Kosovo 2.0 People/politics/society/arts/culture #1 SUMMER 2011
image a nation's discontent international mission position the falafel rebellion men, unzipped comic grief KOSovo: â‚Ź 3,- elsewhere: â‚Ź 6,-/ $ 8,-
#1 IMAGE Summer 2011
Editor-in-chief Besa Luci Deputy Editor Nate Tabak Managing Editor Sarah Wischmann Senior Editors Kreshnik Berisha Bardhi Haliti Photography Editor Atdhe Mulla Visual Concept and Design Van Lennep, Amsterdam Copy Editor Tim Oâ€™Rourke
Contributing Editors Andrea L. Capussela Conor Creighton Nita Luci Jeton Mehmeti Richard Warnica Editorial Assistant Vesa Kepuska Contributors Kaltrina Ademi Ardit Bejko Nita Deda Puhie Demaku Nicole Farnsworth Milot Hasimja Kreshnik Hoxha Jeton Jagxhiu Nela Lazarevic Agon Maliqi Hana Marku Rina Meta
Lejla Sadiku Silvia Valencia Photographers Yll Citaku Jim Hagan Visar Kryeziu Armend Nimani Tringa Ramadani Petrit Rrahmani Kushtrim Ternava Illustrator Driton Selmani Cover Dea Dedi was photographed by Atdhe Mulla in Prishtina Hair: Alban Abdullahu
Interns Art Haxhijakupi Gresa Kingji Fjolla Kondirolli Business Manager Arita Hasani Webmaster Sprigs Publisher Kosovo Glocal The Board Chairman Joan de Boer Members Anna Di Lellio Hugo Zwolsman
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#1 IMAGE Summer 2011
Letter from the editor Besa luci
—When we set out to do an image issue, we wanted to explore the constant preoccupation in Kosovo with trying not to look bad. Last year had ended with a stream of international media reports that linked Kosovo’s senior ruling politicians to organ trafficking, organized crime and criminal networks. Kosovars living abroad started sharing anecdotes of people asking if it was really that easy to get a kidney transplant in their home country. Investigations into the veracity of such reports have yet to yield results. But whatever the outcome, the damage is not so much as to how the world sees Kosovo, but how Kosovars mobilize or respond to a scarred image. Today in Kosovo, image is referred to as something that cannot be fixed by changing the surface; that Kosovo’s image can only be improved by changing the ways in which politics are conducted. This is a far cry from the earlier belief that once Kosovo gained independence, all of its problems would be resolved. They certainly haven’t been. For the past three years of state building, Kosovo’s right to exist has been challenged. Serbia’s aggressive diplomacy has not only focused on rejecting Kosovo’s statehood but also preventing its recognition. By lobbying against Kosovo’s statehood and preventing it from joining international structures, Serbia has sought support throughout the world. Kosovo’s own diplomatic efforts have produced mixed results: As of the end of June, 76 states have recognized Kosovo. Lagging recognitions undermine Kosovo’s sovereignty. In a country where 40 percent are unemployed, 30 percent live in poverty, the trade deficit stands at 1.7 billion euro, and trade and movement are blocked, sovereignty hasn’t made life better for ordinary people (“10 Things that Complicate Our Lives,” page 65). These are just some of the reasons why, for the majority in Kosovo, diplomacy is not only a state responsibility but also a private one (“Flying Activist Parades Kosovo Flag Sky-High,” page 62). Some readers might find Richard Warnica’s “Land of Disil-
lusion” (page 28) upsetting because he offers a harsh truth that Kosovo might not be ready to hear: that outside the constellation of foreigners who work here, the world doesn’t think of Kosovo at all. And Andrea Lorenzo Capussela in “The Foreigners. Exposed” (page 53) rightly notes that while the United States, Kosovo’s most influential ally, often says Kosovo is a European problem, what it actually means is “Kosovo is a problem; Kosovo lies in Europe; consequently, Kosovo is a European problem.” The union that more than two decades ago embarked on writing its common story has opened its gateway. In the past decade it went from having 15 members to 27. But it has also created new ways to shun those it considers threatening the direction of a common European future. Its inability or even unwillingness to grasp the changing histories unraveling in front of it prevent the EU from responding and adapting to new socio-cultural arrangements, most clearly with the sweep of power of right-wing parties throughout the continent. The EU’s uncertainty of how to deal with Kosovo also creates the space for those in power in Kosovo to deflect responsibility and accountability for their shortcomings. Because not only is this a county where politics are absent, but governance propagates through its fraudulent and self-serving ways, while international missions often get to decide much of what takes place. So, while there are many international missions in Kosovo, they are not necessarily missions for Kosovo. International missions in Kosovo get to choose what is right or wrong, beneficial or detrimental, smart or unwise for the country. While Kosovo does need to build rule of law and a viable economy, that can only happen when people participate as equals. As they don’t, the form of governance emanating from these political uncertainties has aided to a general feeling of loss. People have lost their “at home” and they now work with a fragmented idea of self and identity — being marginal, fitting nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
This is no longer the Kosovo that needs to capitalize on the image shaped and transmitted by international media and politics.
New Forms of Representation As we began exploring these stories with the magazine, we unraveled complex, and often clashing narratives and relations of power. On one hand, it’s about understanding Kosovo’s preoccupation with image by looking at how Kosovars react to ways they’re presented in the world outside them, and on the other, by looking at how Kosovars mobilize when their personal and collective narrative is challenged. Generally, they respond with a sense of collective identity and responsibility to any and all actions that may poorly reflect on them. (“How to Think of Men in Kosovo,” page 78 and “Another black eye for a country unsure about how to see itself,” page 36.) There’s nothing wrong with trying to fix one’s image. In fact, Kosovo could gain in terms of its relations with the independence skeptics and opponents. While within such competing readings rise important issues within politics of representation and relations of power, it is essentially important not to lose and forget individuals' stories that belong to identity. New commercial forms of representing national identity and conducting public diplomacy appear in media ad campaigns, nation, state and place branding, from T-shirts and billboards to installations in public space. But these forms and their representations yield troubling affirmations. On the day of independence, a new symbol to mark the event was placed in downtown #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
Prishtina. Announcing to the world the newest state, NEWBORN appeared as novel and modern practice of national imagery. But it also points to all of Kosovo’s relations with its self and others, and as a sign it can only be read within Kosovo’s inequity; and for that many see it as a representation of Kosovo’s infancy, where Kosovo sees itself as a child, is treated as a child and in essence needs to be educated as a child. Three years later, its creator, Fisnik Ismaili, having lost the optimism he wished to capture with the joy of birth, is attacking the Kosovo sees: full of corrupt politicians and arrogant diplomats, presented in his digital comic strip, “The Pimpsons” (page 46). Agency When we launched the Kosovo 2.0 website a year ago, we did so to create a place where the country’s youths would create and express their personal take through the stories they would share. We remain convinced that individual stories and voices should not be lost. A selection of portraits (page xx) speak of a young man’s dream to become an artist lost as he roams the streets of Prizren selling cigarettes, and a musician that surprises a German priest that a person can be from Kosovo and play Bach on the violin so well. This is no longer the Kosovo that needs to capitalize on the image shaped and transmitted by international media and politics — that was at a time when the mere mention of Kosovo in the international press gave hope to a people that leading to the 1999 war were suppressed in manifesting or claiming its personal and political entity. Today, there is a new belief and assertion in agency; that history is something we all can possess; and that often marginalized narratives and memories can be recorded and remembered. And that is what we offer in our first issue, because there’s nothing wrong with showing your weaknesses, and there’s something special when you notice them on your own. — K 5
kosovotwopointzero magazine image — #1 2011
ehT .srengierof .desopxe
international players Ex-ICO official breaks down the good, the bad and the just plain befuddling of international missions.
