The Great Times exhibition opens in context of Skanderbeg’s Year

The Great Times exhibition opens in context of Skanderbeg’s Year

TIRANA, Jan. 17 – The National History Museum opened The Great Times exhibition this week in context of Skanderbeg’s Year, showcasing different authors’ statutes, facsimiles, engravings and portraits that depict moments from the life and battles of Albania’s national hero.

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The King is Dead, Long Live the King returns at National Theater

The King is Dead, Long Live the King returns at National Theater

TIRANA, Jan. 17 – Ferdinand Hysi’s drama Oedipus’ Complex returned this week with its theatre adaptation titled The King is Dead, Long Live the King. Directed by Elma Doresi and starring Sokol Angjeli and Bujar Asqeriu, the play is brought

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TAP donation decorates Skanderbeg square with new Vienna benches

TAP donation decorates Skanderbeg square with new Vienna benches

TIRANA, Jan. 17 – The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and a top commercial bank gifted 36 Vienna benches to the Municipality of Tirana last week, a donation from both companies for Tirana’s Skanderbeg square. Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj was

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Ismail Kadare wins Nonino 2018 prize in Italy

Ismail Kadare wins Nonino 2018 prize in Italy

TIRANA, Jan. 11 – Albania’s most internationally acknowledged contemporary author Ismail Kadare won the prestigious Nonino prize this year during the event’s 43rd edition in Udine, Italy, dedicated to honoring the most prominent cultural figures. The jury evaluated Kadare as

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Skanderbeg’s Year to begin on Jan. 17 in Lezha

Skanderbeg’s Year to begin on Jan. 17 in Lezha

TIRANA, Jan. 12 – 2018 has been declared Skanderbeg’s Year. Albania’s national hero passed away 550 years ago, on Jan. 17. In his honor, Prime Minister Edi Rama has launched a calendar of activities in different Albanian cities. In a

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2017 Culture in review

2017 Culture in review

January ShkelzenDoli brings Vienna New Year atmosphere to Tirana Performing the famous Strauss ‘Blue Danube’ waltz, Austrian artists wore Albanian traditional hats and drank raki alcoholic drinks in their debut Tirana concert with ShkelzenDoli, an Albanian-Kosovo Vienna Philharmonic violinist who

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Eugent Bushpepa to represent Albania at Eurovision 2018

Eugent Bushpepa to represent Albania at Eurovision 2018

TIRANA, Dec. 28 – Eugent Bushpepa won the 56th edition of Albania’s Song Festival this week, the Albanian national selection for the Eurovision Contest. Albania will compete this year with the song Mall (Yearning), in Lisbon, Portugal. The Song Festival

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Kosovo artist illuminates public spaces with tales of communism victims

Kosovo artist illuminates public spaces with tales of communism victims

TIRANA, Dec. 21 – Kosovo-born artist and activist Alketa Xhafa announced her latest art installation – Even Walls Have Ears – which will be exhibited at the National History Museum.  This project is brought by the AIDSSH and UNDP missions

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Shkodra celebrates famous actress’s birthday

Shkodra celebrates famous actress’s birthday

TIRANA, Dec. 20 – Tinka Kurti’s 85th birthday was celebrated on Sunday at the Migjeni Theatre of Shkodra. The actress, who has been honored with the Nation’s Honor title, first went on stage when she was just 15-years-old and has

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Shkëlqim Kokonozi’s ‘Transition’ works on display at Kalo Gallery

Shkëlqim Kokonozi’s ‘Transition’ works on display at Kalo Gallery

A solo exhibition with works from Albanian artist Shkëlqim Kokonozi will be available starting Thursday, on the 21st of December, at GALERIAKALO. The contemporary artworks will be available at the gallery until the 21st of January, 2018. Kokonozi’s abstract artwork

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 17 - The National History Museum opened The Great Times exhibition this week in context of Skanderbeg’s Year, showcasing different authors’ statutes, facsimiles, engravings and portraits that depict moments from the life and battles of Albania’s national hero. 

National History Museum Director Dorjan Koçi said this exhibition’s representation of Skanderbeg’s is told through the eyes of foreigners who studied or envisioned his image, life and achievements.

