British DJ picks Albanian Riviera, supermodel for new summer hit

TIRANA, May 25 – British hitmaker Jonas Blue has chosen the Albanian Riviera and a stunning Albanian model to promote his latest summer music video sensation. Featuring vocals from YouTube sensation William Singe, the brand new “Mama” single showcases stunning

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Notorious communist surveillance ‘House of Leaves’ opens up as remembrance museum

Notorious communist surveillance ‘House of Leaves’ opens up as remembrance museum

TIRANA, May 24 – A downtown Tirana facility that housed for a short time the notorious Gestapo Nazi secret police during the country’s occupation under WWII and was the interception headquarters of the Sigurimi secret service under communist for more

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Fustanella, a music festival where the kilt is the dress code

Fustanella, a music festival where the kilt is the dress code

TIRANA, May 18 – A festival where the dress code for everybody performing and attending is the fustanella, a traditional kilt worn by Albanian men since the Middle Ages, is underway this weekend in Gjirokastra in the first Fustanella festival

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Albania opens ‘Occurrence in present tense’ pavilion at Venice Biennale

Albania opens ‘Occurrence in present tense’ pavilion at Venice Biennale

TIRANA, May 17 – “Occurrence in present tense,” a project by Albanian contemporary artist Leonard Qylafi curated by Austria’s Vanessa Joan Muller is representing Albania at this year’s international art exhibition of the Venice Biennale where painter turned politician, Albania’s

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Ermonela Jaho shines at Washington National Opera debut

Ermonela Jaho shines at Washington National Opera debut

TIRANA, May 11 – Albania’s internationally renowned soprano Ermonela Jaho has received critical acclaim for her debut title role of Cio-Cio-San at Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Jaho, who is fast becoming one of the

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Ancient Albanian settlement discovered in TAP works

Ancient Albanian settlement discovered in TAP works

TIRANA, May 10 – Construction works in the Albanian section of the major Trans Adriatic Pipeline project bringing Caspian gas to Europe have brought to light an ancient settlement in Korça, southeastern Albania, during works for clearing the pipeline route.

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Ex-American idol contestant represents Albania at Eurovision song contest

Ex-American idol contestant represents Albania at Eurovision song contest

TIRANA, May 8 – Former American Idol contestant Linda Halimi who grew up in war-torn Kosovo and became an international inspiration for overweight women with her story of losing 58 kg, will represent Albania this week at the Eurovision song

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Prose writer’s secret poems published posthumously

Prose writer’s secret poems published posthumously

TIRANA, May 4 – A renowned prose writer in Albania, author Teodor Laço has had a surprise poetry volume published only six months after his death, unveiling his hidden passion about poetry. “Hapjani Dritaren Pulebardhes” (Open the Window to the

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Tirana, Durres turn into Mediterranean art spaces

Tirana, Durres turn into Mediterranean art spaces

TIRANA, May 4 – More than 230 international artists are being showcased in Albania, displaying their works in some unusual and thought-provoking spaces in Tirana and Durres, the country’s two largest cities. The display is part of Mediterranea 18 Young

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Restored icon marks 550th anniversary of Madonna of Shkodra saving

Restored icon marks 550th anniversary of Madonna of Shkodra saving

TIRANA, April 27 – A Virgin Mary icon dating back to the 19th century which survived the communist persecution and atheism for almost five decades has been finally restored and placed at the St. Stephen Cathedral in Shkodra, northern Albania.

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TIRANA, May 25 - British hitmaker Jonas Blue has chosen the Albanian Riviera and a stunning Albanian model to promote his latest summer music video sensation.

Featuring vocals from YouTube sensation William Singe, the brand new "Mama" single showcases stunning views of the Jale and Dhermi beaches along the Albanian Riviera and Albanian supermodel Oriola Marashi.

Only one week after its release, the single by the emerging 27-year-old DJ has already hit about 8 million views on YouTube.