Six portraits, one Kosovo They make rakia, falafel, high fashion, photographs and beautiful music. From Prizren to Cagllavica, they come from all corners of Kosovo and their stories are as diverse as their contributions are unique.
36 the view from within
The Council of Europe report took Kosovo’s reputation in the world to a new low. It also marked a new chapter in the government’s tone-deaf efforts to shore up the state’s image.
Beautiful marriage of inconvenience
A few hours from Prishtina, Kosovo 2.0 experiences what it’s like to be decorated by the last bearer of a tradition passed on generation after generation: the rite of beautifying brides on their wedding day.
Kosovo can be confusing, intimidating and occasionally hazardous. If you give in, however, you might just find yourself in the inner sanctums, where the heart and soul thrive in the form of its people.
and more 46 The Pimpsons: The descent into dissent
Fisnik Ismaili once captured the spirit of optimism and pride of an independent Kosovo. Now, the NEWBORN creator is using "Simpsons" characters to go after the state's foundations.
44 The ticket to isolation
Kosovars share their horror stories that come with needing a visa to travel to almost anywhere.
49 Justice fails, a woman dies
Diana Kastrati, 27, was gunned down in Prishtina in a senseless crime that could have been prevented.
Simmering discontent A foreign correspondent visits Kosovo for the first time and finds a country that moved past war and apartheid. But when it comes to forging an identity and future as a European democracy, the nation is still struggling.
61 Your next holiday
Book that suite in the socialist chic of the Grand Hotel Prishtina and hop on several planes for your next holiday. This landlocked gem is bound to blow your mind.
62 Public diplomacy on the wings of a Cessna
Pilot James Berisha is taking his small propeller plane around the world with a simple message to the countries he visits: Please recognize Kosovo.
65 Top 10 of frustration
We list off the biggest complications Kosovars face in their daily lives.
69 The blogging retrospective
Sex, macchiato and the KLA: No, it’s not coming to your local cinema. Those were just a few of the provocative topics our bloggers tackled in Kosovo 2.0’s first year online.
78 What men?
From men that served as safe-guarders of tradition, nation and family to those who fail to live up to cultural and social expectations, the torchbearers of masculinity are a complicated bunch.
92 The K 2.0 Interview: From Montreal with love
We catch up with indie pop spouses Alexei Perry and Dan Boeckner as their Handsome Furs electrifies Prishtina. The city returns the favor.
94 Reeling in the years
Yeah, we got that, but we can’t give it to you Kosovo has plenty of homegrown products, be it pinot noir or that curiously-tasting energy drink. They populate the country’s supermarket shelves in competition with European counterparts. But the decks are stacked against local producers when it comes to exporting their goods. #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
Prizren’s DokuFest marks 10 years of bringing captivating films to Kosovo’s charm capital.
96 Our guide for good times
Everything you need to know about upcoming events, festivals and other happenings.
ONLY THE BEST RIDES FOR THE DISCERNING GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL
text By Kreshnik Berisha / Photography by Atdhe Mulla
Audi Q7 The Prishtina mayor’s Audi is worth 70,000 euro. That’s the same amount the city allocated for repairing widespread flood damage from a May downpour.
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Audi A8 It takes the combined average monthly salaries of 200 Kosovars to buy the president’s Audi A8. Kosovo’s percapita GDP of less than 2,000 euro would need to work more than double time meet the region’s average.
Toyota land cruiser The Assembly chairman has a 4X4 Toyota that can conquer most terrains. Thirty percent of his compatriots find it hard to traverse the poverty line and 13 percent live in extreme poverty.
MERCEDES GLK-CLASS The dean of Kosovo’s main public university rides in style in a Mercedes-Benz SUV. Kosovo’s workforce has a bumpier ride with a 45 percent unemployment rate that puts it in the running for the highest in the world.
BMW 5 SERIES The top Kosovo education official parks his BMW in front of his ministry. Only 42 percent of high school students manage to pull out their exit exam with a passing mark.
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Story by Conor Creighton
It's a hardscrabble place that's in some places shrouded in darkness, but an underlying spirit shines through in the faces you meet on the streets.
— The first international I ever met in Prishtina asked me within a couple of beats of an opening introduction if I’d ever been in an uglier capital. Had I? I didn’t answer. I’d never been there outside of winter and up until that point, 75 percent of my memories of the town had been constructed from the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. In daylight, I’d lose my way, but soon as night fell I’d find myself in the same shadowy lanes and instantly remember where I was. At night, and especially at dusk, when you caught the cityscape from high up on Dragodan hill, Prishtina looked awesome. With snow all around, the building lights looked like the eyeballs of stone giants who had just woken up and weren’t happy to see some goofy tourist taking their picture. They might have crunched me in two if it weren’t for the 1 million and one loaded cameras parked on the U.S. Embassy walls behind.