“This exhibitions is centered on the engravings, taken from Marlin Barleti’s book which was translated to German, in order for Albanian citizens today to go back in time and see how the European crowd at the time perceived our national hero,” Koçi told local media.

The exhibition, which will remain open until Jan. 30, features medieval weapons and authors’ books dedicated to Skanderbeg. Documentaries and moments from the critically-acclaimed Skanderbeg movie are projected on the museum’s main hall, further enveloping the viewer into the country’s most glorious era.

The exhibition’s main object is Karpen’s bell, bringing sounds dating back to 1465. Equally interesting to see are the extension of Arbëri before the Ottoman rule through the map of Albanian principates of the time, their emblems, the names of the princes that participated in the League of Lezhë - the most important political and military union in Albanians’ history.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 17 - Ferdinand Hysi’s drama Oedipus’ Complex returned this week with its theatre adaptation titled The King is Dead, Long Live the King. Directed by Elma Doresi and starring Sokol Angjeli and Bujar Asqeriu, the play is brought on stage daily at seven pm until Jan. 21. 

In the play, a junior director inherits the work position of a senior director, causing an internal battle between the old and the new that brings corruption, immorality and the bureaucracy of our institutions forward.

Doresi said she wants the play to focus on the human aspect of the consequences the play’s main themes treat.

“In addition to the main theme, which is the change of a system, of powers and their distinctive objectives, I have also tried to bring forward some secret aspects of people’s characters,” Doresi told local media.

The play was selected through a rubric called Nights of Albanian Drama Reading and its stage production sometimes seems as if it develops its plotline on the go.

“We are still going through a creative process, the actors have been performing day and night for about a week, so there’s plenty of stress, tiredness and emotions involved. But we are working on everything,” Doresi added.

The play’s plot starts with a three-envelope scroller. The senior director of a major institution is replaced with a junior, who is told by the former at the time of replacement that he has left him three envelopes, which the junior is to open one after the other when he sees he cannot handle the job position.

After that, corruption and servillism unveil parallelly in ways novel as much as similar to situations we all recognize.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 17 - The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and a top commercial bank gifted 36 Vienna benches to the Municipality of Tirana last week, a donation from both companies for Tirana’s Skanderbeg square.

Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj was present for the delivery and placement of the benches, along with the Austrian Ambassador to Albania, Johann Sattler and the executives of the donating companies.

Veliaj said the benches will attract even more people to the recently inaugurated square, which is already being used as a space to organize concerts and activities.

"This gift gives more spirit to the square. The squares are infrastructural, urban spaces, but if they have no soul, people and life, they’re not valuable to the city,” Veliaj said.

TAP’s Commercial and External Affairs Director and Albania Country Manager Ulrike Andres said the bench donation is part of TAP’s social and environmental investment program in Albania.

“Tirana is a very welcoming city where I feel like home. Today, as I look at the Skënderbej square with these new benches, Tirana looks even closer to us, as we have such benches in Vienna, where my family and I live,” Andres said.

Museums Quartier Vienna are the manufacturers of the 36 Vienna benches, amounting to a total of €70,000. TAP and one of Tirana’s top banks shared the donation costs, while the Austrian Embassy and the Municipality of Vienna gifted five additional benches.

There are currently 41 Vienna benches at the Skanderbeg square, not only providing plenty of space to sit but also enriching the square and grey season with their colors.

The Vienna benches decorate a number of European squares, including those in Vienna and Munich.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 11 – Albania’s most internationally acknowledged contemporary author Ismail Kadare won the prestigious Nonino prize this year during the event’s 43rd edition in Udine, Italy, dedicated to honoring the most prominent cultural figures.

The jury evaluated Kadare as a “troubadour who is in love, but also critical towards his country. Between the historical reality and the legends that remind the grandiosity and tragedy of the Balkan and Ottoman past, Kadare created great stories.”

The Nonino prize is one of Kadare’s many international acknowledgements through the years. The author’s most famous novels are “The General of the Dead Army”, “The Palace of Dreams” and “Chronicle in Stone”.

Kadare became a life member of France’s Moral and Political Sciences Academy in 1996. He has been awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca award, the Man Booker International Prize, the Prince of Asturias award of arts and the Jerusalem Prize.

