Svaneti, the highest mountainous region of Georgia, is a treasury of history and art in the north-west of the country. Especially Upper Svaneti in the Enguri valley has preserved the eldest forms of living and the most ancient methods of agriculture as well as an astonishing chronology of Georgian Christian art. The region was never invaded by Christian invaders who could have plundered or destroyed its treasures. Since the 9th century churches were built in all villages. They were richly decorated with wall-paintings and supplied with painted and cased icons and crosses by local workshops. The Georgian Centre for Monument Protection started to restore Svaneti’s churches and wall-paintings during Sovjet times, but financial reasons caused this work to stop. Through the intermediation of the German specialists in this field, Rolf and Brigitta Schrade from the Berliner Georgischen Gesellschaft, Horizon stepped in and helped to continue and expand the restoration activities. During the period 1997-2005, fourteen churches with their wall paintings and icons were restored and documented. The program brought work for Georgian specialists who would otherwise lack for an occupation in their field, supported the nascent eco and cultural tourism in the region, and enabled the believers to practice their faith in an environment as originally was intended. The program started with the restoration of wall-paintings and icons but was later expanded to include the study of inscriptions as well as archeological excavations and architectural reconstruction.
In addition Horizon financed the publication of a book and a DVD which contains the complete collection of photographs, drawings and other documents pertaining to all restored churches and artefacts, which might be of use as an easy guide for reference purposes in case new restoration activities will have to be considered in future.
The TEMP (Thracian Expeditions for Mound Research) project was created and managed by the late Dr. Georgi Kitov (1943-2008) and was Horizon’s first experience with the funding of Bulgarian excavation projects.
Kitov was successful but used controversial methods, rarely documenting or analyzing the artifacts he found.
In 2004 Kitov’s work became known worldwide when he found a gold mask in a 5th century BC burial mound, shortly before the Horizon visit (which we were shown at the time). Horizon decided to stop its funding of TEMP because this success enabled Kitov to find other sources of funding. Our support was then transferred to Daniela Agre’s research in Strandja. The Expedition continues to perform research in the Valley of the Thracian Kings.
‘The Balkans’ – a shared heritage
In 2005 Horizon has asked the Bulgarian photographer Ivo Hadjimishev to make pictures of cultural objects and artefacts in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania and Romania. This assignment was to form the basis of a project which means to show to politicians, scholars, artists and the general public that the Balkan countries as we know them today have much more common cultural roots than is usually recognized. To Western Europeans the history of the Balkans is mainly known for its many wars, not only between the inhabitant peoples but also caused by a constant interference in its internal affairs by countries outside the region. Contrary to politics, culture connects. Therefore the primary target group for a photo exhibition on the subject and an accompanying book on Thracian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman cultures are the countries in the region itself. A broader group includes the countries that so frequently played a role in the development of the Balkan, mostly at the expense of the local population. The Balkans, on the one hand a shared heritage, on the other hand a crossroad of civilizations.
The photographic expeditions of Ivo Hadjimishev have taken much more time than initially expected. But the result, a collection of hundreds if not thousands of photographs, is impressive. After completion of a theme based photobook with accompanying texts written by renowned scholars from the region, the exhibition ‘The Balkans – a shared heritage’ was opened in Paris at the headquarters of UNESCO by Mrs. Irina Bokova, its Director-General, on 17 March 2015. Afterwards, the exhibition was on show in several other countries.
Dmitri Ermakov (1845-1916) started his photographer career as a student of the Military Academy in Ananuri (Georgia). Ermakov was a very active man with great interest in geography, ethnography, archaeology and architecture. He travelled huge distances with his small caravan, depicting mainly the Caucasian Region, but also visited Turkey and Persia and the Shah’s family. The pictures give a unique depiction of the Caucasus at the end of the 19th century. Everyday life, the population and the landscapes, as well as the early modernization of the region, have been captured conscientiously and in great detail.
In the mid 1870’s, he opened a photo studio in Tbilisi, Georgia and started to advertise in periodicals and newspapers to inform his clientele about the new images they could purchase. Part of Ermakov’s business was the selling of single mounted photographs, custom-made photo albums and portfolio albums. In the 1930’s, the Simon Janashia State Museum in Tbilisi purchased the archive from the photographers relatives.
After almost 70 years, the Ermakov archive was rediscovered in 1999 by accident. This nearly complete archive comprised besides several camera’s and lenses, more than 20.000 original, primarily albumen prints; more than16.000 glass plate negatives, over 10.000 stereo photo cards and 127 photo albums, of which 116 are supposed to have been part of Ermakov’s working archive: The photo albums contained around 20.850 prints. Ermakov’s photo archive belongs to the few reasonably complete photo archives to have survived from this period, and are therefore of great historical significance.
Stichting Horizon was in charge of coordination and funding of the restoration works on the Ermakov collection which took place from 2000 until 2010. In presence of the Georgian ambassador to The Netherlands, Mr Shota Gvineria, and the director of the Georgian National Museum (GNM) in Tbilisi, Mr David Lordkipanidze, the Ermakov Photo Exhibition was opened in the Nederlands Foto Museum (NFM) in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in 2014. This event marked the successful closing of a joined, 14-year restoration & exhibition project of NFM, GNM and Stichting Horizon. An important element of the final stages of the project was the preparation of a photobook (of 302 pages) on the work of Dmitri Ermakov.
Zagreb International Chamber Music Festival
The Zagreb International Chamber Music Festival was founded in 2006 and belongs to the leading cultural events of Croatia. From 2006 till 2019, every year in October internationally acclaimed musicians from many different countries gathered in Zagreb to work together with local musicians and presented the results of their rehearsals in public concerts. These concerts took place in the main hall of the Croatian Music Institute (built in 1827, 400 seats) and were broadcasted by the Croatian Radio and Television.
Since 2013 Stichting Horizon supported the Zagreb International Chamber Music Festival by sponsoring the introduction of several educational programs in order to secure a future audience for classical music and to support young local musicians. Local students of the Music Academy in Zagreb were given the possibility to study with the internationally acclaimed musicians of the festival during open master classes, which has led to an intense cultural exchange between local musicians in Croatia and the participating artists of the festival. Starting in 2013, a special concert for children was presented during the festival, which has experienced a huge impact and an overwhelming positive response from the audience. In addition, the concept of a ‘contemporary music lounge’ was introduced to attract a new and young audience to classical concerts. By presenting a concert program with classical music in a Jazz club (ca. 400 seats) it has been made possible for the audience to experience classical music in a different and relaxed atmosphere which apperaed to be the perfect concept to introduce classical chamber music to a new audience, as it makes the “classical concert experience” more easily accessible.