The Hekayya Project
Hekkaya is a heritage preservation initiative that focuses on the participation and the empowerment of the local communities living in neighboring villages to the World Heritage Site of the Ancient Villages of North Syria (known also as the Dead Cities)
The aim of the project is to ensure the sustainability of the sites, the traditional local crafts and the different forms of cultural expressions by integrating the communities’ way of life and supporting their well-being.
The project objectives and achievements
The project’s first campaign focused on the children of villages located near the archaeological park. Most of local children are familiar with the sites and the ruins surrounding their villages, however, there is a need to raise their awareness regarding the fragility of those sites. The campaign also aimed at helping the local children explore the Ancient Villages from a different perspective and to conceive them as a common and rich cultural environment.
Our first campaign also represented women from the participating villages and their traditional handcrafted products. Highlighting by that the economic role of the housewives in the rural Syrian communities, and their valuable contribution to perpetuate the heritage of the region.
For the Children
To implement the educational project, a group of volunteering local students was created. The program of the project was then discussed and developed with the volunteering students, which ensured the effective implementation of the proposed activities.
The program was divided to three activities:
- A tour to the archaeological sites: a tour for 24 students to the Ancient Villages Site was organized by three cultural heritage specialists –members of SIMAT- and one teacher. After a long stroll on the site, the students were encouraged to express their impressions, ideas and perceptions of the sites using photos and notes.
- Expression workshop on heritage: Arabic and English terms related to the site, and generally related to tangible heritage, were introduced to the children by cards that carry both languages. The children then drew pictures of the sites and their outstanding monuments.
- Introduction to excavation techniques and conservation: In an orchard near the village, a site containing buried modern jar and sherds was set by the members of SIMAT in order to introduce the techniques and methods of excavation to the students. Through this activity, the students learned how to dig according to archaeological methods and how to document the found artefacts. The children were later introduced to different conservation techniques, which illustrated to them the possibility of repairing and preserving damaged sites and monuments.
Wheat straw weaving project
During last year, the project was under trial, and at a later stage, a number of women were trained to carry on the project. As for this year, it was decided to convert the project into a production season, which required the raw materials, pigments and other logistics to be prepared in advance.
In order to achieve the objectives that are preserving and reviving the inherited traditional crafts in this village, the work line consisted of two parts:
- Revitalization of what is heritage:
Within this part, the local women collected information on at least two traditional pieces of weaved straws. The obtained information was then documented, and it included the local names of the pieces, their usage, measurements, colors and shape. The documentation included also pictures of the object in the case of an existing historic weaved object. After the information was collected and documented, each woman produced two copies of the documented objects. The efforts of the local women were thoroughly documented by photographs and videos of the produced objects and the interaction of the involved community.
- Innovation based on heritage:
In an attempt to be inclusive of modern-day trends, the local women were encouraged to create new designs and techniques and to implement them regardless of the traditional techniques and designs.