In addition, Kadare has been mentioned as a possible recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature several times, while his works have been published in about 45 languages.

Born in Gjirokastra in 1936, Kadare is regarded by some as one of the greatest European writers, intellectuals of the 20th century and a universal voice against totalitarianism.

However, Kadare cannot be categorized with other dissident writers. While he was accused of cooperating with Hoxha’s regime during communism in Albania, many of Kadare’s books were also banned during the time for the strong parallels he drew in them with the totalitarian regime and the devastating outcomes he described.

Nina Sabolik, from the World Literature Today site, wrote back in 2013 concerning the author that “unlike other dissident authors from various dictatorial regimes, Kadare does not see a light at the end of the historical tunnel. There’s no escaping the eternal cycle of strife and reconciliation. There is no salvation in the other side of the borderline, nor at the front lines of a noble revolution.”

In this sense, Kadare is almost an existential writer, one who cannot be perceived through traditional frameworks of literature analysis and it might be this exact reason his works are still relevant and celebrated to this day.

“Kadare belongs to the invisible multitudes that resisted dictatorial regimes from the inside, a much more daunting and heroic act. Kadare survived for more than forty years publishing his quietly but unmistakably anticommunist novels under the very Stalinist nose of dictator Enver Hohxa,” Sabolik concludes.

The Nonino awards ceremony will be held on Jan. 27 in Italy’s Udine.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 12 – 2018 has been declared Skanderbeg’s Year. Albania’s national hero passed away 550 years ago, on Jan. 17. In his honor, Prime Minister Edi Rama has launched a calendar of activities in different Albanian cities.

In a Facebook post last year, Rama said the government’s first decision would be declaring 2018 International Skanderbeg Year.

“A special commission will be established to organize and promote this year, when except for the 550-year-anniversary of our national hero’s death, three other anniversaries of outermost importance for our nation stand out,” Rama said.

Rama referred to the 140-year-anniversary of the founding of the national Prizren League and the 110-year-anniversary of Manastir’s Congress and the establishment of a unified alphabet of the Albanian language.

Lezha is one of Skanderbeg’s Year main cities, as it is in Lezha where Skanderbeg was buried and where memorials of his patriotic activity can be found.

Positioned between two of the most touristic Albanian cities, Kruja and Shkodra, Lezha is already preparing for Skanderbeg’s Year activities. The memorial of Lezha’s Assembly, where Skanderbeg united all Albanian princes against Ottoman invasion, and Skanderbeg’s grave memorial will kickstart the year’s activities.

Firstly, honoring ceremonies will take place next to Skanderbeg’s grave memorial, which the most notable personalities from all Albanian-speaking territories will attend.

“Lezha has prepared its own activities. Naturally, this is a death commemoration, but it will not be treated as such; it will be treated as an event that should be honored as often as possible by all generations,” Fran Frrokaj, Lezha’s mayor, told the Voice of America.

The memorial was built in 1981 in an archeologically rich area, where new objects and artifacts are still found every year by experts. Frrokaj valued the government’s initiative to declare 2018 Skanderbeg’s Year, saying it would lead to a heightened interest to visit the small Northern city and discover its historical and cultural values.

“I have also asked the government and the president to declare March 2nd a national holiday and honor Skanderbeg with a statue in Lezha. He is a figure with almost biblical importance – at least for us he is – and so we have asked for the government to do what the municipality’s funds can’t,” Frrokaj said.

During the country’s 105-year independence anniversary last October, Rama made the logo that is to officially represent the activities of Skanderbeg’s Year public.

“550 years after his death, he remains the symbol of unbreakable war for freedom and the strategist of the art of war that has inspired the nation for the last half century. Albanians had a figure that marked our nation’s continuation,” Rama said in Vlora back in October.

Frrokaj concluded that Skanderbeg’s life story should also become a powerful message for Albania’s current political situation.