“Mama was a title I had in November and I just wanted to use it, no other dance songs are called that. I just couldn’t figure out the concept then but then I realised I wanted a song that takes you back in your life. It’s about being care free. Going out and having a good time,” the DJ has told British media.

Oriola Marashi, a 21-year-old Albanian supermodel and opera singer, says the new single is on track to become a summer hit.

"I'm pretty sure this will be one of the top songs we will listen all summer, the music video was shot in my beautiful Albania and that’s why it has a special place in my heart," wrote the supermodel.

The music video comes at a time when Albania is gearing up for its peak tourist season, making a perfect promotion of Albania’s emerging tourism industry.

Offering a mix of sandy and rocky beaches, some of which quite virgin, the Albanian Riviera stretching along some curvy panoramic roads, has also been featured on famous British Top Gear TV series.

Back in late 2015, German giant Mercedes also picked the Shushica valley in southern Albania to promote a newly launched off-road model.
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                    [post_content] => gjethi 2TIRANA, May 24 - A downtown Tirana facility that housed for a short time the notorious Gestapo Nazi secret police during the country's occupation under WWII and was the interception headquarters of the Sigurimi secret service under communist for more than four decades until the early 1990s, has been transformed into a museum of secret surveillance, showcasing one of the country’s darkest periods to the younger generations and foreign tourists.

“The ‘House of Leaves,’ initially built as a small maternity hospital in the early 1930s, is a building that was set up as an obstetrics clinic to bring to life, but was in fact used to take people's lives," said Culture Minister Mirela Kumbaro at the museum’s opening ceremony this week.

Late Albanian translator and author Amik Kasoruho who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the early 1950s over agitation and propaganda activity against the communist government, said the "museum is dedicated to the innocent who were intercepted, spied on by the communist regime, and as a result arrested, interned, imprisoned executed and suffered lots of other severe punishment.”

“Maybe at that time I didn't understand why, but I later thought these people who have not asked forgiveness yet, must have had shameless courage," reads a saying by Kasoruhu, who died in 2014 at the age 82, at the museum entrance.

A report by the Institute for the Study of Communist Crimes has unveiled the 45-year communist regime that collapsed in the early 1990s imprisoned or interned for politically motivated reasons more than 90,000 people, of whom about 7,000 were killed or died of tortures.

The museum features the totalitarian control and its presence everywhere through interceptions in the form of pars pro toto, a part or aspect of something taken as representative of the whole, through authentic and replica interception items and materials.

The remembrance museum, which until 2015 was still under the administration of the intelligence service, is divided into nine sections displaying the building's functions from the early 1930s until 1991 when the communist regime collapsed.

The writing of part of the history, the scientific sources and the equipment displayed in narrative style are the product of scientific research based on materials of the state archive, the ministry of interior, the Sigurimi secret service archive and the National Library, says the Culture Ministry.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony Prime Minister Edi Rama described the newly opened museum as a treasure of collective memory, similar to Bunk'art, a Cold War secret bunker outside Tirana that the former communist regime had built underground decades ago to survive a possible nuclear attack. The bunker opened up as a tourist attraction in 2015.

"This is house hiding a very important treasure of our collective memory, a treasure giving us the opportunity to uncover other items of this mosaic that still has to be fully uncovered," said Prime Minister Rama.

"What I learned from the experience of Bunk'art 1 and 2, is the physical relation with remembrance as an opportunity to tell the younger generation or foreign visitors who didn't experience this period of history, and that a story when confessed, the more time passes, the less we who witnessed that time, fully believe in it,” said the Prime Minister.

“It is very important that neither Albanians nor Europe forgets the drama we went through. Remembrance is an unavoidable step to build the future,” added the Prime Minister, citing Pope John Paul II who visited Albania in 1993 soon after the collapse of the country's communist regime that banned religion for more than two decades.

A couple of years ago, a former building of the Sigurimi secret police which also served as a prison for the former politically persecuted was also turned into a museum in the northern Albanian city of Shkodra.

For about 45-years, Albania experienced Europe’s harshest communist regime under late Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha.

