Year in Review: Culture in 2014

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 29, 2014 13:30

Year in Review: Culture in 2014


 Albania ranked on the top four global destinations

 The New York Times ranked Albania as one of the top four global destinations to go to for 2014, placing the Balkan country as the single European destination on top of the list. The prestigious daily newspaper ranked the Albanian coast the number four destination to visit, describing it as Europe at its best on a rugged shore.

The rating by New York Times comes after Lonely Planet tourist guide ranked Albania as the top destination for 2011 and the country was placed sixth in CNN's top 10 destinations.

Back in 2012, The Globe and Mail, Canada's largest national newspaper, selected Albania as a top tourism destination in 2012. In a travel slideshow on its website, the newspaper placed the Albanian Riviera as the top destination among the six best places to visit in 2012.

Albania offers a miscellaneous picture of coastal and mountain tourism and has been attracting more and more foreign tourists in the past few years being nicknamed as "A New Mediterranean Love" and "Europe's Last Secret".



Francophone Spring stages 100 events

 More than a hundred events were staged in Albania's main cities for ten days as part of Francophone Spring celebrations in Albania, an annual event celebrating French culture which revives cultural life each March.

Music, cinema, theatre, exhibitions, conferences, dances, poetry, gastronomy and even wine tasting were some of the events held in Tirana, Shkodra, Korça, Fier, Elbasan, Durres, Vlora from March 20 to 29.  Organized by the French Embassy in Albania and the French Alliance in cooperation with Albanian state institutions, the Francophone Spring events are expected to revive cultural life in Albania, further promoting the French culture and arts in the country which numbers thousands of French speakers.

French is widely taught subject in Albanian schools. Several schools have also established bilingual Albanian-French sections.



Ermonela Jaho makes comeback

Internationally renowned Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho returned home after a seven-year absence to perform one of her favourite pieces, the title role of Cio-Cio San in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly."

Jaho returned to the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Tirana after shining in the lead roles of Manon Lesacat at the Royal Opera House in London and as Mathilde in Rossini's "Guillame Tell" in Brussels in early 2014.

"I have always considered the role of Madama Butterfly connected to Albanian women in general 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," said Jaho.

Born in Albania, Soprano Ermonela Jaho 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 including the Royal Opera House.


Porto Palermo named top undiscovered destination

Fodor's Travel Guide listed Porto Palermo as the number one of Undiscovered European Destinations. "Nestled among rolling green hills just south of the town of Himarë is Porto Palermo. This Albanian village keeps a low profile, but features a towering 18th-century castle that overlooks a sparkling bay. Visitors can explore its well-preserved grounds, and take in the coastline's picturesque scenery."

The Ali Pasha castle in Porto Palermo, southern Albania serves as an art venue bringing together international artists for three days in the annual ArtKontakt international festival.

Sotiri photo collection digitized

Thousands of negatives from the early 20th century Sotiri photo collection in the southeastern town of Korça were inventoried in a project carried out by the National Centre of Cultural Heritage Inventorisation. The project which concluded with an exhibition of the Sotiri photo collection made possible the preservation, identification, registration and promotion of this important piece of Albania's cultural heritage, which is testimony to traditions and society in the region of Korca in the early 20th century.

"This heritage has now been documented in a digital system with identifying physical and technical data enabling the study and promotion of the collection," said the culture ministry.

The Sotiri photo collection includes 12,000 negatives, cameras and historical items belonging to people photographed by the Sotiri and is part of the Golden age of Albanian photography along with the Marubi collection in the northern Albanian city of Shkodra.


Inva Mula becomes a fellow of World Academy

Internationally renowned Albanian soprano Inva Mula was accepted as a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science for her distinction in art and remarkable international accomplishments.

"My acceptance as a fellow of the Academy is an achievement which I share with you," Mula commented on social networks with her fans.

Mula was born in Albania in an artist family. She graduated as a soprano singer from the Academy of Arts, Tirana, Albania, with the final performance as Violetta in La traviata, by G. Verdi.


