Azerbaijan, Baku: Icherisheher Centre for Traditional Arts

Icherisheher (Administration of State Historical-Architectural Reserve) describes the regeneration of the Old City of Baku as ‘living tradition’. This outlook resonates closely with the School’s understanding of tradition as continual renewal.

The partnership with Icherisheher has enabled the Prince’s School to establish a Centre for Traditional Arts (ICTA) in a specially converted building in the Old City of Baku, managed by a resident team of staff from the Prince’s School. The Centre runs a three-year programme focusing on four traditional arts: wood inlay, textile, ceramics and silverwork jewellery. The programme’s objective is to create a series of products with an identity that reflects the vision of Baku as living history.

Students have responded positively to the education programme and design briefs, and are now working beyond the centre, contributing to projects in the Old City of Baku, such as the Baylar mosque restoration and designing the Shirvanshah throne.

The Centre’s success has led to new partnerships in Azerbaijan, the main one being with the Ministry of Education, who asked the School to pilot cross-curricular resources for teachers to use in their classrooms and to help engage the younger generations with their national tradition and culture. The Ministry also asked us to work with the Art Academy to deliver the SABAH programme, which provides an enhanced education experience for undergraduate students through a rich and innovative learning environment.

The Centre is also broadening educational opportunities to a wider audience. During the Novruz festival, its community workshops and art demonstrations are open to the thousands of people visiting the Old City at this time. Its tutors are also being trained to deliver workshops in local schools, as part of the Prince’s School’s collaboration with Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Education. At weekends, the Centre’s doors are open for Kids Club so local children can try their hands at the different traditional arts. As well as restoring and reviving old Baku, the Centre is inspiring Azerbaijani teachers and artists of tomorrow.