Albania approved a law on opening communist era secret police files in May 2015, after more than two decades of transition to democracy and market economy, enabling the former persecuted people and their relatives to get to know the names of the people who spied on them.

In addition to its coastal and mountain natural heritage, the country is also using its communist past to promote tourism as ‘Europe’s last secret.’
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 18 - A festival where the dress code for everybody performing and attending is the fustanella, a traditional kilt worn by Albanian men since the Middle Ages, is underway this weekend in Gjirokastra in the first Fustanella festival bringing folklore music from around the world at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Gjirokastra, southern Albania.

"The idea was to use a national identity symbol. We hired an aesthetic symbol such as the fustanella. We can say that it was the trendiest product of Albanian fashion for several centuries. We want to put this senior symbol back to where it deserves to be. Even musical bands have a strong link to the fustanella," says Olsi Sulejmani, the festival's organizer.

Culture minister Mirela Kumbaro says the festival serves as a linking bridge to understand similar folklore and polyphonic elements around the world.

"The beautiful thing about this 3-day festival is that it will reinvigorate not only Gjirokastra, but the whole of southern Albania because of bringing together different bands from Indonesia, Italy, the UK and Morocco.  It is very interesting to note that what we think of as unique in Albania is in fact a cultural linking bridge even with other countries considering that polyphonic elements are also found in other cultures," says Kumbaro.

The festival scheduled for May 19 to 21 will be held at the local castle and the historic center of Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005.

"I would like to invite all music students to attend the festival so that they understand the rhythm and music mix, to a music festival with its roots in identity, but experienced in the modern sense of globalism," says Robert Bisha, the festival's artistic director.

Gjirokastra is also the host of traditional folklore festival held every five years since the late 1960s bringing together regional and Albania Diaspora to celebrate the country's intangible cultural heritage.

The festival last held in 2015 is known for promoting Albanian folklore dances and music, including iso-polyphony, inscribed recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage.

Inscribed on UNESCO as a rare example of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period, Gjirokastra, situated in the Drinos river valley in southern Albania, features a series of outstanding two-story houses which were developed in the 17th century. The town also retains a bazaar, an 18th-century mosque and two churches of the same period. The 13th-century citadel provides the focal point of the town with its typical tower houses.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 17 - "Occurrence in present tense," a project by Albanian contemporary artist Leonard Qylafi curated by Austria’s Vanessa Joan Muller is representing Albania at this year's international art exhibition of the Venice Biennale where painter turned politician, Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama and his long-time collaborator, Albanian-French artist Anri Sala are among those selected for the main “Viva, Arte Viva” exhibition.

Speaking at a launch ceremony this week in Venice, Albania's Culture Minister Mirela Kumbaro said the Albanian pavilion represents the tough past the country has been through, serving as a basis for the future.

"Occurrence in Present Tense provides the opportunity to remind us that Albania is not only another mention in crime news, but an arts stop hosting critics, art lovers and culture media," said Kumbaro.

"Our pavilion showcases a country with a tough and complicated history which everyone of us holds on its shoulders even when it's a heavy burden, but which many of us turn into added value because they know that they can only build their future through it," she added.

A Tirana-based Albanian contemporary artist, Leonard Qylafi, 36, works in different mediums including video, photography, music and painting. He graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Tirana.

"Qylafi brings into the exhibition paintings and personal documents by making a contrast between, individual stories and collective memory in a political and yet a poetic approach,” said the jury headed by Italy’s Marco Scotini and Hungarian Julia Fabenyi last December when the artist was selected to represent the country.

“By creating its own temporality, Qylafi produces a strong and new iconicity that raises a lot of questions, making the potential dynamics of narratives displayed even more exciting,” the jury added.

The exhibition unveils that the communist past Albania faced for about five decades in one of Europe’s harshest dictatorships is still present in many aspects of everyday life and holds back its integration future.

