Along with stone and clay, wood was one of the first materials our ancestors used in their everyday life. They mastered it in the early days by crafting many objects out of it. Consequently, woodcarving became an important technique that nowadays exists only in particular artisanal places that strive to preserve it from oblivion. One of those places that merits your attention is a small town Konjic in Bosnia & Herzegovina, that has been inscribed on UNESCO representative list of intangible cultural heritage for its century-long woodworking tradition. Konjic woodcarving was the second element of Bosnia’s intangible cultural heritage, after the Zmijanje embroidery, that was UNESCO classified. And not without good reason.
First of all, let me tell a bit about the town where everything started. Only 60 km away from Sarajevo and a bit more from Mostar, one can find a small town called Konjic. Nestled between some of the highest mountains in the country – Prenj, Bjelašnica and Bitovnja, the town of Konjic has splendid architecture, breathtaking canyons and peaks, as well as adorable people. This is also one of the oldest permanent settlement in Bosnia & Herzegovina, dating back to 4000 years ago. Through millennia, different cultures & religions were overlapping here, which resulted in enriching heritage. The best example is Stone Bridge (Kamena ćuprija), a scenic six-arched bridge that was originally built in 1682. However, what put Konjic on the map is its world-famous woodcarving tradition. This town became a regional artisanal center.
Konjic woodcarving is one of the old crafts that is still very much alive and prosperous. The hand-carved wooden craftworks include furniture, some interior design and decorative elements. The tradition of this artistic skill dates back to the 19th century, but the knowledge was passed through an intergenerational transmission. Surprisingly, the carving technique didn’t change over time and was skillfully preserved. In the small town Konjic, many inhabitants are the carriers of woodcarving, mainly as a hobby.
However, the most important guardians of this nurtured traditions are definitely two families of woodcarvers – Nikšić and Mulić. These families passed the craftwork over six generations. It was firstly the Nikšić family that started the woodcarving shop in 1919. Even at that time, their furniture was exported to Paris and Milan. Ten years later, in 1929, the family Mulić opened its workshop as well. Nowadays, they produce woodcrafts mainly as customized orders. Their old house was transformed into a museum of woodcarving and proclaimed as the movable heritage of Bosnia & Herzegovina. The workshop Mulić has been highly reputed and even engaged as woodcarvers of chairs for Pope.
The woodworking might be an old skill, but the artisans from Konjic successfully mix traditional technique with modern design bringing the woodcarving on another level. Since a couple of years, the demand for this handcraft of Bosnia’s intangible cultural heritage boomed, and they have been exported to all continents. If you happen to be in Konjic, try to visit museum “Mulić Rekord“ and “Zanat workshop“, two best places to learn more about this unique woodcarving tradition. And since you are already in Konjic, you absolutely have to explore a spectacular underground project that has been classified as Balkan’s Top Secret.
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