“It is a good way to show politicians that Albanians, despite their religion, ethnicity or beliefs, can unite and this is a good chance to remind Albanians and politicians alike that we should unite and do more for our country, which is small in numbers but big in its idea,” Frrokaj said.
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                    [post_content] => January

ShkelzenDoli brings Vienna New Year atmosphere to Tirana

Performing the famous Strauss ‘Blue Danube’ waltz, Austrian artists wore Albanian traditional hats and drank raki alcoholic drinks in their debut Tirana concert with ShkelzenDoli, an Albanian-Kosovo Vienna Philharmonic violinist who entertained Albanians with his private Philharmonic Ensemble Vienna band.

The much-expected concert came to Tirana on Jan. 2, only one day after the Albanian violin virtuoso performed with the world famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra as a second violin. Thirty-six Austria-based artists joined the Philharmonic Ensemble Vienna, a band established by ShkelzenDoli in 2013, to perform in Tirana in a concert that Doli described as “bringing to Albania for the first time native pearls of Austrian art to wish all Albanians a happy and harmonious year.”

 

Italian 20th century masterpieces land in Tirana

Masterpieces of Italy’s 20th century art have landed in Tirana in one of the most special exhibitions Tirana’s National Art Gallery has hosted along with the 2010 showcase of some of greatest global masters such as Picasso, Warhol, Clemente and Chagall.

Amid paintings, sculptures, watercolors and sketches, the exhibition curated by Italy’s Arianna Angelelli and Maria Catalano of Rome’s Modern Art Gallery and Federica Pirani, traces the early 20th century art in Italy with its roots in Rome.

Wonderful women portraits, famous people, still life, landscapes, views from the Eternal City and Roman lowlands inspired great 20th century Italian artists such as Balla, Carrà, De Chirico, De Pisis, Capogrossi to create some of the Italian art masterpieces, part of Rome’s landmark Modern Art Gallery, says the Italian Institute of Culture in Tirana.

 

February

 Albania bids adieu to one of its greatest writers

Albania bid adieu to DriteroAgolli, one of the country’s greatest modern writers and poets who passed away at the age of 85 following chronic lung and heart problems.

Artists, fans and politicians came together to pay tribute to the writer, considered a legend both under communism and during Albania’s transition to democracy after the early 1990s at a ceremony at Tirana’s Palace of Congresses building where he appealed for the reformation of the former Labour Party in 1991 as the communist regime was collapsing and had many of his poems turned into songs in festivals held there.

A writer, journalist and politician, Agolli has been one of Albania’s most distinguished public figures, boasting 65 years of creativity starting from the late 1940s when he wrote his first poems as a seventh grade elementary school student.

 

Ermal Meta grabs three Sanremo awards

Ermal Meta finished third in Italy's prestigious Sanremo music festival and also grabbed the Critics and Best Cover awards, making history as the first Albania-born artist to achieve this.

The Italy-based 35-year singer-songwriter came third in the 67th Sanremo edition with his “Vietatomorire” (Forbidden to die) ballad pop song as an appeal to say no to domestic violence. "I dedicate this song to my mother who taught me to disobey to every kind of violence. The song is a hymn to life. One should confront life face-to-face," Meta told Italy's Ansa news agency.

Meta, who left Albania and his hometown of Fier at the age of 13, performed with several bands in Italy and wrote songs for several famed Italian artists before embarking on a solo career in 2013.

 

March 2017 

A decade on, ‘Internationals’ launched in English 

“There is a misunderstanding that 'Internationals' is a book against the international community, I have received both compliments and criticism by foreigners,” said writer YlljetAliçka at a ceremony on the republication of his much-rumored book a decade after its launch.

"Without help by the international community, it would be difficult for Albania to go through transition to democracy in the early 1990s," Aliçka, a former diplomat and scriptwriter, told an audience of writers, journalists and art lovers at an event on the book's republication by the Tirana Times publishing house.

The Tirana Times publishing house launched the book in English translated by June Taylor, and also republished the book in its Albanian and French versions.

"Having the book republished after a decade is a sign of appreciation for every writer. The topic is still current with the presence of the international community, clichés and misunderstandings. The internationals' universal systems often do not match the complex Albanian reality,” said Aliçka.