“Drawing from his own experience, and archival relics of the past, Leonard Qylafi’s practice is inflected by remembrance. Intimate, individual references meet reflect upon, and point to broader notions of identity, ritual and tradition," says a statement on the Albanian pavilion curated by Vienna-based Vanessa Joan Muller, the head of dramaturgy at the Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna’s exhibition venue for international contemporary art and discourse.

Prime Minister Edi Rama is being showcased with his collection of office works in the exhibition while internationally renowned Albania-born artist Anri Sali is featuring one of his latest artistic research project mixing music, space and remembrance.

Anri Sala is a contemporary artist in his 40s who belongs to the last generation of Albanian artists who grew up under communism and the first generation to set contact with the international art stage in the early 1990s following the collapse of the country’s communist regime. He represented France in the 2013 Venice Biennale of international art.

Kosovo is also being represented with its own pavilion for the third time at the Venice Biennale. Sislej Xhafa's “Lost and Found” exhibition is “an open-ended riddle in an austere architectural form, providing a platform to find answers as well as further questions about universal issues of human rights and freedom, social injustice and threats to individual safety.”

The 57th Venice international art exhibition, titled “Viva Arte Viva” scheduled to take place from May to November 2017 is a Biennale event designed with the artists, by the artists and for the artists. It deals with the forms they propose, the questions they pose, the practices they develop and the forms of life they choose, organizers say.

“In a world full of conflicts and jolts, in which humanism is being seriously jeopardized, art is the most precious part of the human being. It is the ideal place for reflection, individual expression, freedom and fundamental questions. It is a ‘yes’ to life, although sometimes a ‘but’ lies behind. More than ever, the role, the voice and the responsibility of the artist are crucial in the framework of contemporary debates,” says curator Christine Macel.

In the 2015 edition of the international art exhibition, Albania was represented by “Albanian trilogy: A series of devious strategems” a project by Albanian contemporary artist Armando Lulaj and curated by Italy’s Marco Scotini, showcasing the conclusion of many years of research into the period of the Cold War in Albania.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 11 – Albania’s internationally renowned soprano Ermonela Jaho has received critical acclaim for her debut title role of Cio-Cio-San at Giacomo Puccini's Madame Butterfly at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Jaho, who is fast becoming one of the world's most sought-after sopranos, credits her success to her emotional surrender to every role, including Puccini's masterpiece, which she says is rooted in her own origin.

In an interview with the Voice of America ahead of her May 6 debut at the Kennedy Center, the 42-year-old singer said she dedicated the in-depth of the characters she performs “to exactly the intensity Albanians express both their joys and sorrows.”

The 42-year-old soprano who left Albania in the early 1990s soon after the collapse of the country's communist regime to study singing in Italy, said “it is exactly the fire, emotion and vulnerability of all emotions I went through in Albania and I still receive even though far away from my home country, what gives my soul and me as an artist something special."

The Washington Post described Jaho's performance as Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) as a true singing actress.

"Ermonela Jaho, who made her Washington National Opera debut as Butterfly, is a true singing actress, conveying emotion and character through her voice, so that Butterfly’s familiar plight became freshly heartbreaking," wrote the Washington Post.

In another review of the piece which will be staging until May 20, the Metro Weekly says Ermonela Jaho certainly gives her young woman personality. "She sings with expression and beauty, even if she doesn’t bring quite enough power to the highest, most poignant, notes," says the Metro Weekly.

In her 2014 performance of Madama Butterfly at Albania's National Opera House, Jaho said she had always considered the role of Madama Butterfly connected to Albanian women.

“That's because to me, the role of Cio-Cio San, is the embodiment of a woman’s spirit because of loving like a teenage, hoping like a child and self-sacrificing like a prophet. And I can tell you these are extraordinary great virtues which I strongly feel or everyone of us feels in Albanian women, and our mothers for the sacrifices they have made,” said Jaho.

