Cultural heritage is the environment in which we develop

stu 26, 2020

Good governance

An interview with prof. Darija Andovska, composer, pianist and author of orchestral, chamber, solo, vocal, film, theatre and dance music, as well as music for multimedia projects, by Ana Frangovska, art historian and curator.

Darija Andovska is a Macedonian trademark in the field of contemporary music, being a composer, pianist and author of chamber, solo, orchestral, symphonic, choral music as well as film music, theater, dance and multimedia projects. Her works have been performed on festivals and concerts in North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Georgia, France, England, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Austria, Albania, Russia, Mexico, Canada, Poland, Romania, Armenia and the United States of America. Her music has been recorded on CDs and sold in Switzerland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Italy, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Germany, and her scores have been published by Nuova Stradivarius – Italy, Sordino – Switzerland, Association of Composers – North Macedonia. Won several competitions, nominated and awarded as well for film and theater music all over the world. Chosen by MusMA (Music Masters on Air) as one of the best young composers in Europe for 2013/2014. Nominated (2014) and twice awarded (2013, 2015) the “Virtuoso” award for Best Composer in Macedonia. Won the Cultural Honor Award of the City of Zürich – Best Composer in 2014. Macedonian music ambassador for the project CEEC 17+1 between China and central- and east European countries for 2016/2017 and 2018-2020. Awarded state prize “Panche Peshev” 2018 for highest achievements in music art. Andovska is an artistic director of the Days of Macedonian Music festival, under the Association of Composers of Macedonia – SOKOM. Works as professor at the Faculty for music and Faculty for dramatic arts at the State University “Ss. Cyril and Methodius” in Skopje.

Music is also an integral part of the cultural heritage. Very often, contemporary musicians find inspiration in the traditional sounds and intertwine some elements of ethno-folklore in contemporary compositions in order to transmit the spirit of belonging to a certain place. Mrs Andovska being an educator (as a professor at the Academy of Music in Skopje) and an active creator in the field of culture and, as well as being a constructive critic of the Macedonian modern society, is appropriate relevant interlocutor on the topic of our research on shared or disputed inheritance.

We do have heritage that can evoke different – sometimes difficult or competing – views and emotions, depending on the approach and viewpoint. The challenge of dealing with such divergence lies in the attempt to simultaneously convey these different views and voices when presenting this heritage to the public. Do you agree and do you think that this is an essential task when dealing with heritage and histories that speak to different people in different ways?

Darija:  Our heritage is not what we choose it to be. It’s the environment that shapes our thoughts, beliefs, even our taste ever since we were kids, like the environment shapes up and directs the stem cells to develop into different tissues. It’s not about how it is presented to the public, it is already a part of us. The public that doesn’t come with the same heritage, can just observe it and accept it as it is, as a cultural diversity or partly relate to it, if there’s any connection. There’s actually no challenge in this, unless it’s put in the context of daily politics.

When dealing with shared history and heritage, international cooperation has the potential to foster more understanding within and between cultures. Do you agree? What is your personal experience?

Darija: I don’t see why this “shared history” is so prominent in the case of Macedonia. I don’t see any other countries dealing with such a problem or claiming to have shared history. Let’s challenge Greece and Turkey to have a shared history and heritage, or Greece and Bulgaria, or France and Germany, or Serbia and Croatia and Slovenia… let’s stop here. No, it doesn’t have a potential to foster more understanding, but just more oppression towards one of the parties involved.

“Our heritage is not what we choose it to be. It’s the environment that shapes our thoughts and beliefs”

Can you think of an example of a case study of shared or contested heritage related to your particular field of interest (ethno-music, history, archaeology, contemporary art, art history etc.) and how would you approach its presentation? 

Darija: These subjects are not in my particular field of interest. I am interested in contemporary music, moreover, ethno-music has, despite some similarities, completely different parameters in each country, so it cannot be construed as “shared” heritage.

In a context of uncertainties and dystopias, what is the role of cultural heritage?

Darija: Cultural heritage is the environment in which we develop.

Can we achieve reconciliation with the help of music (and its differences and similarities) if we place it in a new context?

Darija: There’s no dispute that requires reconciliation in these matters. It’s just different. You cannot reconcile it.

One of the challenges for researchers and practitioners in the field of cultural heritage is to develop more inclusive approaches to share heritage in order to transgress social and national boundaries. Any ideas on how this approach would be implemented into your particular field of interest?

Darija: Yes, it’s a challenge because this approach is artificial. It’s redundant.

“What signifies the national narratives are that they do not include layers; they are one-sided, often chronological and has a sense of a fixed, static, historical truth, about them,” said Anderson in 1991. Do you agree with this citation and why?

Darija: That’s not the case with cultural heritage. Cultural heritage is alive and intertwined in all segments of our day to day life, in one way or another. It’s in the language (the rhythm), it’s in the lullabies, it’s in the anatomy structure and many other aspects.  This sitation may be applicable to some history books.

Another method of challenging the national narrative, regarding shared or contested heritage, would be to go from the particular to the universal. Cornelius Holtorf writes: “(…) the new cultural heritage can transcend cultural particularism by promoting values and virtues derived from humanism and a commitment to global solidarity.” What do you think about this?

Darija: Yes, we can all add up to this and enrich the world, but not on the account of one nation or another.

When we discuss about shared or contested heritage the issue of time is essential, and in extreme cases of recent turmoil, the best method for reconciliation might not be to address the past as individually relatable; but rather that the past should hopefully remain in the past. Do you think that this can be implemented into our context?

Darija: I hope not. Having our own cultural heritage, language, history, etc. is a part of our basic human rights.


The interview is conducted within the framework of the project “Shared or contested heritage”, implemented by ALDA Skopje and Forum ZFD. The aim of the project is to improve cross-border cooperation between North Macedonia, Greece and Bulgaria. The project raises awareness of the role of contested histories and shared cultural heritage for the EU integration processes among heritage practitioners and cultural workers. The content of the interview is the sole responsibility of the interviewee and does not always reflect the views and attitudes of ALDA and Forum ZFD.