Thursday, January 01, 2004

Mijgen Kelmendi / south ... east ... mediterranean... europe

Between December 14 and 16, Platform organized south ... east ... mediterranean... europe, a conference and conversation series. The project was within the context of "In The Cities of the Balkans", the 2nd part of "The Balkans Trilogy", a project initiated by Kunsthalle Fridericianum, with writers, critics, curators and artists from Sofia, Skopje, Jerusalem, Cairo, Belgrade, Beirut, Zagreb, Istanbul, Tirana, Pristine, and Sarajevo. The meeting focused upon rethinking artistic production, cultural geography and possible future collaborations in South-East Europe and the South-East Mediterranean, otherwise known as the Balkans and the Middle East.The participants were, Rene Block, Natasa Iliç, Vasif Kortun, Suzana Milevska, Jack Persekian, Shkelzen Maliqi, Luchezar Boyadjiev, Eleni Laperi Koci, Migjen Kelmendi, Lejla Hodzic, Christine Tohme, Mai Abdu ElDahab, Katerina Gregos, and Boris Buden.
It was funded by Förderung aus Mitteln der Kulturstiftung des Bundes and organized in collaboration with Kunsthalle Fridericianum Kassel.

How come two identical statues appeared in the two different cities of the Balkan
Mijgen Kelmendi

Allow me to start this short essay with a question: how come those two identical statues have appeared in two different cities of Balkan: the original one, the statue of Albanian medieval hero Scanderbeg, in the Albanian city of Kruja, and the xeroxed one, in the very centre of Prishtina city?

If we regard this question with the known distinction – Objective and Subjective culture – where Subjective Culture refers to psychological aspects of culture, including unique patterns of beliefs, attitudes, norms and values, and Objective Culture regards institutions and artefacts of culture, than which are the values, patterns of thinking that extrapolate the appearance of two identical statues in two different cities of Balkan? The original one in the Albanian city of Kruja and the xeroxed one in the very centre of Kosovo’s capital Prishtina.

Now that Milosevic’s regime is no longer threatening the Albanian population in Kosovo, ethnic Albanian mobilisation is over. This allows for more political diversity and gives the possibility for the appearance of civic resistance over great ethno-political projects. And maybe, why not, the appearance of a new territorial kind of identity, a kind of supra-ethnic identity, which I regard as – KosovoKosovo Identity.

But is it so?

Kosovo Kosovo anthropologist Besnik Pula, claims that there appear to be two “identity currents” in Kosovo right now. The first presses on with dogmatic conservatism inherited from past socialism, playing on recognizable images and symbols, which are underpinned by Enverist images of the Albanian nation taken during the 1970s and 1980s. It is the dominant current, having integrated the figure of the UÇK warrior in the grand narrative of Albanian history constructed by Enver Hoxha’s Institute of History and readily espoused by the Prishtina Institute of Albanology, the foundry that molded Kosovo Albanian identity using the ideological “raw materials” produced by Tirana’s institutes.

The second current, builds on the social revolution which took place in Kosovo – ironically, also in the 1970s and 1980s – when the Yugoslav state with the zealous support of Kosovo Albanian communists, had the region embark in a project of thorough industrialization and urbanization. Yugoslavia was opening to foreign influences and western – primarily American – entertainment, which became available with easy and accessible media such as radio and television. The managers and technocrats of the 1970s and 1980s were giving way to a new generation of western-influenced children and teenagers. The portrait of the dead Tito and the salute to “continue his path” were competing for the attention of the new generation alongside The Clash, Pink Floyd, and pop acts such as Michael Jackson and Cindy Lauper. There was an entirely new generation growing up in urbanized areas and under the influence of western pop culture.

However, how to explain two identical statues appearing in two different cities of Balkan?

If we will succeed to find the answer to this question, I think we’ll succeed to understand why the probability of a new Kosovon identity, an identity which is not based upon ethnicity, were comprehended by both the Albanian and Serbian sides as a threat.