It’s got a hint of Gotham about it. There’s the darkness and the angles, and if you read the papers there’s enough crime to keep two superheroes fighting. It’s not the easiest capital to live in. If sushi, H&M and an integrated urban transport system are what you mean by easy, then Prishtina and the whole of Kosovo in general are quite hard. But didn’t our mamas teach us that anything that comes easy goes easy, too? Kosovo’s hard, but that’s what makes it durable. That’s what makes you leave and come back again. Thanks to Facebook, friendship has taken a depreciation in the last few years that only the Zimbabwean Dollar could match. I’ve got 800 people who’ll like my kitten post, but maybe only one or two I can really count on Prishtina calls itself a city but functions as a village, and in villages people are friendlier. That is unless you’re a witch or some sort of cult leader, and then they administer village justice and you
end up floating in a river. Prishtina has no river. But friendship in that town still carries a decent weight. If you drink in a bar twice, you’re a regular. If you smile at a stranger, they’ll smile back. And if you’re spotted alone with a girl, the rumor mill will whirl into action. Hospitality is huge. Huger still when you consider that visa restrictions and the slow speed of politics mean you won’t be returning the favors for many, many years. The kind people offering you dinner, beds and their free time to take you by the hand and lead you through the streets aren’t expecting anything in return. If you see a box of cigarettes on the table, you can take one. That’s why they’re on the table. It’s not showing off, it’s sharing. One Sunday, we took off into the woods around Prishtina. There was a small covering of snow and it was cold enough that we were walking
fast, not strolling. We followed a trail marked by dashes of paint on stones. Some were pink; some were green. We forgot which ones we were following but assumed that eventually our route would bring us full circle and back to our bus stop. But it wasn’t simple. Or actually maybe it was simple, but by then we’d let our imaginations off the lead and they’d run wild. We were freaking out. It wasn’t even dark yet, but Christ, we were already spooked by our shadows. The tree shapes were transforming into monsters and anything that looked manmade we were convinced was a bomb or some unexploded device. There were mines in Kosovo still. There were mines exactly here. We were with a local. She’d told us, and she was spooked too. The route should have been turning but instead we were still climbing up the hillside and into darker woods. We got to the point where we were half way to the top, we guessed. And then charged by
— You probably should leave that heavy weight of fear in the arrivals lounge, and yes, you should probably eat whatever is put in front of you. #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
the thought that maybe we were being followed, we decided to keep going on rather than turn back. Man it was cold and it was frigging Kosovo, and this whole trip was taking a nasty turn. Eventually, we saw the light of a guesthouse and felt our way onto a tarmac road. We jogged a little, right past an abandoned hotel with mine warnings wrapped round the broken walls like Christmas decorations. We sipped hot chocolates and left a box of cigarettes on the table. We smoked them all until another local friend arrived and said, “Come on guys, you weren’t really afraid?” And then we laughed and did actually come on, and weren’t afraid anymore. Kosovo can be dangerous, but what’s more dangerous are your preconceptions. I guess it’s normal to pack a little fear on board when you travel to a place most people remember as a battle rather than a country. But that fear
will send you running through the hills like a loon if you don’t manage to keep it in check. And if you’re afraid of the woods, you’ll probably be afraid of the grill-houses, the dark alleys and the smoky rooms. And if that’s the case, you’ll know just 20 percent. If you’re not afraid and you eat the eyeballs, brave the backroom bars and just stop panicking about the lack of fresh air and take up smoking. You’ll get to see as much as 60 percent of the place, and not many people see more than that. The beauty in Kosovo is a lot like small talk. It’s pleasant, but it’s just a subterfuge for two people who don’t want to get to the point. The Prizren castle has more barbed wire around it than a prison. And if you want to visit the Rugova Valley, you’ve got to pass through Peja, a town that was almost burned to the ground in the 1999 war. They’re like creases on an otherwise smooth sheet, but in Kosovo the creases inform the
shape. The creases are the shape. You can’t possibly understand how the same friends can meet up in the same bar four nights in a row or are content to do nothing so long as it’s in company or why everyone smokes so much — that is until you understand what was once taken away from Kosovars and what is still taken away from them today. Kosovar culture slips past the border rarely. It’s trapped inside the country. That’s a shame because a nation that can’t explain itself to the world through its culture, isn’t a nation, it’s just an economy. In a way, that’s why hospitality and conversation are so common in Kosovo. Visitors get lectured. Locals load you up with anecdotes, songs and idiosyncrasies if you let them. If you want to survive Kosovo, you probably should let them. You probably should leave that heavy weight of fear in the arrivals lounge, and yes, you should probably eat whatever is put in front of you and not keep your
cigarettes in your pockets. And if someone asks you to go for a walk in the hills, do that, too. — K
— Prishtina calls itself a city but functions as a village, and in villages people are friendlier.
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INNER ARTIST TUGS AT YOUNG STREET VENDOR Story by Rina Meta / Photography by Atdhe Mulla
GEZIM KELMENDI SELLS CIGARETTES FOR A LIVING, BUT LONGS FOR HIS PICTURE-TAKING DAYS AS HE DREAMS TO BE AN ACTOR ON THE SILVER SCREEN.
— “Tell them that I’m an artist,” Gezim says as curious guys his age approach us. Gezim is an artist. He is 21 years old, but not everything in his bag full of adventures is easily understood. Ready to sacrifice his earliest childhood memories, Gezim only speaks of dreams when he was 8 years old and onward. It’s around that time when his family left their small village of Bllaca, which had only a modest school and an old mosque, to settle in Prizren, Gezim’s big city of dreams. Gezim’s family can only be found in the collective memory of the hundreds of families that fled the villages for cities. In Kosovo, the official migration lists are still unreliable arithmetical shadows born from the questionable civic registration of April 2011, roughly 20 years after Gezim’s family moved. As the influx of people from villages continues, past years have transformed small Kosovo cities into images spawned from the naïve imagination of the hopeless, who see the hidden chance for success in the city. With cold schools lacking an English language teacher and without a market for the wheat rotting in the granary, villages in Kosovo are not a source of hope for a better life. Instead, they are chilling shadows of beautiful panoramas and picturesque sceneries. This village reality became a great ally of the hysteri-
cal dimension of post-war migration, big asphalt hopes and villages without villagers. The seven Kelmendi family members, Gezim’s mother, father, two sisters and three brothers, had left Bllaca for a vacant, unclaimed house in Prizren. Today, they live in another unclaimed house. It’s within a vast complex of buildings in Prizren, where hundreds of families find shelter without authorization or permit of stay. Meanwhile, their new home is warmer, doesn’t leak during winter and has windows with actual glass. Far from this complex of broken dreams, Gezim spends the better part of his time in the city center, in its surrounding neighborhoods, and in the streets that nurture and preserve memories from Gezim’s first love. While roaming the streets, he embarked on a curious quest to unveil the stories behind the old city windows and dropped out of school in seventh grade. Gezim has shrunk his list of excuses to how the school simply lacked proper conditions and that his family was powerless to help. What has remained constant in his story is an endless love for the city and its streets. This love, among many other loves and passions of our friend, captures dreadful features against the stark reality. Forgotten in school, but ever-present in a city that enjoys the reputation of a museum, Gezim earned his first money selling instant Polaroid pictures with his first camera. It was 2002 and the pay was relatively little. Meanwhile, an enthusiasm for composition and better pictures grew inside of him. As summer brought the holiday season, so came the Kosovar immigrants from Germany and elsewhere to spend their hard earned money. Gezim calls them “shatzi,” and a golden time it was. He’d earn more than a university professor’s 200 euro monthly salary and contribute to his family’s well-being, while also befriending anyone who’d visit his city. His beautiful fairy tale lasted five years. “I left photography. Or, better put, she left me. … The factory does not produce any more,” Gezim says with disappointment. Gezim can’t recall other international news of the time, but this particular news brought an end to a beautiful chapter of photography and his love affair. During February 2008, due to a consistent 25 percent decline in Polaroid film sales for eight con-
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THE MEATLESS RABBLE-ROUSER Interview by Ardit Bejko and Sarah Wischmann / Photography by Atdhe Mulla
We met Nurhan Qehaja at a small cafe, Tingle Tangle, in downtown Prishtina. It’s eclectically decorated by artists, who drew directly on its walls. Here, she recently opened the first vegetarianonly kitchen in Kosovo. Qehaja is a contemporary artist who lived in New Zealand until she moved back to Kosovo a few years ago. She experiments with performance, video art — and now with falafel and other vegetarian ingredients.
