woodcarving technique is inscribed on UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List


Woodcarving technique practiced by Zanat inscribed on UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List

Grandfather Adem at Belgrade Furniture Fair 1936
Grandfather Adem at Belgrade Furniture Fair, 1936, (courtesy
of Zanat and the Niksic family)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 was a historic day for Zanat, for our family business, Konjic—our town—but also for Bosnia and Herzegovina, our country. The woodcarving technique which has been practiced and passed down through four generations in the Niksic family, the owners of Zanat, was inscribed onto the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at the 12th session of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is taking place in Jeju, Republic of Korea. In Zanat, we still use this same ancient woodcarving technique to carve the modern furniture and decorative items, created through design collaborations with renown international designers, such as Monica Förster, Harri Koskinen, Gert Wingårdh, Ilse Crawford and hopefully soon through new collaborations now in the making with other prominent design names.

One of the first products produced by Adem Niksic, (courtesy of Zanat and the Niksic family)

As written on the UNESCO’s official webpage, “Konjic woodcarving is an artistic craft with a long tradition in the Konjic municipality. The woodcarvings – which include furniture, sophisticated interiors and small decorative objects – stand out for their recognizable hand-carved motifs and overall visual identity. The woodcarving is a constitutive part of the local community’s culture, a measure of the beauty and amenity of home interiors, and a tradition that forges a sense of community and belonging. The practice not only plays a very important role at the community level in Konjic, however, but also countrywide and in diaspora communities. It is an economically viable, socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable craft practised by different ethnic and confessional groups, which serves as an instrument of dialogue and cooperation…The owners of family-run woodcarving workshops are most responsible for safeguarding the element, training apprentice woodcarvers and popularizing the craft.”

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The woodcarving technique that is specific to the town of Konjic in Bosnia originated in a small nearby village as a primitive art form. The Austro-Hungarian government, which ruled Bosnia between 1878 and the start of World War I in 1914, decided to invest in perfecting the technique by providing scholarships for most talented local woodcarvers to study arts and craft in Sarajevo and later by financing woodcarving education in Konjic. The investments paid off and Konjic soon became known as the woodcarving Mecca of the empire, where beautiful furniture and decorative items were hand-made in a couple of dozen woodcarving shops that later sprawled the town between the two World Wars.

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One of the best-known woodcarving shops was owned by Adem Niksic, the grandfather of Zanat founders, Orhan and Adem Niksic. Adem and his brothers built an impressive family business, setting trends for luxury urban interior design in the former Yugoslavia, but was forced to close it when World War II started. As soon as private craft shops were allowed to operate in then socialist Yugoslavia, Adem’s sons Mukerem and Besim reopened the business in 1959 and kept developing it until Yugoslavia fell apart and war broke out in Bosnia in 1992. Undeterred by the war, Besim kept the business opened, albeit operating at 10 percent capacity, and made new investments as soon as the war ended in 1995.

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Today woodcarving in Konjic is going through a renaissance almost entirely thanks to Zanat, where woodcarvers in their 20s and 80s work together. Zanat is regularly taking new apprentices, training them and hiring, contributing to reduction of unemployment in a country where 26 percent of the labor force is unemployed. By building bridges between modern design and this form of fine craftsmanship, Zanat is preserving an element of intangible cultural heritage of humanity, creating gainful employment opportunities and adding a new aesthetic dimension to furniture design.
The recognition of the Konjic woodcarving technique by UNESCO is a recognition to all woodcarvers who kept the tradition alive despite all the obstacles laid down by the difficult history of the Balkans. The inscription is a gift for woodcarvers of all generations and for entire Bosnia and Herzegovina. SwitzerCultCreative is proud to have been the first to bring Zanat designs to Canada.

Kind regards,

– – – – –
Bojana Niksic
Sales and Marketing Associate

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