The book is considered an effort to demythicise everything coming from abroad, often compared to idolatry most Albanians displayed against communist leaders under communism which banned religion for more than two decades, turning then-Stalinist Albania into the world's first official atheist country and isolating the country into what has been described as Europe's North Korea.

 

April 

Sazan island opens up to tourists

As Albania geared up for its 2017 tourist season and hopes to make one of the country’s most promising industry a year-round enterprise, authorities are also opening up key military facilities to tourists.

The Sazan Island, a military base in southern Albania managed by the defense ministry was first used by the Italians until World War II before becoming the country’s most secretive base under communism when it was fortified with bunkers and tunnels designed to withstand a possible nuclear attack that the Albanian communist authorities feared.

The Sazan Island, which initially opened to foreign tourists in 2015 for the first time in 70 years, was made available for scheduled visits for six months from May 1 until the end of October.

The tiny now uninhabited 5.7 km2 island and the Karaburun peninsula form the first and only national marine park of Albania.

The marine park features ruins of sunken Greek, Roman and World War II ships, rich underwater fauna, steep cliffs and giant caves, ancient inscriptions of sailors on shore, secluded beaches, and breathtaking views of the coastline.

 

 

550th anniversary of Madonna of Shkodra saving

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," 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.

 

May 

‘Occurrence in present tense’ launched at Venice Biennale

"Occurrence in present tense," a project by Albanian contemporary artist Leonard Qylafi curated by Austria’s Vanessa Joan Muller represented 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 AnriSalawere among those selected for the main “Viva, Arte Viva” exhibition.

Albania's Culture Minister MirelaKumbaro said the Albanian pavilion represents the tough past the country has been through, serving as a basis for the future.

A Tirana-based Albanian contemporary artist, Leonard Qylafi, 36, works in different mediums including video, photography, music and painting.

 

‘House of Leaves’ opens up as remembrance museum

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, was 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 MirelaKumbaro at the museum’s opening ceremony this week.

Late Albanian translator and author AmikKasoruho 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.”

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.

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.

 

June

 Tirana’s landmark Skanderbeg square gets facelift

Tirana's landmark Skanderbeg square was given a facelift under a €13 million government-funded project that completely transformed the most important public space linked to a number of historical events and manifestations from King Zog’s reign until WWII to the communist takeover and the early 1990s protests for democratic changes.

Designed by a Belgian studio, the square is an old project dating back ten years ago when current Prime Minister Edi Rama was Mayor of Tirana.

The new square named after the country's 15th century national hero is 90,000m2 space, of which 28,000m2 in stone collected from Albanian-speaking territories and another 32,000m2 of trees, bushes and decorative flowers. The square also showcases some 100 water fountains in its stone area, serving as an oasis in hot summer days. An underground parking lot with a capacity of 358 cars has also been made available to somehow settle the capital’s parking stress.

Tirana Mayor ErionVeliaj said the square which he described a symbol of unity is now the Balkans's largest pedestrian area.

 

July 

‘Wall’ installation commemorates 1990 embassy exodus 

The cabin of a former Czechoslovak LIAZ truck used to smash the wall of the German embassy in Tirana in 1990 when thousands of Albanians entered the embassy to seek asylum and protection from the communist authorities has been immortalized in an installation commemorating Albanians’ embassy exodus 27 years ago.

“The Wall” is an installation created by Albanian civil society activists and artists GjergjIslami, Ana Pekmezi and EljanTanini that has been placed in backyard surrounding wall of the German embassy in Tirana exactly where 27 years ago on July 2, 1990 Albanian driver YlliBodinaku broke in.

Bodinaku, in his 30s at that time, used his state-run enterprise LIAZ truck to smash the German embassy wall, opening a crack that provided refuge to more than 3,000 Albanians who were later granted asylum and taken to Germany.

The 60 year-old man who lived in Germany for three years before returning to work in a car service in Tirana, says the installation is very special as it recalls history and the first anti-communist protests before the December 1990s student protests paved the way to the collapse of the communist regime, one Europe’s harshest led with an iron fist by late Stalinist dictator EnverHoxha.

 

A British director’s documentary on Albanian iso-polyphony

Young British filmmaker Dan Shutt picked the Albanian iso-polyphony to shoot his first documentary.