Kosovo 2.0: So you don’t like meat, huh? Qehaja: (laughing) I love the beginning! K2.0: Since when are you a vegetarian? Qehaja: Since four years ago. K2.0: So you came back to Kosovo and all of a sudden decided you want to become vegetarian? Qehaja: No, I decided in New Zealand, right before coming back. And then, I struggled with food quite a lot. At home everyone was helpful in a way. Everyone tried their best, but they were kind of worried. They would look at me like a poor child. “Oh, What are you gonna eat? How are you gonna be full with that salad?” (laughing) You start to feel so bad, you know? K2.0: But overall your family is OK with that? Qehaja: Yes, except for my father, who tried to make me eat soup with meat in it. He was like: “Don’t worry there is no meat in it.” And then, my stepmother was like (whispering):
“No, there is. “I had to kind of pretend that I ate it.” It came from his worry that I wasn’t eating good food. K2.0: You came back to Kosovo. How difficult was it to eat outside of your home? Qehaja: Very difficult, because there was basically no place that sold vegetarian food. Only a couple of years ago, they started selling vegetarian stuff here. In restaurants, you had a vegetarian option of whatever it was that you were eating. K2.0: Is your place the first vegetarian place in Kosovo? Qehaja: Yes, it is - as in only-vegetarian menu. There are other places that offer vegetarian dishes but this is the first only-vegetarian. That I know of. K2.0: Why is meat so important in Kosovo cuisine? Qehaja: I think it is because it is supposed to be rich. You are supposed to be fed with meat. It fills you up and everything. When I was in New Zealand, we were at this party where there were all Albanians and I said, “I don’t eat meat.” One girl asked me why, and I said because I am vegetarian. She said “you can’t be Albanian and vegetarian at the same time!” That was brilliant. K2.0: Why did you decide to become vegetarian? Qehaja: It was very intuitive for me, I suppose. I cannot give you one reason because there were many. It started a bit more spiritual. And then it became about food, about health. I just stopped, and I saw how creative one can be with vegetarian food. K2.0: Do you still have enough time for your art? Qehaja: I have more time than I had when I used to work in an office and sit on my butt in front of a computer. This lets me be creative. It is not a routine. I do what I want to do, and my brain is not locked. I actually started being more productive in my art. K2.0: It inspires you? Qehaja: Yes. When I make food, I am concentrated on the
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BACK HOME, HIS STRINGs INSPIRE AND NURTURE Story by Agon Maliqi / Photography by Atdhe Mulla
Violinist Visar Kuci had just played a church hall in Germany when a priest approached him. “How can one be from Kosovo and play Bach so well?” the priest asked.
— Kuci was a music student at the University of Münster back then. He’d grown accustomed to surprising people. Being a Kosovar who did remarkable things with a violin in his hands, Kuci was something of a rarity in Germany. He challenged the stereotype of Kosovo Albanians in Germany. He wasn’t an unskilled migrant worker or a criminal. In fact, Kosovo wasn’t just Kuci’s birthplace. It’s also where Visar Kuci the musician was born. Instruments filled his family’s Prishtina home. His father, a philology professor, played for fun. A curious 9-year-old son wanted to play, too. “I was always intrigued by the opportunity that it offers to express endless emotions that one cannot express with words,” says Kuci. He wanted to play the piano, but his family couldn’t afford one. It was the early 1990s, and times were tough. The violin was the cheaper option. Now, 18 years later, Kuci has something much more than technical mastery of his instrument. He brings something special that didn’t come from all those private lessons in his youth
or his studies at the prestigious music school in Germany. He channels his soul through his violin. Fixed to the chinrest with his eyes seemingly shut, Kuci animates his wooden instrument into something of flesh and blood. “It’s clear that he knows musical styles in detail, all the way from classical music to jazz, including rock and folklore,” says Genc Salihu, a stalwart of Prishtina’s alternative music scene who frequently collaborates with Kuci. “But what I think is most beautiful about him is that he feels the inner life of music; he is familiar with its deepest pulses, and this is something that gives him a sense of calm and naturalism when performing.” As a music student, Kuci preferred to practice in the quietude he could only find late at night. He once wandered the streets of Münster in search of the perfect place to rehearse for his graduation exam. He found it in a tunnel on a side street. The acoustics were just right; his violin sounded perfect. For several days in a row, Kuci returned to the tunnel at 2 a.m. and transformed it into a concert hall. “Why not go out and perform during the day, somewhere next to the city center?” asked a passer-by, mistaking Kuci for a busking musician. Many compromises for the working violinist “I only have time for a 10-minute coffee,” Kuci says as he joins friends in a Prishtina café next to the Kosovo Philharmonic, where he holds one of several day jobs to make ends meet. Kuci works, a lot. He’s a professor at the University of Prishtina. And then there are the dozens of projects with local musicians, with whom he’ll play just about any stringed instrument. He also regularly does live gigs with several jazz and rock bands, and plays bass for the house band for the popular TV show “Oxygen.” Making a living as a musician, or any kind of artist, is hard anywhere. For the few who make up Kosovo’s modest but vibrant cultural elite, the task is extraordinarily difficult. Musicians like Kuci receive little or no institutional support for any creative work they do. “In most cases it’s not that those in power are plain evil; it’s just that they have no idea what is culturally valuable or worth supporting,” Kuci says.