Born in Albania, soprano Ermonela Jaho, who also holds American and Italian citizenship, was hailed as a “revelation” by the French musical press after her debut as Violetta in La Traviata at L’Opera de Marseille in December of 2005 and has since gone on to debut at major theaters internationally.
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                    [post_content] => tap 2TIRANA, May 10 - Construction works in the Albanian section of the major Trans Adriatic Pipeline project bringing Caspian gas to Europe have brought to light an ancient settlement in Korça, southeastern Albania, during works for clearing the pipeline route.

TAP cultural heritage experts say the discovery in Turan village, Korça, is an open-air settlement "spanning from the early Iron Age (10th – 9th centuries BC) to the late Roman period (4th – 6th centuries AD), as suggested by the wealth of ceramics recovered at the site.” During the Middle Ages (XII – XV century) the site was used as a cemetery, overlying the original site.

A rescue excavation has been initiated by the National Council of Archeology while TAP construction works in the area are expected to resume within one month, once local authorities conclude their report.

"Our teams continue to monitor and recover all cultural heritage elements across our route, in line with our cultural heritage management plan, EU legislation and industry best practice,” said Neil Fairburn, the TAP Senior Cultural Heritage Advisor as quoted in a statement by TAP.

Back in mid-2016, TAP contractors also discovered a well-preserved archaeological artefact believed to date back to 6th century in Skrapar area, southern Albania. The find was a 40cm limestone column capital, decorated with engraved floral motifs, believed to have been part of a significant religious monument in the region.

The TAP discoveries unveil the rich cultural heritage in Albania, a gateway to the Mediterranean boasting a mix of Illyrian, Roman, Greek and Ottoman civilizations.

TAP which is expected to bring gas to Europe through Greece, Albania and Italy is generating one of the country’s largest foreign direct projects, with important benefits for a number of industries, including manufacturing, utilities and transport.

Experts have described TAP as an opportunity that would benefit Albania both economically and politically, making the country an important hub of the international gas pipeline for the Western Balkans.

The pipeline in Albania will be approximately 211 km long, starting at the Korça region, southeastern Albania on the border with Greece. The offshore section in Albanian territorial waters will be about 37 km, connecting it to Italy through the Adriatic.

With construction works already in their peak stage, TAP’s first gas deliveries to Europe are targeted by early 2020.

 
                    [post_title] => Ancient Albanian settlement discovered in TAP works 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 8 – Former American Idol contestant Linda Halimi who grew up in war-torn Kosovo and became an international inspiration for overweight women with her story of losing 58 kg, will represent Albania this week at the Eurovision song contest, hopeful of achieving the country's best result since the 2004 debut.

The Kosovo-born 27-year-old singer will be performing her “World” ballad on Tuesday, May 9, in Kiev, Ukraine, the host of this year’s Eurovision.

"We are working hard so that the whole performance goes well and we are hopeful it will sound well even on Tuesday's performance," says 27-year-old Halimi, known through her stage name, Lindita.

She was selected as Albania’s representative after winning the Albanian national song contest in late December 2016 with her “Bota” (World) ballad song, later revamped for the Eurosong.

“The song is about self-acceptance, and accepting others as they are, and spreading love, no matter the ethnicity, race, religion or sexual orientation of the person. ‘Let the love unite us all’ is the motto of the song,” says Halimi, who since 2013, has been living in the U.S. with her husband, American rapper, Big D.

Last January, she made it to the People magazine along with famous talk show host Oprah Winfrey for having lost 130 Lbs. (about 59 kg).

Lindita says she was extremely happy when she found out her message totally fits this year's slogan, Celebrate Diversity. "To me, the slogan is about loving each other for who you are and not trying to change one another," Lindita has told Eurovision.

The white outfit she will be wearing on the Eurovision stage has a meaning of hope.

“It's meant to have an angelic look because angels are the ones that could save to world, not the devils," she has said.

Lindita describes the Eurovision participation as a childhood dream come true.

“It's been my childhood dream, and I always pictured myself being up on that stage one day. I'm forever grateful it's happening and it will be an experience that will forever be special in my heart."