French-Albanian choreographer home

Renowned French choreographer of Albanian origin Angelin Preljocaj was back to Albania this time with a collaboration with the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet troupe.

Almost two years after the latest performance of the Ballet Preljocaj, the contemporary dance choreographer staged in Tirana "La Stravaganza" and "Royaume Uni" ballet shows. Preljocaj himself returned to Albania 20 years after his Noces show soon after he first visited Albania following the collapse of the country's communist regime in the early 1990s.

The famous Albanian-French choreographer Angjelin Preljocaj was honoured with the Nation's Honour presidential order for representing the best of Albania's values in choreography internationally and making everyone proud of being Albanian.

"Born in Paris just five days after his parents escaped from communist Albania, Preljocaj felt French while at school and Albanian when at home with his parents and their tight-knit community of Albanian friends," The Guardian writes about him.

 Albania at Venice Biennale

In a pavilion exploring how modern architecture in Albania is inhabited, transformed, rejected, modified and absorbed, two contemporary artists represented Albania in the 14th international architecture exhibition of the Venice Biennale.

Edi Hila and Adrian Paci participated with the "Potential Monuments of Unrealized Futures" exhibition which aimed at developing a new point of view on the Albanian cities and to invent new aesthetics to dwell the unfinished traces of modernist architecture that are disseminated in the urban fabric and in the countryside of the Albanian territory.

"Through a multimedia exploration of modernism, the artists weave real and constructed references, past and present, fictional stories, and form readings of such buildings beyond the traditional lexicon of architectural representation," said the curators.

The Albanian pavilion was displayed from June 7 to November 23 at the Arsenale, Venice.


Saranda among ten great cruise ports

  "Sarandë. Get to this Albanian beach town on the Mediterranean, near Corfu, on Windstar and SeaDream. Also known as Saranda, the town is near Butrint National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on a picturesque lagoon. Archeological ruins in the park reflect the fact that Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans ruled the area at various times." That's how USA Today news portal described the southern Albanian town of Saranda which it has recently named one of the ten great cruise ports people have ever heard of.

Known as the pearl of Albanian Riviera, the southernmost Albanian district of Saranda is a top destination in Albania during summer, offering tourists a combination of rocky and sandy beaches as well as cultural heritage attractions such as the Butrint UNESCO World Heritage site and the Blue Eye spring. Situated just next to the Greek island of Corfu with regular ferry lines, Saranda remains one of Albania's top destinations despite the boom of uncontrolled constructions somehow spoiling the beauty of Albania's southernmost coastal town.

In 2013, Saranda, known for its beautiful pure Ionian waters, was named by the United States Price of Travel portal as the third cheapest beach destination in Europe.

 Albanian director wins award at Czech film festival

Albanian movie Bota (World) was announced the best film in the East of the West category at the 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic where it made its world debut."The jury found Bota a remarkable film with a rich script, three-dimensional characters, exquisite photography of current day Albania and beautiful nostalgic music soundtrack of past heritage," the festival said on its website.

Selected in the East of the West competition and presented at a world premiere at Karlovy Vary, Bota is the directorial debut of a duo comprising Albania's Iris Elezi and American-Albanian director Thomas Logoreci.


Berat hosts first multicultural festival

 The cultural, ethnographic and architectural heritage of Berat in southwestern Albania, known as "the city of 1,001 windows" were showcased for three days in late August in the first multicultural festival promoting this popular international destination which since 2008 has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The three-day event held from August 21 to 23 brought dozens of events including performances from the city band, exhibitions of young and veteran painters, contemporary art video projections in the ancient city's characteristic cobbled neighbourhoods, concerts, movie screenings, handicraft and agri-business trade fairs, cultural heritage conferences and other events involving the local Roma and Egyptian communities.

Since 2008, Berat has been inscribed as a rare example of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period.


 Strati sets ninth Guinness record

Soon after setting his eighth Guinness World Record for the largest mosaic using industrial materials, Albanian artist Saimir Strati set his ninth Guinness record with a giant mosaic dedicated to Jose Saramago, the Portuguese 1998 Nobel Prize winner for Literature, using hundreds of thousands of corks.

