
Already before the audience arrived, our woodcarver began his work to produce big polished spoons, with meticulousness. As passersby started to converge, a group of kids came to sit around him and observed the subtleties of his moves to understand better how he was doing it. The old mentor explained with patience everything the little ones wondered about, and invited them to try it themselves.
Next to them, our bread-maker, Miljana, was preparing the ingredients. In a cloud of flour finally appeared a round dough, soft and ready to be baked in the tupan. People gathered around her. They wanted to see what was her next move, as she created layers, added margarine, folded some parts, spread the whole. Curious attendants were taking notes, asking about the process, and she invited them to put their hands in the flour to help her. Her work was captivating, and the crowd was quickly growing. Some younger kids looked surprised: she speaks in Serbian with an Albanian lady. Miljana was born in the South of Mitrovica, but now lives in the North part of the city. She makes bread as a hobby, and she was happy to come back south for a while, to show the world what her passion is. She definitely inspired some younger people to give it a try at home.
Later on, as the bread was baking in the tupan, our bread-maker had some free time. She decided to spend it by joining the knitting corner, where Hysnije Thaqi was explaining to her close audience how to achieve some result, or how to create a certain shape. The mentor of the corner only spoke Albanian, but a student was around to help the others understand. One of GAIA’s volunteers rejoiced, as she finally understood how to knit socks, a pretty useful skill for the next winter.
A bit further, her comrades were staying at the permaculture corner, where they remained available to answer questions. What is permaculture exactly? Is it just about gardening? How do you organize your house this way? The volunteers, who are implementing a permaculture project in Bozevce, took the time to explain in details, with examples from their own experience. Some books were exhibited, and the audience was invited to dive into them as much as they liked.
Closeby, our volunteer Mimoza was exhibiting various medicinal herbs, and sharing her knowledge about it with everyone interested. Documentation was displayed on the table, but kids mostly stared at her when she explained, full of energy, how we can rely on plants for their medicinal virtues, how we can spot them and where we can find them.
On the other side of the courtyard, our volunteer Lois who works with Roma and Ashkali kids in Gracanica was crafting instruments with basic materials. Out of bottles, wooden sticks, paper, rice, he was able to create all kinds of little instruments, as he is used to do with his kids in the mahala. People came around to help him, and to note down his ideas. Next time, rather than throwing their stuff, they might “upcycle” them into an instrument. This corner was also the opportunity for young kids to hold a guitar for the first time, as volunteers showed them how to play simple melodies. Some kids also tested their rhythm with drums, as Lois was showing them how to produce different tones with it.
In the middle of all of this, an information point was standing, where people could come and see what GAIA did in the past months. Through an exhibition of photos, but more particularly through the explanations of our volunteer Rosa, the attendees could learn more about the previous activities of the Storytelling Caravan, our Open Days in 7Arte but also about the different ways one could become engaged as a volunteer in his own community, or abroad.
At 4 PM, as the crowd has got quite big, GAIA members announced that the dance performance would start. For more than a month, four young female dancers from all parts of the city created a show dedicated to “storytelling through movements” with the help of their choreographer. The music started, with the lyrics and the dancing moves reminding of the hard work of the mine diggers, the core spirit of our city. But soon after, everything dove into chaos, and the dancers ran around, bumped into each other, appeared totally panicked. A reminiscence of the troubled past of the city. However, as the confusion calmed down, a cheerful music was heard, and our dancers rejoiced, embraced, danced together again. For this signal of hope, they invited everyone from the audience to join them, forming a large farandole. A message sent to the whole city.
This whole afternoon, curiosity was the guest of honour. People of all generations came to share and learn skills, to hear about the other people’s stories, to wonder what their lives and their hobbies are like. But, most of all, what dominated the day was diversity. All around, we could hear various languages, with discussions between people of different ages, of different styles. Music jams were improvised by strangers, with various instruments and beautiful singing. From every corner, people went on to talk about their own experience, their own skills, their own city. This final event was again about storytelling, but this time the audience had a huge role to play.
Written by Jeremy Flauraud
‘Mitrovica, City of Diversity’ was the final event of the project “Mitrovica’s Joint Story”. This project is financed by the European Union, through the project Divided Past-Joint Future with OKC as the leading applicant and organized by GAIA Kosovo. The content of this article does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the article lies entirely with the author(s).