PHOTO: Locally produced and marketed souvenirs are expanding economic opportunities for low-income artisans in Montenegro's Kolasin municipality.
The results from the fair are impressive, but the success does not stop there. Realizing the significance of being well organized, the artisans formed their own association, NGO Etnoart (Ethno Art), through which they will coordinate their future activities. NGO Etnoart is actively seeking new ways to present its members original products to the market. Further, the association has applied directly to CHF/USAID for assistance with purchasing equipment for the production of souvenirs. They plan to locate their new workshop in Kolasin’s primary school so that it can be used for educating children about traditional craft production, when not in use by member artisans.
As a result of the popularity and financial success of the fair, the Mayor of Kolasin designated a special municipal building as a permanent Souvenir Shop to be operated by NGO Etnoart. The new Etno Souvenirs Shop is adjacent to the local tourism organization, in the heart of Kolasin. It is open every day and features many of the same crafts which were sold so successfully during the fair. The shop is regularly staffed by one full time employee and may be staffed by additional assistants during the peak tourism seasons. From January through March 2006, the Etno Souvenirs Shop has sold €410 worth of souvenirs.
Miss Branka Goluboviæ, of NGO Roditelji za Ucenike, is pleased with the results of the fair project and looks forward to cooperating with and supporting the new NGO Etnoart in the future.
The municipality of Kolasin has long been known for its extraordinary ski slopes and its mouthwatering locally produced food but now it is also known for something else which distinguishes it from other areas in Montenegro – locally produced and marketed souvenirs. Due to the depressed economic environment in Kolasin, many talented people have begun to create and sell souvenirs in order to supplement their incomes. In many cases, the revenues from souvenir sales are the primary source of income for artisans. In this mountainous region, rich with forests, wood and wool are the most common materials used for the souvenirs that reflect local traditions and culture. Amongst the souvenirs, you find names such as “Village”, “Katun" (Summer pasture), “Savardak” (typical house made of wood and thatch), “Moba” (joint volunteer work), “Slavamtkalja” (female weaver), and “Prelja” (spinner). During the severe winters in Kolasin, local women weave centuries old secrets into thick warm wool socks, gloves, and sweaters that magically transport the wearer to the warmth of Kolasin.
As a result of the popularity and financial success of the fair, the Mayor of Kolasin designated a special municipal building as a permanent Souvenir Shop to be operated by NGO Etnoart, a local artisan association.
Although craft production has long been a tradition in Kolasin, artisans have not been organized and, therefore, sales have been infrequent. Thanks to the intervention of CHF Montenegro and local NGO Roditelji za Ucenike (Parents for Students), that has changed. NGO Roditelji za Ucenike initiated many beneficial educational projects in Kolasin over the past few years, as well as economic and culture projects, including ones related to herb collection and theatre arts. Due to their successful track record, NGO Roditelji za Ucenike was approached by Kolasin’s artisans for assistance with organizing and promoting the artisans and their crafts. Ms. Branka Golubovic, President of the Management Board of NGO Roditelji za Ucenike, in turn approached CHF for assistance. Through the Community Revitalization through Democratic Action-Economy (CRDA-E) program, funded by the American people though the United States Agency for International Development, the first ever souvenir and handicrafts fair was implemented in Kolasin from December 15 – 18, 2005. USAID/CHF provided funding for the promotional materials, including posters, business cards for artisans, and a catalogue of participants, as well as providing technical assistance for organizing the fair.
In addition to the support received from CHF and USAID, NGO Roditelji za Ucenike and the artisans received support from a variety of local organizations. Kindergarten “Sestre Radoviæ”, Cultural society “Mijat Maškoviæ”, “Risto Manojloviæ” elementary school, Kolasin Municipality, and the Kolasin Cultural Center all contributed to the fair. Over 500 crafts were on display from 44 exhibitors. Approximately 530 people visited the fair during four days and purchased 39 items with a value of €271. Contracts for €1,000 worth of future purchases were agreed with leading nation wide institutions such as Telekom Crna Gora, National Park “Biogradska Gora”, and Ekotours tourist agency. As of March 2006, €300 worth of those contracts has been fulfilled.