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Cagllavica’s combustible liquid story by Milot Hasimja / Photography by Kushtrim Ternava
When you taste it, your mouth begins to feel different. When it starts to descend down your throat, a wave of heat takes over your body, from ears to toes. Many consider it a liquid Viagra, only completely natural. but if you drink too much of it, you’ll enter a third dimension. Its name is Rakia.
— Jovan Tomic takes his rakia very seriously. “You’re taking me years back in time,” says Tomic, 60, from the village of Cagllavica. “It was my father first, who once used to make rakia. At the time, I was a kid and would only watch. But now, it has been 40 years that I make rakia.” His words are always accompanied by a small glass of rakia. It is his drink, made from his own fruit and boiled by him. “If we do a calculation, then it appears that for 40 years I have produced around 6 tons of rakia, or approximately 150 liters each year,” he says smiling. Rakia is produced from different fruit, be it pears, apples, quince, cornel or grape, but Tomic uses plums as the fruit for his rakia. “Plum rakia is our tradition,” he says, while gazing at his own field. “Since 1985, I have planted an American variety,
which is a very large plum. I have planted around 40 hectares.” The quality of the year’s produce is important for a good and tasty rakia. “If there is too much sun, the orchards will have too much sugar. This gives a high percentage of alcohol. Preparations for the cultivation of the plum start in January. In that cold winter month, we put fertilizer around the orchard, while at the end of February the grafting starts by removing superfluous branches. Winter ends, spring comes, and the hot summer months are around the corner. Plums ripen, and are ready to be harvested. “Green plums must never be collected. They should be separated and selected. I use only the best for rakia,” this rakia fanatic tells us. The plums are collected and placed in barrels, where several liters of water are added, to stay like that for a few weeks. During this period of rest, the plums undergo a special process by bees and insects, which crush the fruit. “After 25 days, the rakia is ready to be boiled,” he says. “I have a cauldron of 100-liters-capacity, where I put the fruit. Water, which cools the alcohol, is placed on the other side. When the fruit is put in the cauldron, they start to boil and rakia comes out.” From 100 liters of fruit, Tomic can produce around 18 to 20 liters of rakia, depending on the sugar in the fruit. “Initially, the alcohol is 35 degrees Celsius,” he says. “Afterwards, I put that same batch of rakia back to the cauldron, where it gets distilled, and at 50 to 55 degrees Celsius, rakia is obtained, depending on how strong you want it.” It is useless to explain you the process to such extent, and not have you experience the atmosphere, during the days when rakia is boiled. “It is an atmosphere of labor and joy. Usually, the host brings the oldest rakia he has. Friends come to visit, and Albanian friends from Prishtina join as well,” Tomic says. When all that work ends up in a glass bottle, a large part of the rakia is kept for the family’s personal consume, while a small part is sold. The price for a liter can start from 10 euro, depending on
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Jovan Tomic looks back onÂ 40 years of distilling rakia. The Balkan spirit of choice is made from fruit, including pear, apple, quince, cornel and grape. A barrel fits more than 150 liters; a shot costs as little as 50 cents at just about any bar in Kosovo.
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Gillespie rocks out with its inner child interview by nate tabak / photography Atdhe Mulla
Gillespie is having fun. The Prishtina indie rock stalwart has seen its share of ups and downs since forming in 2005. The quartet emerged from underground, quite literally, to unleash lush melodies and lyrical innocence that conspired to make a sound unlike anything else around.
— After a two-year hiatus and the sudden departure of the lead singer, Gillespie is back with a sophomore effort that shows a band that has matured while unabashedly tapping into a childlike sensibility. Kosovo 2.0 sat down with guitarist Guri Shkodra, lead singer Hana Zeqa and drummer Sedad “Sexha” Ajeti just as the band was putting the finishing touches on “Count on an Abacus.” K2.0: First of all, for the outside world that doesn’t really know the music, who and what is Gillespie? Shkodra: It was started by people who liked having coffee; a bit bored of the routine, daily patterns of lives. Then we just decided to go close ourselves in a basement for a year, so we closed our selves in the basement for a year, and we did some material and stuff and then accidentally we got into a scene because a lot of our friends were curious to know what was going on in that basement.
K2.0: When you first started, how would you describe the music you were making? Shkodra: We were just jamming a lot in the basement. I think we were just jamming a lot and then we had basic lines. We were having fun, so the feeling was just fun, you know, we were just having fun and that was it. K2.0: But eventually an album came out. Shkodra: Yes, that was also accidental because we had many songs and then a friend of ours came and he just opened the studio back then and he asked us if we can go make a single first. It was “Luledielli,” and then we decided or he decided to invite us for an album. It was like a demo album - a gig - in four hours I think, it was the complete time. K2.0: And you had pretty decent success with that first album? Shkodra: Actually it was strange because it was 2005 and Kosovo still didn’t really have live, original bands. We had quite some success in the regional scene and our biggest success was when some MTV producers got to know about the album and the band, and they traveled all around the region and they decided us to be the band that would perform before the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Serbia. But due to some technical issues - security issues mostly - we could not. K2.0: You mean that your safety couldn’t be guaranteed at that time? Shkodra: It was safety and also because our songs are in Albanian, and we never had the tendency to do English lyrics. And we were told we cannot travel to Serbia with our Kosovo passports, so we were all stuck. K2.0: How did you feel to be presented in such a big opportunity and not be able to take part in it? Ajeti: We were disappointed. A lot of disappointment, really, it wasn’t fair. K2.0: And so after that, what was it like to be in the band, did it affect you kind of collectively?
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Beyond Fashion Design interview by lejla sadiku / photography by atdhe mulla
Kosovo-born, internationally educated designers are setting up shops in Prishtina. Their approach is personalized; their styles refreshing. we chatted with Krenare Rugova, Njomeza Luci and Venera Mustafa three fierce women who are ready to take on challenges, even when that challenge is the Prishtina buyer.
— The fashion world is becoming increasingly faceless – the public unaware of the hundreds of designers behind large brands, artistic directors, catwalks and the connection between process and product slowly dwindling and disappearing. In Prishtina, however, a different fashion culture is developing with a human face. Against the growing number of mainstream brands, kitsch stores selling Turkish and Chinese clothes and glitzy entertainment designers, a different wave of urban, understated, effortlessly stylish fashion that breathes individuality is spreading in Prishtina. Clean cuts, natural fabrics designs that let women move, or corsets that accentuate the female shape and hats to fit ones eccentric taste, define the work of young Kosovar designers. But they’re doing much more than setting trends and making fashion part of everyday life. They could be working in Paris, London, New York, Stockholm or Berlin. Yet they chose Prishtina, all for different reasons, be it family or opportunity. Above all, they love Prishtina for all its warts.