A sophisticated form of group singing, performed mostly by men in southern Albania, the Albanian iso-polyphony, is recognized by UNESCO as Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Dan Shutt’s ‘Washed by the Moon’ is a documentary exploring the ancient tradition of Këngë Labe, an ancient singing style unique to southern Albania, through the lives and stories of its legendary musicians.

With filming already in its final stage, the documentary is set for release at international film festivals from March 2018.

In an interview with Tirana Times, the young director says is he is optimistic ‘Washed by the Moon’ will hopefully play a part in bringing iso-polyphony to the international audience.

“Iso-polyphony, and specifically Këngë Labe, which is still practised in the southern part of Albania, has rightly been declared unique by UNESCO. Musically, it is astonishing, but it also carries huge social significance and a strong spirit of community,” says Dan Shutt, a young British filmmaker and journalist based between London and Berlin who has recently set up his own production company.

 

First two Albanian natural sites get UNESCO protection

The first two Albanian natural sites have received UNESCO protection as an extension of the World Heritage site of the Primeval Beech Forests.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has inscribed Albania’s Gashi River and Rrajce, two locally protected areas, on the World Heritage List as an extension of the World Heritage site of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany.

Albanian experts who worked on the UNESCO application had described the newly inscribed areas as the last ‘islands’ of virgin woods remaining in Albania where 10-year wood cutting moratorium has been in place since 2016 in bid to protect remaining woods after decades of illegal logging and clearing for agriculture.

The Gashi River is located in northeastern Albania in the border zone with Montenegro and Kosovo in the area of the European Green Belt.

Rrajca is located in the upper Bustrica valley within the borders of Shebenik­ Jablanica National Park in the north-eastern part of Librazhd in the Elbasan region, central Albania.

 

October

Robert Elsie’s last wish comes true 

 

Robert Elsie’s last wish was finally fulfilled. The famous Canadian-German who dedicated his life to Albanian studies will rest in Theth amid the Albanian Alps, a place which he loved so much and also dedicated a book calling it Albania’s rugged Shangri-La, a fictional valley as described in a novel by British author James Hilton.

Elsie, who died at 67 of the rare motor neurone disease, was given his last farewell at a ceremony at the National Library in Tirana before being buried in Theth, northern Albania.

Born in Canada and having studied and worked in Germany, Elsie’s first contact with Albania came in the late 1970s when the Linguistics Institute of the University of Bonn had rare and privileged contacts with the then-hermetic “People’s Socialist Republic of Albania” which he visited for several years.

Probably his most ambitious literary publication was the English translation from the northern Albanian Gheg dialect of the great literary epic of Father GjergjFishta (1871-1940), The Highland Lute: The Albanian National Epic, London 2005, a work in thirty cantos and 15,613 lines. The revival of this epic, long banned under the communist regime, was received with great enthusiasm, in particular in northern Albania.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 28 – Eugent Bushpepa won the 56th edition of Albania’s Song Festival this week, the Albanian national selection for the Eurovision Contest. Albania will compete this year with the song Mall (Yearning), in Lisbon, Portugal. 

The Song Festival took place over the course of three nights this week in Tirana. Two semi-finals were held before the final night, during which the winner of the contest and Albania’s future representative for the Euro Song were selected. 

This is the 15th time the competition has been used to determine the Albanian Eurovision entry. 

Bushpepa was chosen by a professional jury. Albania’s first appearance in the Eurovision was in 2004. Last year, American-Albanian singer Lindita represented the country with the song World. 

Albania won its best place in the contest in 2012, with Rona Nishliu’s song Suus. Then, the country came in fifth. 

Bushpepa was born in July 1984, and is a popular singer and song-writer in the country, more publicly known as Gen Bushpepa. His singing career started at an early age and it was professionally kick-started after returning to Albania from Italy, where he lived for a few years after school. His first real song as a singer started in 2006 on a Top-Channel talk show. 

This was Bushpepa’s second appearance in Albania’s Song Contest. He first was in 2017 with the song Engjell (Angel). 

The Song Festival has been running in Albania annually since 1962. In 2003, they adapted the format where the winner of the festival would represent Albania in the Eurovision Song Contest the following May. 