Strati created creating the mosaic in Portugal's Ponte de Sor town using 300,000 corks to create a 108 m2 mosaic which is 24 metres long and 4.5 metres high.

Born in Fier, Saimir Strati, 45, is an Albanian artist who is regarded as one of the world's most renowned modern mosaic artists.

Saimir Strati is primarily an artist who works in mosaics. He has used materials including nails, toothpicks, corks, sea glass, eggshells, compact discs, coffee beans, porcelain and mirror glass among other materials. He is also a painter.

 Kosovo movie wins Golden Gladiator

"Three windows and a hanging," a feature film by Kosovo director Isa Qosja was awarded the top Golden Gladiator prize in the seventh edition of the Durres international film festival. The movie originally titled "Tri Dritare dhe një varje" was appreciated for portraying the extreme drama and violence faced by Kosovo women during the armed conflict with Serbia in the late 1990s and the aspect of mercy and understanding.

The best director award went to Italian director Roberto Ando for his "Long Live Freedom" movie "because of the veracity that he brings to the cynicism of modern day politics and their attempts to manipulate the common people."

Prominent Turkish actress Turkan Soray, nicknamed as the "Sultan of Turkish cinema, was also present at the film festival as the guest of honor and was given the Life Time Achievement award.

The festival which came at the end of tourist season in one of the country's most popular summer destinations showcased movies for six consecutive days in its two traditional venues, the Roman amphitheatre and the local cultural centre.


German October brings wide range of events

Theatre, films, music, exhibitions and discussions were the highlights of the eighth edition of the German October events in Albania. For four weeks, the German October events focused on cross-border projects linking Albanian culture to that of Germany, bringing together Germans and Albanians exchanging their experience in arts and culture.

Renowned Albanian director Stefan Çapaliku staged  the Hamletmachine, a postmodernist drama by German playwright and theatre director Heiner Muller, in cooperation with the Goethe Institute in Tirana.

"Eight years of German Weeks in Albania is a great success and at the same time an ongoing tradition. Uniting people, crossing borders and establishing communication networks has been the leitmotif of the German October," says German Ambassador to Albania Hellmut Hoffmann.

In its previous 2012 and 2013 editions, the German October marked the 25th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, and the 25th anniversary of German-Albanian economic cooperation.

 Ben Blushi wins EU prize for literature

Albania's Ben Blushi was announced as one of the best new and emerging authors by the European Union Prize for Literature.

Blushi, a journalist, writer and politician was awarded at the Frankfurt Book Fair for his Otello, Arapi i Vlorës (Othello, Arap of Vlora) book published in 2009.

The narrative style, rich language and profound erudition contained in the novel Otello, Arapi i Vlorës place it among the most beautiful and accomplished works of Albanian literature, organizers said. The book is set in the years 1300-1400, in two well-known urban centres of the Middle Ages, Venice and Vlora. The background is realistic, and the author's literary creation is tied so tightly to historical fact, it seems that these events really happened in Vlora 600 years ago, and that Shakespeare simply took the events and set them in Venice.


 Kadare receives 'De Rada' award

Internationally renowned Albanian author Ismail Kadare was handed the special Jeronim De Rada award in this year's 17th edition of the Tirana Book Fair, the largest book event bringing together Albanian publishing houses. The perennial Albanian nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded the special prize on the 200th birth anniversary of De Rada, who is not only the best known writer of Italian-Albanian literature but also the foremost figure of the Albanian nationalist movement in nineteenth-century Italy.

Speaking at the prize award ceremony, Kadare said he felt moved for the award which is named after the first genius of the Albanian national renaissance.

"I feel appreciated for this prize named after this genius who oriented the Albanian literature toward the European literature as it was losing its pace. De Rada was a great poet and a prophet of the future of Albania," said Kadare.

An internationally renowned poet, novelist and essayist, Ismail Kadare has been perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature. His international acclaim for his works peaked in 2005 when he won the Man Booker International Prize.


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 29, 2014 13:30