Despite having different styles, Krenare Rugova, Njomeza Luci and Venera Mustafa have a lot in common: They are young, creative and passionate about their work. Prishtina’s fresh breeze of fashion designers craves to bring some harmony while mixing elements of the city with techniques of high fashion. So I chatted about architecture, harmony and unicorns, trying to comprehend what drives them, where they want to go and where they find the inspiration to get there. Rugova returned to Kosovo in 2003, after completing her university degree at the Parson’s School of Design in New York and Paris, and opened her atelier boutique shortly after. She has her own factory in Vushtrri, Kosovo, where each product is labeled with “Krenare Rugova: Made in Kosovo.” Mustafa pursued her ambition for fashion design after completing her degree in sculpture in Prishtina in 2004. The following year, she enrolled at Ecole Supérieure des Arts et techniques de la Mode in Paris. By 2008, she had completed her degree and specialized in men's wear. By June 2011, she has a ready-to-wear label and a concept store in Prishtina. Luci completed her degree in graphics in Prishtina, to continue experimenting with various forms of theatre, costume making, ceramics and photography, only to realize that she wants to delve more thoroughly into fashion design, something she has been doing for 10 years now. Setting up your business as a fashion designer has both challenges and rewards. Apart from requiring considerate investment, the market is small, fabrics are hard to find and buyers can be difficult. Rugova, the first designer of the kind to open her own atelier in Prishtina, says her main challenge was educating buyers on the difference between a tailor and a designer. “Buyers would come in with a magazine and ask me to make that particular dress,” she says. But it also has its rewards. Through their work, they are bringing Kosovar girls and boys, men and women, closer to urban trends found elsewhere in the world. “It is one area where we don’t have to lag behind … it is possible for everyone to look cool,” says Rugova as she fits the bustier on a girl who’ll be wearing a Kosovo-borne design at her graduation.
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“I like architecture, so my inspiration comes from architecture: sketches, descriptions and lines.”
“I have no philosophy. I never think of fashion; it just clicks. I believe that before there is thinking, there is imagination.”
“The persistence of finding oneself should be a never-ending adventure; there’s nothing better then to surprise yourself.”
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Land of disillusion
story by richard warnica illustrations by driton selmani
Kosovo has moved past the horrors, but it's still a nation struggling to find a new identity and move forward.
#1 IMAGE Summer 2011
Land of disillusion
Sometimes I think people think, they survived the war, so they don’t have to care about anything. — Those were almost the first words I heard about Kosovo, at least from someone who’d actually been there. It was on a short flight from Frankfurt to Prishtina in March. I was in the window seat. In the aisle next to me was a German soldier, big and blond, coming in for a four-day stint. I had read about Kosovo for years. I was flying there to write about it, but I still knew little about the country itself, about the actual day-to-day lives of Kosovars. The German had first been to Kosovo in 1999. He was there to look for mass graves. In the decade since, he’d been back for mission after mission, running convoys, guarding bases and searching for unexploded bombs. “In 1999, I thought they were 99 percent criminals,” the German said. Since then, his opinion grown worse. Houses in Kosovo were perpetually unfinished, he told me, the better to avoid paying taxes on. After the war, he said, farm girls were sent to tend flocks in minefields; losing a daughter, he believes, was not considered a big loss. “It’s a nice place,” the German said, leaning into his chair, thinking about it, “except for all the crazy people.”
This is a story about Kosovo’s image, or it’s supposed to be anyway. Kosovars can be very sensitive about how the world sees them, probably because of guys like the German. But here’s the thing: Outside the small world of expats and soldiers who work there, I don’t think Kosovo has much of an image. It’s not that people think badly of the place — they just don’t think of it at all. It wasn’t always like that. Twelve years ago, Kosovo seemed like the most important place in the world. After the genocide in Rwanda and the slaughters in other parts of the Balkans, Kosovo seemed like a do-over, a chance to re-live the rhetoric of never again, to actually act on an atrocity before it was over. For a period in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Kosovo held the world’s attention. After the NATO bombing campaign in 1999, Serbian forces largely abandoned the province. International troops moved in and secured the borders. Bodies were found in wells and horror stories were told, but hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians driven out by Serb forces were allowed to come home. In the aftermath of the war, journalists and academics flowed into the territory — sometimes ahead of and sometimes on the heels of thousands of diplomats and aid workers. During that time, scores of academic papers, magazine articles and books were penned on Kosovo. Michael Ignatieff wrote one of the most famous. U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark wrote another. For a certain set, Kosovo was the state-ling of the moment: The prettiest girl at the international ball. And then the towers fell and everything changed. AFTER SEPT. 11, 2001, the people who thought about things like intervention and nation-building and human rights moved on to bigger crises: Afghanistan. Iraq. Anywhere with someone who might blow us up. For the 10 years before 9/11, atrocity had meant Rwanda and Srebrenica. After, it became Guantanamo and Bagram. So the journalists moved east. And the academics followed. And stories about Kosovo stopped being told. Today, for many in the West, Kosovo exists, if
it exists at all, as a half-remembered lesson, an example of intervention gone right, the anti-Iraq. The truth is more complicated, stranger and more subtle. But in a media landscape shaped by economic crises and the War on Terror, it’s hard for anything complex to break through. When stories about Kosovo do make the Western news, they’re usually grim. The Council of Europe Report, with its macabre allegations of organ theft and war crimes, earned some headlines. So did Arif Uka, the Kosovo-born German who shot two American soldiers in Frankfurt. But those stories appear in small blips. They pop up, prick memories and disappear. Even among those who studied Kosovo, who watched out for the milestones after the war — intervention, independence, recognition — the country exists today less as a place in real time than as a collection of stories from the past. I was in university in 1999. I studied the intervention and the aftermath. As a young man, I read thick stacks of watchdog reports and victims’ tales. But that’s as far as it went for me. Kosovo became a byword for horror. Like Dachau or Mai Lai, it was less a real place than a shorthand for tragedy. THIS YEAR, I decided to find more, to explore life in Kosovo today. I flew in on a cold night in March. I left Vancouver early on a Sunday and arrived in Prishtina late Monday night. The whole trip took more than 30 hours and left me bleary and disheveled and vulnerable in a kind of weird, exhausted way. Having your mind pre-set to confused is never the best way to enjoy a new country. It probably helps explain why my early impressions of Kosovo were so especially strange. Before leaving home, I booked a room at the Guest House Velania in Prishtina, an establishment not so much highly recommended as exclusively suitable to my needs — in a city used to the expense accounts of aid workers and diplomats, cheap hotels are nonexistent. The guest house was the only place I could afford. The taxi from the airport dropped me off near the top of a large hill in the Velania neighborhood, about a 20-minute walk from the city center. In-
