Via EurAsia: Performing on Cultural Routes: a handbook for the activators and promoters of less-known heritage in cross-cultural geographies

Handbook* writer & designer: Farah Makki

This handbook is one of the outputs of an EU-financed project called “Performative Journey on the Via Eurasia Cultural Route”. It is meant as an inspiration to Cultural Route and Cultural Heritage professionals to use the infrastructure that they administer as a creative, interactive backdrop for contemporary art practices. In our case, it was about participatory performance arts.

To start, we would like to introduce the Via Eurasia and the concept of a “Performative Journey”. The Via Eurasia is a candidate European  Cultural Route and stretches for 4000 Km from Rome, Italy, via the  Balkans to Istanbul and then the Mediterranean coast of Türkiye. It is based on the ancient roads which once brought conquest, then trade and prosperity to the area – Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman. It was designed to preserve the remaining stretches of ancient roads so that new generations of explorers could emulate their ancestors and discover the world by walking.

To involve residents in this route, by interpreting its history,  heritage, and contemporary life creatively, we dreamed up the project of the “Performative Journey”. The idea of the project was jointly developed by MitOst (Berlin), which has extensive access to cultural/art events and organizations, and Culture Routes Society  (Antalya), having access to rural contacts and detailed knowledge of the route and heritage of it. Both organisations invited Tirana Ekspres as a Via Eurasia representative in Albania and Open Studio” Art Society  (Lublin) to provide their expertise in artistic facilitation. Therefore, the project is multidisciplinary – involving archaeologists, historians, cultural route managers, tourism stakeholders and guides, small municipalities,  performing artists, musicians, technical support crew, as well the many villagers who invested their knowledge and souls into interpreting their heritage and local stories through site-specific performances.

This pilot project shows that the walking trails of the Cultural Routes of  Europe are not just the infrastructure for a journey through a  landscape, but also the means to access layers of history and culture.  The project enabled access, not in a static, lifeless way with signboards and maps, but interactively and creatively which peeled back the layers of the landscape to reveal the bare bones of the heritage beneath. We hope that more cultural route managers will team with art practitioners and local people to diversify cultural expressions and look at the heritage of their routes through creative art events.

Enjoy this handbook where we share our joint experience with everybody involved in the project!

January 2022

Serra Özhan-Hocaoğlu, MitOst Project Coordinator

Hüseyin Eryurt, Culture Routes Society Project Coordinator

* The handbook’s curation stems from a participatory action research process conducted between September and December 2021. All materials and findings have been carefully collected, treated, and interpreted throughout the Performative Journey project, reporting observations and lessons learned from implemented experiences in Demre (Türkiye), Elbasan (Albania), and Edessa  (Greece).

Bring yourself to a playful reading informed by facts and the passion of diverse players you will meet along the way!  Click here to download the handbook. (F. Makki)