Thanks to Stephanie Weinraub for this text.
Kulla Conservation in Kosovo
Preserving Kosovo’s Endangered Heritage
Drenoc, Kosovo – May 2016
Like anything that’s been around for several centuries, the Isuf Mazrekaj kulla is finding that it needs to adapt in order to survive. These stone towers, potent symbols of traditional Islamic Kosovar culture, were particularly targeted during the recent war, and now only a few dozen survive.
The Mazrekaj family has survived warfare, regime changes, and economic instability, and so has their kulla, but now that Kosovo has found independence and relative stability, helping the kulla participate in modern tourism is the surest way to ensure the survival of the historic structure, and the prosperity of the family who has held it for three centuries.
Eternally grateful to Judith Broeker, Jamie Donahoe & Yvonne Caragounis for their effort in preserving heritage throughout the world and now also in my beloved Kosova… — Ilir Rizaj
Adventures in Preservation, partnering with Cultural Heritage without Borders Kosovo, brought seven volunteers to spend two weeks working on the kulla alongside the Mazrekaj family, guided by conservation architects and local craftsmen. The result? A historically-minded rehabilitation of the 18th century building.
Hands-on Work and Results
Working with local master craftsmen, the group continued, in AiP tradition, to plaster and perform other repairs with traditional materials and techniques. They learned to mix mortar and lime plaster using different recipes for different purposes. The plastering skills took a while to master, but the hard-working crew accomplished an incredible amount of work:
- Replastered walls in historic room using lime plaster
- Built a new wooden wall to separate sleeping rooms
- Reconfigured doorways to evenly distribute access to sleep spaces, bricking them up and plastering them over with lime plaster
- Removed the kitchen’s deteriorated historic floor and dirt insulation and replaced with the same style floor.
They even managed to fit in a mini archaeology project, sorting through the kitchen dirt insulation looking for artifacts that may have found their way in through the floor.
The success of this kulla conservation project is testament to the incredibly hard work of our jammers and to the generous sponsorship of Paul Broeker. With funding from our sponsor, jammers spent long full days on site to make certain all the tasks were finished. They took time out for some sightseeing on the weekend, but spent their weekdays fully focused on the tasks at hand.
The Mazrekaj family is wonderful. Their 14-year-old daughter speaks excellent English, enabling us to communicate and have fun conversations with the whole family. We’re learning some words as are they, so lots of eating and laughing and not understanding what people are saying, but it was all good! — Judith Broeker