Linda’s career kicked off in the mid-2000s when she was discovered in a talent show before rising to fame after winning the local young artists’ competition in 2009 and shining at the 2016 American Idol.

Albanian composer Klodian Qafoku says he chose Lindita to perform his song because "I believed in her strength and talent and performing potential to convey the song as professionally as possible to the public."

"I congratulate everybody for the positive comments on the performance, while the May 9 Kiev performance will be the best answer to the negative comments," says the composer.

The Eurovision winner will be announced at a Grand Final on Saturday, May 13 after two Semi-Finals on May 9 and 11 through a professional jury and televoting.

The last two Albania selections Eneida Tarifa and Elhaida Dani failed to make it to the Eurovision final despite high expectations, especially about Dani, the 2013 Voice of Italy song contest.

Back in 2012, Kosovo’s Rona Nishliu became the most successful Albanian Eurovision representative after ranking fifth among 26 finalists in the song contest held in Azerbaijan. Nishliu collected 146 points to see herself rank 5th, the best result since 2004 when Albania made its Eurovision debut with Anjeza Shahini who came sixth.

 
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                    [post_content] => bookTIRANA, May 4 - A renowned prose writer in Albania, author Teodor Laço has had a surprise poetry volume published only six months after his death, unveiling his hidden passion about poetry.

"Hapjani Dritaren Pulebardhes" (Open the Window to the Gull), a collection of carefully selected poems from the late writer's manuscripts, is a publication of Tirana Times publishing house.

Speaking at a book promotion ceremony this week, writer Bardhyl Londo who selected the poems, said he was surprised by Laço's hidden passion about poetry dating back to his early years of creativity in the 1970s under communism.

"Teodor Laço’s poetry is elegant poetry of an elegant life and work. Laço's poetry creativity is a natural continuation of his creative personality. It comes naturally, and humbly touches upon the world of the ones who read or enjoy it,” says Londo in the preface to the book.

His “Open the Window to the Gull” poem after which the book has been named, is a “hymn to love, goodness, humanism, the lyrical spirit, with the gull a symbol of humanity, compassion and the eternal spirit.” “The gull is Laço’s own spirit who will always knock on the window,” says Londo.

Literary critic Behar Gjoka described Laço as an avid prose writer who lived with lyricism, a hidden poet for forty years with a lyrical profile and a metrics awareness.

Teodor Laco's widow, actress Mirjana Laço said she was saddened to participate at a book promotion ceremony without her husband for the first time in 18 years they have been together, but also happy to have contributed with something special during her six months of mourning.

Speaking on behalf of the Tirana Times publishing house, Albert Rakipi, said the book promotion also served as tribute to Teodor Laço, an elegant writer, politician and diplomat.

Accompanied by the sounds of violin, Laço’s two nephews and a professional artist read some of his poems at a promotion ceremony held at the Tirana Times book house.

Teodor Laço, one of Albania’s greatest modern authors passed away at 80 in October 2016, leaving behind a successful career as a writer, politician and diplomat.

He was buried at his home village of Dardha in Korça, southeastern Albania, which he never abandoned throughout his life.

Writers, artists and politicians paid tribute to Laço as one of the key figures of modern Albanian literature and a liberal voice in Albania’s transition to democracy.

“With the passing away of Teodor Laço, literature lost a renowned figure of Albanian prose, culture its former dedicated minister of 1996-1998, the society a committed citizen, an MP, diplomat, analyst and protector of democratic values,” his colleague writers said after his death.

 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 4 - More than 230 international artists are being showcased in Albania, displaying their works in some unusual and thought-provoking spaces in Tirana and Durres, the country's two largest cities.

The display is part of Mediterranea 18 Young Artists Biennale, a multidisciplinary exhibition which Albania is hosting for the first time from May 4 to 9.