side the guest house, down a dim hallway, was the owner, a man known exclusively, as far as I could tell, as the Professor. When I met him, the Professor was seated on a sort of backless couch in front of a desk near a sink, and a television showing the Albanian “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” The Professor’s hair was white and thinning and his body was stout, like a rounded cylinder. His face was pinched and wrinkled and he wore an old sweater over a shirt and tie. I was tired and hungry. I wanted a bed and maybe some food. But The Professor, I learned, was a talker, and he was determined to talk. As I stood in the doorway, the Professor started a long, one-sided debate over how much to charge me. He seemed convinced we had agreed upon a rate. He leafed through a stack of printed out emails, searching for mine. He couldn’t find it. From somewhere he spotted a figure: 16 euro per night. “That would be fine,” I told him. He moved on. “We will give him 41B,” he said to a younger man across the table “Forty-one B is very quiet,” the Professor went on, turning to me. “Big bed.” “That’s great,” I said. “What about 33B?” he countered. “Big bed is for couples. They can stretch.” “OK.” “Thirty-three B has two beds,” he continued holding up two fingers. “If two people come, we move.” He then argued with himself about who would take me upstairs. My run-ins with the Professor were the kinds of events that always feel more significant in the moment than they actually are. The two of us had no common language and no shared norms. Neither of us knew what to expect from the other. We were bound to confuse. When I would see the Professor, I would generally want something, but because of his poor English and my lack of Albanian, I could never quite tell him what that something was. It was one long of fish-out-of -water moment, the kind that -3-
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litters travel writing but is never really indicative of a larger theme. I had another such moment when I crossed my first major street in Prishtina. My first full night in the city, I stood at a crosswalk for an uncomfortable period, waiting for the cars to slow down. I considered how long I could be there before people would notice. I thought about working my way around or just going back to the guest house. I even tried to look like I was waiting for someone or otherwise occupied in something other than staring at a street. I did this by putting my hands in my pockets and pacing. Once, I fiddled with a pen. The point of this story, I guess, is that you cross the road differently in Kosovo. Back home you wait till the cars slow down, make eye contact and go. There you just go. Does this difference say anything about either culture? Probably not. But it’s the kind of thing that can make you feel aggravated and confused. It can make you think: God dammit, why can’t these bastards drive? Even if it’s abundantly clear they can drive, just not the way you’d like them to. I tried to keep all that in mind — that disruptive sense that outsiders feel — as I went around Prishtina pumping my fellow foreigners for their views of the country. Because, to be honest, most of what they told me wasn’t great. A lot of times, it was new versions of the same story, the one the German started on the plane. IN A PUB ONCE, an economic development officer from Ireland told me that Kosovo was “hopeless.” He had worked in developing economies in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War and never, he said, had he seen a situation as bad as it was here. Another time, an American professor I met described the education system as almost comically corrupt and petty. Research assistants at his university, he said, were usually just the prettiest female students. He was counting the days until he could leave Kosovo for a better job. An Israeli café manager, meanwhile, a man who had served in the occupied territories of the Middle East, called Kosovo, beyond a doubt, the strangest place he’d ever been.
Still, it wasn’t all bad. Many expats I met loved Kosovo and Kosovars, even if few were optimistic about the country’s future. And as rough as some of the stories foreigners told me about Kosovo were — tales corruption and trafficking, human and organ alike — they were rarely as bad as the ones Kosovars told me themselves. I once asked an entire class of students at the American University in Kosovo about their country’s image. Kosovo gets a bad rap, they told me, before bashing it for 45 minutes. In more than three weeks of interviews in Prishtina, the nicest thing any local would say to me about the prime minister, Hashim Thaci, was that he probably didn’t sell kidneys. Among those I interviewed with special knowledge, those tied into political life, like journalists, activists and researchers, things were, if anything, worse. I MET DRENUSHE XHEMAJLI outside the Grand Hotel my first week in town. A recent university graduate, she wore a red cardigan over a purple sweater and pink t-shirt. She had straight brown hair, brown eyes and wore a long silver chain with a locket in the shape of a heart and key. An organizer for the insurgent nationalist Vetevendosje party, Xhemajli had an interest in spinning things a particular way. But even then, I was surprised by her dark views on political life. Kosovar elites exist to enrich themselves, she told me. Elections are a sham of ballot-stuffing and vote buying, anything to prevent real change. As for Thaci, “He is corrupt,” she said. “You don’t even have to think about it.” Xhemajli isn’t alone in her views, either. Surveys conducted by Transparency International, a European watchdog, have found Kosovars consistently rank their country the most corrupt in the area. In a poll released in December 2010, more than 70 per cent said corruption had become worse since 2007. As for the economy, well, if politics are bad, it’s worse, said Lavdim Hamidi, a business reporter with the daily newspaper Zeri. A tall man in dark jeans and a sport jacket, Hamidi had a look of resigned desperation when I asked him about Kosovo’s finances. Big business is virtually nonexist-
ent, he said, and the government run utilities are hopelessly corrupt. Last year, Hamidi co-wrote an investigative series on management practices at the nationally owned Post and Telecom of Kosovo. The series unveiled serious allegations about director-general Shyqri Haxha’s leadership. But when the stories came out, rather than promise change, the government threatened to have Hamidi and his co-author prosecuted. I asked Hamidi if he had been afraid. He just laughed. “No, not at all,” he said. It’s a bit of a paradox. Kosovo is a free country. Journalists are mostly unafraid to speak out. But at the same time, no one trusts the government, not even to follow through on its threats. It’s as if they’re not even competent to run a reasonable crackdown. No one offered me a bleaker view of Kosovo’s future than a former government adviser I met in Prishtina. Five years ago, he told me, he had real hope for Kosovo. Today, that’s almost gone. A former consultant with the UN Development Program and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, he now works as the head of a research NGO in Prishtina. Kosovo, the man told me, has no real export economy, no agricultural policy and a stunted private sector. Most Kosovar businesses are small and family owned. The country has little heavy industry and unemployment is endemic — more than 40 percent in most official surveys. The school system is underfunded and poorly managed. The universities don’t offer the courses a developing economy needs. Foreign direct investment went down last year, and three years after independence, the country still relies heavily on foreign aid and remittances from the Diaspora. The people of Kosovo tend to be very optimistic, the man told me. “They shouldn’t be.” DESPITE ALL THE practical problems, the one issue that still sucks up the most political space in Kosovo is the question of what to do about Serbia, the man said. He looked almost pained as he did, as if he couldn’t believe that in a country with no real economy and a comically flawed political class, so much attention could be paid to something else. Serbia still counts Kosovo as a prodigal prov-
