A recap of culture in Albania during 2018

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 11, 2019 15:30

A recap of culture in Albania during 2018

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  • We bring you a recap of the main cultural and artistic events that happened during 2018 in Albania, which stirred the arts and culture sphere.

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Debates, confrontations and conflicts stirred the arts and culture sphere in Albania. Some issues are still left inconclusive, beginning with the National Theatre activities calendar, whether the National Library will move buildings, will the National Arts Gallery rehabilitate its strategy, will lahuta be claimed as an Albanian intangible cultural heritage, and what innovations will the new appointed Minister of Culture Elva Margariti bring to the table.

2018 was a jarring year for the Albanian art and culture. The question artists are asking is whether will 2019 bring positive changes in this sphere, and all are hoping for the best. Below you have a listed recap of the most noted cultural issues throughout the year.

2018 as the year of Skanderbeg

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The year we left behind was an overall troubled one for arts and culture, where debates prevailed and issues are left unsolved or unanswered. However, some institutional circles organized a number of positive cultural activities in art and history world. One such activity were the exhibition with rare antiquaries on the figure of our national hero Skanderbeg at the Palace of Congresses. This was considered the most serious exhibition on the figure among the many throughout the year, which was announced as the Pan-national Year of Skanderbeg.

The exhibition for our national hero at the Palace of Congresses displayed images, history books written in Milano since 1473, the Epistola gifted by Papa Pius II, Marin Barleti history of 1508-1510, and other materials from archives.

Debates with Ministry of Culture and continuous protests over National Theatre

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In the beginning of 2018, the artists gathered in objection of the 2010 law ‘’For art and culture,’’ changed in 2014. One contradicted point was the governmental centering of directorial appointments to institutions as National Cinematography Center, State Filmography Archives, and National Library. These directors are nominated by the Minister of Culture, then Mirela Kumbaro, then chosen by a direct decision from the Council of Ministers, but will still appointed by a direct order by the Culture Minister.

The Minister backed down from this bill, however the artists gathered again to battle against the government on its bill for demolishing the National Theatre. The government claimed that the building is too old and cannot be reconstructed, thus passed a bill in its demolition and construction of a new building by a certain predetermined construction company. Both the decision for demolition and the already given tender angered the artists for lack of transparency and undemocratic decision-making. They protested for a few weeks, yet prime minister Edi Rama said ‘’Whether you like it or not, the theatre will be demolished.’’

The proposed architectural project by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels wasn’t received well by artists, whereas artists, scholars and architects said that the theatre holds incontestable values for our history and cultural heritage. Thus, the protesters proposed a reconstruction of the building, even though the Institute of Construction reported that the National Theatre needed a 90 percent level of restoration.

Protests began, some proposed their own projects, yet, former Minister of Culture Kumbo didn’t participate in any of the discussion panels organised by the Media Commision and artists. Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj did participate in some panels and promised that the theatre’s territory wouldn’t be violated. This caused that some figures as Robert Ndrenika, Arben Derhemi, Altin Basha, etc., to withdraw from the protest in reliance to Veliaj’s promise. This withdrawing caused a division among artists, some of whom still oppose the law, even though it passed twice with 75 votes in the parliament.

A pending reform for the Academy of Sciences

The need for change also knocked  at the Academy of Sciences’ doors on 2018. The academics delivered a platform to the Ministry of Education on Mar. 31, which is still waiting upon governmental approval. Academics Artan Fuga and Skender Gjinushi are still looking for a way out from the condition the institution has fallen. Recently Gjinushi said that the bill will be signed very soon and will correspond to the elections in the Academy for a director, deputy director and secretary.

National Library flooded after burning

The National Library endured a fire due to an electrical spark on Mar. 15, 2017, but fortunately didn’t suffer any irreplaceable damages. On June 23, 2018, Tirana had heavy rain showers which managed to flood the Library’s building and soak thousands of books and texts. Even though images of employees drying the texts with blow dryers or in the sun emerged in media, fortunately again, none of these suffered extreme damages and none of them were irreplaceable. Nevertheless, the Institute of Construction filed a report that the building is unsuitable for a National Library.

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Democratic Party requests art decommunisation

An initial proposal by Agron Tufa about the docommunization of art, was discussed again by DP officials in 2018. The bill seeks to add an explanatory note to films and other artistic works produced during the social-realism regime which served the system’s propaganda, indicating their purpose to the public. This bill hasn’t be read yet in the parliament, yet it sparked debates among artists, writers and publishers.