“Taking place in a country, which is defined by its forced, isolated past, and its turbo-transition from communism to capitalism in only 25 years, the Biennial will focus on a component which is currently, more than ever, put at risk in the politics of present society. In a geopolitical area where history, conflict, dream and failure are navigating the opaque waters of everyday life, home becomes an emergency to be technically reconsidered and collectively re-defined,” says Italy-based International Association of the Biennial of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean, BJCEM.

Some landmark and tourist attractions in both Tirana and Durres including museums, art galleries but also landmark buildings of communism such as the Pyramid, a former mausoleum of Stalinist ex-dictator Enver Hoxha, the House of Leaves communist spy kit, the Bunk'Art anti-nuclear bunker and the ancient Roman amphitheater in Durres.

Culture Minister Mirela Kumbaro says the international artists serve as linking bridges "connecting Europe and the whole Mediterranean to Tirana and Durres who turn into a big house welcoming ideas, vision and emotions."

"The Mediterranean's life close to each other, the co-existence of our peoples, religion, culture and the different languages have left back spiritual heritage we have to confess," says Kumbaro.

The biennale’s artistic director, Driant Zeneli, an Albanian contemporary artist, says the event will take place in more than 30 spaces in Tirana and Durres.

"The biennale has been built upon the home concept and is divided into four parts, history, conflict, dreams and failure. There will be a topic each day. The exhibitions will continue until May 28 but events and performances will take place from May 4 to 9,” says Zeneli, a 34-year-old artist who represented Albania at the 2011 Venice Biennale.

In an earlier interview with BJCEM Association, Driant Zeneli, says he expects “a hurricane of energy brought by the young artists of Europe and the Mediterranean.”

“I believe that this Biennale is happening at the right place in the right time. What I expect to come is a hurricane of energy brought by the young artists of Europe and the Mediterranean. The added value is the art and the ideas they bring with them, to be shared and also questioned,” says Zeneli.

The idea of home for this Biennale is grounded on four elements: ‘history, intending the archive of the unaccountable number of individual stories, recorded or forgotten. Conflict, to consider the way we share homes. Dream as the project of home, as the fundamental human right to be free to choose and desire our real or imaginary home. Failure as the inner resistance of the various attempts, transformed along the way in search for the dream home.’

“The inspiration comes from how I developed my work for the past ten years, I guess that for an artist to make art is a metaphor for building ‘home,’” says the biennale’s artist director.

 

Mediterranea 18 Young Artists Biennale

May 4-9, 2017

Tirana and Durrës, Albania
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_132198" align="alignright" width="243"]The restored Lady of Shkodra painting The restored Lady of Shkodra painting[/caption]

TIRANA, April 27 - A Virgin Mary icon dating back to the 19th century which survived the communist persecution and atheism for almost five decades has been finally restored and placed at the St. Stephen Cathedral in Shkodra, northern Albania. The restoration also commemorated the 550th anniversary of the miraculous arrival of the original oil painting of the Madonna of Shkodra at Italy’s Madonna of Good Council Church in Genazzano after the Albanian sanctuary was destroyed by the Ottomans in 1467.

Cardinal Franc Rodé, who was Pope Francis special envoy at the celebration, urged Albania to continue its religious co-existence model.

"Albania will never die of chill because it preserves its historical memory, its legends and cultural and spiritual identity. Albania is a future promise to convey a message. The Albanian people is one of Europe's eldest, but always young and should give an example to Europe and the whole world especially regarding the inter-religious relations," said Cardinal Rode who blessed the recreation of the original 5th century painting that long resided in Shkodra until the 15th century Ottoman occupation.

Shkodra archbishop Angelo Massafra said the restoration was also a symbol to restore a people's conscience.

"We did not do this simply for the cult of beauty, but to express with the symbol of this restored icon the need to deeply restore with the same virtuous work composed of truth and good deeds, a people's conscience," said archbishop Massafra.

Father Artur Jaku of the St. Stephen cathedral described the painting as a work that reflects Shkodra's history.