In my opinion, the answer lies in language. Explaining in a fast manner how Kosovor Albanians understood and accepted Albanian Lingual Standard, I hope that we will shed some light on the answer to the question: “Why the two exact same statues appeared in two different cities of Balkan.

These days I have met in Prishtina two Turk researchers, Pelin Tan and Sezgin Bojnik. They had been interviewing some youths in the most beautiful town of Kosovo, Prizren, where the majority of the of Turk minority in Kosovo lives. As Pelin was telling me, their strongest desire was that one beautiful daythey have will succeeded to cleanse and sterilize themselves from this old outdated Turkish of Kosovo, in order to prepare themselves for today’s Turkish, High Turkish, the modern and standardised one. To say it better, the Turkish that they are perceiving through the Turk-Sat television content.

I was dilated by this research. What Pelin had discovered among these young Turks of the city of Prizren, their way of feeling and understanding was the very same way of understanding what Standard Albanian Language means for Kosovors. I think these are the matrixes; the patterns of thinking that make possible the appearance of two identical statues in two different cities of Balkan. Kosovo Albanians would also like to cleanse and purify themselves from Gheg idiom, from their native idiom, in order to replace it with the new language, with Albanian Standard Language, thus to become, as this pattern of thinking led them – Real Albanians. Albanians of a High Culture. Without this lingual implant, they feel as deformed, abandoned, felerik or, as in Pelin’s case – not original Turks – but some forgotten Turks, remote and abandoned, a provincial model of Turks, which deserve to be rejected, sterilised and cleansed. The Purification reminds me of Roland Barthe’s Loyola and his instruction on how we should prepare ourselves through purification for acceptance of God.

The God these people eagerly want to encounter is the new idol – Nation.

Very briefly about the background of Albanian Standard Language.
Gheg idiom is the native idiom of approximately four million Albanians. It is a spoken idiom/mother tongue of all Kosovos, of approximately 500 thousand Albanians in Macedonia, and of aprx. 1.5 million Albanians in Albania. During these 30 years, since the codification of Albanian Language took place (1972, Tirana), Gheg idiom was almost a kind of doomed language, a banned language, which was exposed to a certain glotocide.

“Albanian has been standardized making the task of isolating dialectical differences more difficult. As defined by Janet Byron, a standard language, or alternatively, dialect, or variety, is "a superposed variety of a language which serves as a national medium of discourse, primarily in education, administration, and science". Politically Albania has not always been democratic. When the communism took control of Albania, standardization was implemented and enforced as the only permitted form of communication. The government destroyed most of the literature written in non-standard Albanian. Also, if an Albanian desired to obtain positions in which they would be employed by the state or to be in positions of respect, they were required both to speak and write using the standard form of Albanian language, which is based on the Tosk dialect. Enver Hoxha who was the leader of the communist party, when standardization was implemented, chose the Tosk dialect.
In addition, under communism many of the records written in non-standard Albanian were destroyed….”

These people eagerly need to be a part of the whole. They long to belong. This is the mechanism of thinking, which produces visual mistakes such as copies of statues…
I am convinced that this phenomenon of xeroxed statues has its roots in the huge misunderstanding of the notion of Nation, State, Ethnicity, and Culture. This gives and takes more with the invention of whom we are.

Still I am not certain why they should be identical. All that I can recall is the exaltation and delirium of gathered mass with Scanderbeg’s statue. The statue of this Albanian hero had to travel from the Albanian city of Kruja, up to the centre of Prishtina. The journey lasted four days. The crowd, which was waiting for the statue, extended from the Albania-Kosovo border up to the centre of Prishtina. I forgot many thinks, but what I can exactly recall are the introductory words of Mark Krasniqi, a member of Kosovo’s Academy and the leader of the Demo Christian Party of Kosovo. As soon as the mass was getting a bit quiet, he turned to face the hero on his horse and started to talk to the statue: 'Welcome oh you mighty hero Scanderbeg!'

I realised in that moment that this man knows exactly to whom he is talking!