A million Albanians didn’t read a book in 2017

Another debate was sparked by a report from the Albanian Institute of Statistics, INSTAT, which claimed that one million Albanians during 2017, hadn’t read at least one book, which implies the distancing of the Albanian reader from books. This report gave way to the movement ‘’ReadABook,’’ undertaken by publishers and the Ministry of Culture.

The 21st edition of the Book Fair which opened its doors on Nov. 14 marked other issues that books face, such as bad translations, lack of orientation for the readers, and a forgetfulness of Albanian literature, especially for children. A media attention however, received the new book by renowned writer Ismail Kadare, ‘’When rulers dispute’’, which caused long lines of readers waiting to receive an autograph.

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Lahuta claimed by Serbs

The acknowledging from UNESCO of the Serbian ‘’singing accompanied by the gusle’’ and the instrument gusle which is similar to the Albanian lahuta (lute), as an intangible cultural heritage, wasn’t received well by Albanians and its media. Media claimed that Serbs stole our lahuta, and various musicologists said that lahuta is of Albanian origin.

Yet, other scholars said that the lute is a Balkans instrument neither Albanian nor Serbian. Scholar Shaban Sinani who was part of the team responsible for preparing the documentation of Eposi i Kreshnikeve (Albanian Songs of Frontier Warriors), said that Serbia’s success isn’t an obstacle for ours. According to Shabani, the issue remains that our documentation has been stuck in lobbying since 2012.

Beethoven sonatas brought in Tirana by Tedi Papavrami

Beethoven sonatas were returned in Tirana on Nov. 3, 2018, thanks to violinist Tedi Papavrami. Papavrami came in Tirana with his new wife, Japanese pianist Maki Okada. He gave a concert with French pianist Francois-Frederic Guy at the Cultural Center of the Orthodox Church, and will be returning in Tirana again with other concerts.

Marc Chagall in Tirana

180 black and white prints from renowned 20th century artist Marc Chagall were exhibited at the Center for Openness and Dialogue, which is located at the prime ministry building. This exhibition was the last of a series hosted by COD, considered the most important one for 2018, which also closed the cultural year in that center. The prints displayed are illustrations used for Gogol’s Dead Souls, Shakespeare’s The Tempest and La Fontaine’s Fables.

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Albanian film ‘’The Delegation’’ wins international award

The Albanian film ‘’The Delegation,’’ directed by Bujar Alimani and with a script by Artan Minarolli, won the Warsaw Grand Prix at the 34th edition of the International Film Festival in Warsaw.

Rare nautical map in Albania

A 1455 map by Genoese hartograph Bartolomeo Pareto for Papa Nicholas V, was exhibited at the Center for Openness and Dialogue as part of the Pan-national Year of Skanderbeg. The exhibition was made possible by architect and medieval hartography scholar Artan Shkreli. The map shows evidence of the influence of Skanderbeg in the Balkans and the spread of Albanian regions during the 15th century.

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The National Arts Gallery only hosts two exhibitions

Erzen Shkololli was appointed as the new director of the Albanian National Arts Gallery. In the beginning his appointment was well received by the artistic circles, but then he started showing lack of rectitude towards media and allowing only few exhibitions to be hosted in the Gallery. For 2018 only two exhibitions were hosted in the NAG, ‘’The transformation painter’’ from Edi Hila and ‘’Here- or rather there, is over there’’ by Flaka Haliti.

If that wasn’t enough, the NAG together with the Ministry of Culture decided to give an end to the International Exhibition ‘’Onufri,’’ which allows an exchange among local and international artists, and gives an insight to the public about what is happening in the contemporary art sphere.

Eurovision 2019 representative song announced

Renowned singer Jonida Maliqi returned to the stage of the Song Festival after an 11 year-long absence. After winning the Festival, she will be representing Albania at Eurovision 2019 with the song ‘’Ktheju tokes’’ (Return to Motherland), composed and written by Eriona Rushiti. This song talks of the Albanian immigrants and calls them out, and will be sang in Albanian during Eurovision.

A sad year that separated us from great artists

Albania will miss great artists that contributed greatly to our arts and culture. The flying dancer Rexhep Celiku, art critic Gezim Qendro, Gjovalin Paci, Fadil Hasa, Ilia Terpini, Luan Qerimi, and Sulejman Dibra departed from this world.

Mid’hat Frasheri returns home

Nationalist’s Mid’hat Frasheri’s remains returned from the United States of America where he passed away in 1949 to Albania, and was buried at the Tirana Lake Park near his family members. A commemoration ceremony was held at the Academy of Sciences before his burial. Frasheri was the creator of the National Front, a national anti-communist resistance, he was a contributor of the latinised Albanian alphabet, was a writer and publisher of the first newspapers and magazines that adopted this alphabet.

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Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 11, 2019 15:30