After Guido Bosua and Ivona Miloš met at the end of 2017 during the Tandem Fryslân programme (Ivona as participant and Guido as a photographer), they created a photo exhibition together for the community of Praputnjak, which Guido wrote about earlier. They have now decided to explore a future collaboration.

how a simple project plan can grow into something big

Next to the exhibition Guido and Ivona started to draft a new, small scale photo project; a photo monument for the village, with portraits of the houses, the people living in these houses and the landscapes. In the original plan, a group of international artists would visit the village four times during 2020. In this year Rijeka is European Capital Of Culture and Praputnjak as one of the 27 neighbourhoods, is part of a Flagship Programme of Rijeka 2020.

As soon as we started talking with other organisations and initiatives, we noticed that we touched a string. The story of Praputnjak is a story of a unique village. But we have a lot of unique villages in Europe, and most of them are struggling at the moment. This made us realise that we had to open up our idea to other villages and to widen our plan and idea.

To learn about a similar project, Guido got in contact with Sjoerd Litjens, initiator of ‘Iepen Doar(p)’; a series of 129 audio portraits of all households in Feanwaldsterwal, a small village in Fyslân. Iepen Doar(p) was part of the Leeuwarden-Fryslân2018 Iepen Mienskip-programme. The stories are still on line, also with English subtitles;

His project became an inspiration for us, and we decided to adapt our original plan, and start our project as an international follow up of his Iepen Doar(p). We changed from the Praputnjak photo project into OPEN DOORS/OPEN VILLAGE.

In the following months, Guido and Ivona got in contact with more small villages from European Capitals of Culture regions; after Guido visited Novi Sad, he was brought in contact with Avakum Kvas and they are now doing research on Jazak, a small village close to Novi Sad (Serbia).

Meanwhile Ivona (involved in Tandem Cultural Capitals as Tandem photographer) got in touch with Daiva Vaišnorienė. She is an active villager from Zapyškis (Lithuania), and became also enthusiastic about the project.

In the same week they spoke with Sjoerd Litjens for the first time, Guido and Ivona also had a meetingo with Sjoerd Bootsma (former Tandem C&P participant, now working for the Legacy Organisation Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2028). He liked the project idea, and mainly the fact that the structure of the project was simple and clear, and at the same time it has enough opportunities to add extra elements, if that is needed/wanted by the participating villages. He also invited them to present the outcomes of the project in Fryslân, in the summer of 2022.

Now it is November, and what started as a small photo project in Praputnjak, became an international multimedia project with four European Capitals of Culture involved, starting in 2020 and running for at least three years. We are happy we got some money from LF2028 to develop the plan. We met last month in Leeuwarden and talked about the plan (and ways to finance it).

The first lesson learned in this project is to take your time for it; it is wonderful and inspiring to work on this European scale, but it all starts with personal contact, and getting to know each other, finding common grounds. Then you can move to the next step, which will be a small try out week in March 2020, back in Praputnjak, to find out if the things we designed together, really works.

So, to be continued!