From 11th to 13th of August more than 150 people joined BREfest, a festival of music and nature organized by GAIA (SCI Kosovo) at Brezovica, Kosovo. Local people and guests from around Kosovo and neighboring countries gathered in the ski center of Brezovica for this nature celebration.
The idea behind BREfest was to highlight the beauty of Sharr Mountain, to raise awareness of environmental topics and to provide space for people who love the mountain to meet and to share their vision for the future.
The message of the festival “Sharr is more than snow“ emphasised the unique, natural and cultural values of the mountain, besides the attractive skiing slopes in winter.
Before the festival, volunteers from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Serbia, Turkey and the United Kingdom, together with local volunteers, prepared the place and the activities, and also organized a clean-up action in the mountain. Extinction of a Trash mountain in Sharr mountain is a short video telling the story of the clean-up action.
A few days before the event, the participants of “Tour of Freedom“ also joined the group, bringing stories and experiences from their bike travel through Kosovo. The travelling workcamp crossed Kosovo from North to South within three weeks. The volunteer got to know local communities and the environmental and social challenges they are facing. They got involved and inspired actions to act on those issues. The Bike Tour volunteers told their stories through impressive exhibition of pictures and words and via engaging human library on the first day of BREfest.
During the three days of the festival, the program was diverse with different activities, on topics including environment, migration and future challenges to the region. There were several workshops, such as Recycle Art, DIY (Do it Yourself), printing and sewing. In order to start each day with positive energy, BREfesters discovered the art of Capoeira Angola – a mixture of game, dance, martial art and music with roots from Brazil and Africa.
Every evening movies regarding the daily festival topic were screened. To explore the mountain, activities such as guided tours, a herbal tresure hunt and a poetry session in nature were organized.
There was also a space to discuss topics such as migration, zero waste and environmental challenges in Kosovo. Participants of “Route to Connect“ field study trip, shared their take on the current refugee situation, through an exibition and discussion. This linked the history of Sharr mountain, a transborder region with a history of migration throughout the past centuries, to the ongoing humanitarian crisis on the Balkans and beyond.
A group of 30 children and youth from Imaginatorium, an alternative educational center in Gracanica, also joined BREfest on Saturday, taking part in the different activities like arts, walking tours and games. For most of the kids it was the first time to explore the wild and unspoiled nature of the mountain and to be surrounded by so many volunteers from all around the world.
Jimmy Mustafa Band, a Roma band, Trio Bibera, a jazz group, and Rootsman, a reggae band from Macedonia, joined the festival for the musical evenings. This mixture of genders and ethicities was an example of how music can connect people.
BREfest was intended to promote a different approach to appreciating nature, by provoking the participants to consider their own impact on the environment. Food was vegan, free of charge and cooked by volunteers.
„Share and exchange“ was another festival principle which was implemented by encouraging sharing tranport to the ski resort, and also exchanging skills, homemade products, food and experiences between people.
After the success of BREfest 2017, the team is already thinking about organizing it again in 2018. And we hope to meet again with anyone who wants to join us to celebrate the nature and culture of Sharr mountain!
Raquel Amaral, Portugal, an EVS volunteer in short-term EVS „All colours of Sharr mountain“, part of „Thinking like a mountain…“ project supported by Eramsus+ programme of the EU.