"The frame where the Lady gently holds Jesus as a child, with wonderful love, reflects a relationship of light, truth, sincerity but also theology and dogma. That is a work that pulses with its wounds the history of Shkodra. I wish Shkodra the best on this lucky day of the return of its daughter, at the same time a mother and Heaven's Door," said Father Jaku.

Albania's Culture Minister Mirela Kumbaro said the "Lady of Shkodra deserved not only spiritual veneration by believers and the church but also artistic dignity as cultural and historical heritage by institutions and the government."

The anonymous 19th century Our Lady painting was restored at the Palazzo Spinelli Institute for Art and Restoration in Italy's Florence.

The “Our Lady” legend

The Virgin May was venerated within the Catholic Church in Albania in particular as Zoja e Shkodres, Our Lady of Shkodra or the Madonna of Shkodra. The feast of Madonna in Shkodra was marked on October 8 by all of the Catholic tribes of northern Albania. The fourth council of Albanian bishops, held in 1895, indeed 'proclaimed Our Lady of Shkodra the "Patron of Albania," says Albanologist Robert Elsie.

The legend connected with Our Lady of Shkodra says the Madonna was originally a little church in old Shkodra at the foot of the Rozafa citadel, where her image was venerated by Catholics in the form of an oil painting. In 1467, when Ottoman troops were laying siege to Shkodra and threatening to desecrate the church, the painting miraculously detached itself from the wall, left the building and flew off in a westwardly direction over the Adriatic Sea to Italy. It was followed by two Albanian pilgrims, Gjorgji and De Sclavis. The image of the Virgin finally came to rest in the town of Genezzano near Rome, where a church was built in her honour, the Church of Our Lade of Good Counsel.

The sanctuary of Genezzano has been a pilgrimage site for Albanian Catholics since that time. Around the year 1700, the veneration of the Madonna of Genezzano also spread to the Arberesh Italo-Albanians in Calabria, in particular to the village of San Benedetto Ullano, with the help of the clergyman Stefano Rodota. The present church in Genezzano was constructed at the beginning of the twentieth century and pilgrims visit it, walking barefoot, in particular on the feast day of Our Lady of Good Counsel, April 26.

The church of Madonna in Shkodra was also the object of veneration by northern Albanian Catholics. Even in April 1946, half a year after the communist takeover, over 2,000 people participated in a pilgrimage to it. Soon thereafter, the church was closed down and transformed into a dance hall and in 1967, when Albania officially banned religion, razed to the ground. Luckily, the painting was spared and taken to be displayed at the local atheist museum in Shkodra for more than two decades before it was sent back to the St. Stephen Cathedral in the early 1990s after the collapse of the communist regime.

 
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TIRANA, May 25 - British hitmaker Jonas Blue has chosen the Albanian Riviera and a stunning Albanian model to promote his latest summer music video sensation.

Featuring vocals from YouTube sensation William Singe, the brand new "Mama" single showcases stunning views of the Jale and Dhermi beaches along the Albanian Riviera and Albanian supermodel Oriola Marashi.

Only one week after its release, the single by the emerging 27-year-old DJ has already hit about 8 million views on YouTube.

“Mama was a title I had in November and I just wanted to use it, no other dance songs are called that. I just couldn’t figure out the concept then but then I realised I wanted a song that takes you back in your life. It’s about being care free. Going out and having a good time,” the DJ has told British media.

Oriola Marashi, a 21-year-old Albanian supermodel and opera singer, says the new single is on track to become a summer hit.

"I'm pretty sure this will be one of the top songs we will listen all summer, the music video was shot in my beautiful Albania and that’s why it has a special place in my heart," wrote the supermodel.

The music video comes at a time when Albania is gearing up for its peak tourist season, making a perfect promotion of Albania’s emerging tourism industry.

Offering a mix of sandy and rocky beaches, some of which quite virgin, the Albanian Riviera stretching along some curvy panoramic roads, has also been featured on famous British Top Gear TV series.

Back in late 2015, German giant Mercedes also picked the Shushica valley in southern Albania to promote a newly launched off-road model.
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