As always, all competition entries are performed in Albanian for the Song Festival. The winner has the option to work on the country’s entry for the Eurovision stage. The changes could also include the language – Albania last competed with a winning track in the native language in 2013. 

The country’s debut at the Eurovision song contest was back in 2004, the same year the contest televised the semi-finals of the contest. On its first year, Albania came in fourth in the semi-finals and seventh in the contest’s gran finale with Anjeza Shahini’s The Image of You. 

This year, Albania is one of the 39 countries that have already confirmed their participation at the Eurovision Song Contest of 2018. 

The contest itself began as a “brainchild of Marcel Bezencon of the EBU. The contest was based on Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival and was designed to test the limits of live television broadcast technology,” according to the contest’s official website. 

Only seven nations participated in the first contest, which was held on 24 May 1956. 

“With a live orchestra, the norm in the early years, and simple sing-along songs on every radio station, the Contest grew into a true pan-European tradition”, the website adds. 

Eurovision’s 60th anniversary was in 2015. An anniversary show in London was hosted by the BBC, where a dozen of former participants appeared. And to honor Australia’s 30-year-long commitment to the contest, the organizers invited the country to participate for the first time. 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-12-22 11:13:13
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 21 – Kosovo-born artist and activist Alketa Xhafa announced her latest art installation – Even Walls Have Ears – which will be exhibited at the National History Museum.  This project is brought by the AIDSSH and UNDP missions in Albania as part of the kick-off event Remembrance to Heal and Prevent.

For the project, Xhafa will be traveling throughout Albania encouraging people to share their memories and stories of life under the communist regime of Enver Hoxha. Quotes from these stories will be projected on buildings and monuments, turning the landmarks into creation spaces. The art idea will be used as a means of initiating an all-inclusive dialogue about the country’s still prevailing traumatic past.

The images displayed during the project’s presentation in Tirana were visual examples of what is to come. These projections were quotes from martyrs, living and passed, and were projected on some of Tirana’s most famed national landmarks.

Some of them were: But Where Were You O God, a line from musician Sherif Merdani’s song Kenda e Nënës (Mother’s Song), displayed on Korca’s Theatre; Live to Tell, by Zef Plummi, Franciscan Priest and Memoirist, on the National Historical Museum; Make Sure that the Police Don’t Find my Poems! Save Them, and Me!, by Visar Shiti, writer, poet and Albanian Ambassador to the Vatican, displayed on Durres’ Prefecture.

Curator and founder of Art Kontakt, Andi Tepelena, joined the Balkan Artists’ Guild to produce what is mainly an awareness campaign consisting of project installations throughout the country, a book and a documentary in English.

The project will support the ongoing work to provide documentation of and commemoration for the victims who physically and/or psychologically suffered in the hands of the communist regime due to their religious or political beliefs, in the years of 1944-1990s.

These public image projections throughout the now-democratic country in the spring of 2018 will allow people to publish and read all the things they were once not allowed to express. The walls of today will serve as canvases where living memories can be displayed and the healing process can begin.

Alketa Xhafa Mripa is a conceptual artist and activist. She spent her childhood in Kosovo and later studied Fine Art and History of Art in London. Starting off with a student status, Xhafa became a refugee once the war in Kosovo broke out in 1998-1999.

Since then, her multi-disciplinary work has been featured in numerous exhibitions across Europe, including metropolitan cities like Berlin, London, Rome, and even her native Kosovo. The art installation that gave her wide recognition in her country was the art installation titled Thinking of You – a project aiming to pierce the silence concerning wartime rape.

The information for this story was taken from tracesproject.org and from Kristale Rama’s, founder of Artists’ Guild and Xhafa’s partner for this art installation, Facebook page.
                    [post_title] => Kosovo artist illuminates public spaces with tales of communism victims
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 20 – Tinka Kurti’s 85th birthday was celebrated on Sunday at the Migjeni Theatre of Shkodra. The actress, who has been honored with the Nation’s Honor title, first went on stage when she was just 15-years-old and has been interpreting in movies and theater ever since.

Inseparable from theatre and films, Kurti is also a very active member of the civil society in the country. Born in Sarajevo, Bosnia, to a Hungarian mother and Albanian father, Kurti returned with her family in Shkodër at an early age and it was there her acting career began.

For this reason, Shkodra’s municipality in cooperation with the Migjeni Theatre decided to commemorate her life and work on the occasion of her birthday by gathering a number of friends and prominent art names in the country. Kurti was greeted at the entrance of her beloved theatre with a banner that read: the eternal Tinka.

“We wish her a long life for all the years to come during which Tinka will be here, because, after all, she is Tinka Kurti. For us it’s an honor to celebrate her birthday with her,” Voltana Ademi, Shkodra’s mayor, said.

Kurti’s artistic journey is intertwined with the country’s history, side by side with other important actors who joined the celebration. During her long career, Kurti participated in more than 120 theater productions and 35 cinematic productions, including the first Albanian feature movie titled Tana.

“Tinka is an actress who even today, even in her last movie, she remains modern. She has fed many generations and we should be very grateful. I get goose-bumps to this day, being reminded of her. This is an actress that has seen life and brought it on stage in the most splendid way,” Roza Anagnosti, another famous actress, said.

Kurti expressed her happiness for receiving this honor from her hometown and a celebration she she’d been expecting for a long time. Referring to her continued involvement with theatres and filmmaking, Kurti said that she does not work to satisfy her ego or needs, but to honor and continue serving her country and the Albanian people.

Among the numerous awards and evaluations received through the years, being called People’s Artist at a very young age and receiving the title Nation’s Honor when she turned 80-years-old and the Gjergj Kastrioti Skëndërbeu Order a while later can be noted as the highlights of Kurti’s career.
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                    [post_content] => A solo exhibition with works from Albanian artist Shkëlqim Kokonozi will be available starting Thursday, on the 21st of December, at GALERIAKALO. The contemporary artworks will be available at the gallery until the 21st of January, 2018.

Kokonozi’s abstract artwork transmits a different dimension, one of a 63-year-old painter who continues to paint with love and loyalty about reality. Kokonozi also communicates his art and ideas by capturing interesting moments of everyday life, like the paths during a rainy day, or the sunset in a clear or cloudy sky.

As described by gallery representatives, Kokonozi is a modest painter, but one who has great potential in capturing and describing the inner world of people through their portraits, which are sometimes abstract but nonetheless real. On portrait characteristic noticeable in most of the artist’s work is the sadness in the faces he paints.

This is because Kokonozi believes that life in Albania is difficult, with a transitional period that lasted longer than anyone expected. Thus, his brush dictates the emotions of the faces he paints and cannot allow him to paint feelings that society is not transmitting yet within him.

“We have collected a considerable number of artworks by Kokonozi and thought it is time to show them to the public. Some of them have been exhibited in group exhibitions organized by GALERIAKALO but several works, abstract and landscapes are being displayed for the first time,” a post by the gallery on Facebook read.
                    [post_title] => Shkëlqim Kokonozi’s ‘Transition’ works on display at Kalo Gallery   
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 17 - The National History Museum opened The Great Times exhibition this week in context of Skanderbeg’s Year, showcasing different authors’ statutes, facsimiles, engravings and portraits that depict moments from the life and battles of Albania’s national hero. 

National History Museum Director Dorjan Koçi said this exhibition’s representation of Skanderbeg’s is told through the eyes of foreigners who studied or envisioned his image, life and achievements.

“This exhibitions is centered on the engravings, taken from Marlin Barleti’s book which was translated to German, in order for Albanian citizens today to go back in time and see how the European crowd at the time perceived our national hero,” Koçi told local media.

The exhibition, which will remain open until Jan. 30, features medieval weapons and authors’ books dedicated to Skanderbeg. Documentaries and moments from the critically-acclaimed Skanderbeg movie are projected on the museum’s main hall, further enveloping the viewer into the country’s most glorious era.

The exhibition’s main object is Karpen’s bell, bringing sounds dating back to 1465. Equally interesting to see are the extension of Arbëri before the Ottoman rule through the map of Albanian principates of the time, their emblems, the names of the princes that participated in the League of Lezhë - the most important political and military union in Albanians’ history.

 
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