ince. Seventy-five countries, including the United States and most of the European Union, disagree on that point. But without some kind of agreement with Serbia, it will be hard for Kosovo to ever to join the community of normal nations. However, solution would likely mean compromise. And compromise, I found, is a dirty word in Kosovo. It sounds like forgetting, like moving on. And how can you tell people to move on from what happened in Kosovo? Take Yllka Metaj. She was 10 years old when the police came in 1999. They knocked on her parents’ door one night, broke in and gave everyone three minutes to leave. They wore masks, Metaj told me. They beat her father and forced her family into exile. Metaj was one of about 850,000 ethnic Albanians forced out of Kosovo by Serbian troops in 1999. If anything, she was one of the lucky ones. Her family survived intact. Many were not so fortunate. Thousands were murdered. Scores were raped. Metaj is 23 now. She has a good government job. She comes off as posh and modern and reasonable in almost all things. But on the question of the Serb-dominated north, where the Prishtina government has virtually no authority, she hardens. Kosovo’s borders are inviolable, she tells me. There can be no “special status” there, no compromise with Serbia on that point. (She says this last, “special status,” not so much with venom as contempt.) Metaj, whose Facebook page is littered with photos from fancy parties, told me she’d fight to keep her country intact. She’d go to war for the borders on Kosovo’s flag. They are part of her blood, part of her heart. I got a similar answer from Visar Ymeri, a member of Kosovo’s parliament in the Vetevendosje party. The No. 1 issue for Kosovo is sovereignty, he told me. Until the world, and especially Serbia, recognizes Kosovo’s borders everything else can pretty much wait. Ymeri wore a suit with no tie when I met him. He’s tall and balding and has a scar on his brow. As we spoke, he swayed in is chair and gestured with almost oversized hands. I tried to push Ymeri on the development -5-
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question. What about the economy? I asked. The jobs? Without sovereignty, he replied, without knowing your borders, you can’t have economic development. ON MY LAST NIGHT in Prishtina, I walked past a young man on a 4X4 on a city street. He was tooling around, spinning back and forth in the middle of the road. He’d accelerate in one direction, break hard and spin around to face back the same way. He did it over and over. It was midnight on a Wednesday. If I left Kosovo with one image, it was that one: A country chugging hard in no direction at all, spinning around, back and forth, going nowhere fast. Kosovo is more than the sum of its horrible tales. But what it is beyond that, I’m not entirely sure. It’s still a half-country, a world stuck between two states, like ice beginning to melt. If you drill down, if you get them to open up, hell, if you just ask them questions, many Kosovars will share an image of their country just as dark as any nightmare conjured from the outside. They know, I think, that perception isn’t really the issue in Kosovo. Reality is. And if the rest of the world isn’t watching right now, well, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. — K
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image story by kreshnik berisha / photography by atdhe mulla
analysis: Another black eye for a country unsure about how to see itself
Flakron Abazi, 22 Economist
—“I don’t like how the government
has presented us as the Young Europeans. We are the oldest nation here. I would like to see my country as a member of the European Union but be identified as an Albanian in Europe. We have a lot to give to Europe.”
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Halime Neziri, 31 Translator
sees us in a positive light and that’s how it should be see us. We are Europeans; there’s no other way to see us.”
—Winter came early in Kosovo. Temperatures hovered around freezing Dec. 14 as the country tried to make sense of its first parliamentary elections since independence. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci had already taken his victory lap despite strong indications of serious electoral fraud. Then, at 4:17 p.m., a British journalist, Paul Lewis, dropped a proverbial bomb on the young democracy: A leaked draft of a Council of Europe report accusing Thaci of heading an organized crime syndicate that trafficked in guns, drugs, and the most salacious of all, human organs. The Guardian’s story circulated around the world within hours, becoming the biggest news about Kosovo since its break from Serbia in 2008. “I never thought we would get from ‘victim’ to ‘criminal’ in such a short time,” says Jeta Xharra, a prominent investigative journalist who hosts the TV news magazine “Life in Kosovo.” It didn’t matter that many of the allegations the Council of Europe report raised had appeared in media over the years and were widely known, and, to some extent, believed in Kosovo. Packaged together by Swiss politician Dick Marty, the allegations portrayed Thaci and top leaders in the Kosovo Liberation Army not only as freedom fighters but as criminals who conspired to execute a small number of mostly Serbian detainees and harvest their kidneys in secret facilities in Albania. “I took it personally, as I was a KLA soldier, as well. This sounded like the KLA’s war was being tainted,” says Fisnik Ismaili, creative director of the ad agency Ogilvy Kosovo and activist in the nationalist Self-Determination party. The allegations hit people in Kosovo quite hard. While many rejected the Council of Europe’s report, a sense of collective shame emerged as Kosovars felt that their 3-year-old country was reduced to macabre headlines about organ harvesting. In 1999, they drew the world’s sympathies as Slobodan Milosevic waged a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against Albanians. In 2008, the West cheered them on in their independence. In 2010, they were scorned. ‘Young Europeans’ find skeptical audience at home When times were tougher, to be of Kosovo was in some ways easier. Ilir Bajri, a pianist and composer who directs the Prishtina Jazz Festival, recalls that when he fled to Italy in 1999, he could wear pride on his sleeve. “When they saw me, a refugee and a jazz pianist, I became an attraction to them,” Bajri says. “My picture in La Republica was bigger than Ray Charles’.” Now, as a citizen of the Republic of Kosovo, he finds himself out of sync with the image his country chose to propagate in its first branding campaign. “I am getting older and older and less and less European,” he says. In 2009, the government awarded a 5.7 million euro contract to the global advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi to brand the country’s image. The result was the “Kosovo – The Young Europeans” campaign, with a one-minute commercial as its centerpiece. “It’s time to start over,” the Coldplay-sounding song goes as throngs of young people assemble puzzle pieces to form Kosovo
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and release cloud-shaped balloons, which float westward. The slick spot aired on CNN and other channels in an effort to emphasize the youthfulness of the population and its Western European orientation. Some in Kosovo, however, rolled their eyes at a commercial they saw as an attempt to obliterate the country’s past by imposing a new identity and questioned the wisdom of it being largely broadcast in countries that had already recognized Kosovo. “People nowadays are not so naïve to believe these kind of state-branding TV ads,” says Venera Hajrullahu, who heads the Kosovo Civil Society Foundation. “Who do we think we are fooling?” “The Young Europeans” campaign put a veneer over far more serious problems beyond that of a new country needing to introduce itself to the world. “Columbia of Europe,” “Mafia Society,” “Sex Trafficking Hotbed,” “State Capture,” “Black Hole of Europe,” “Smuggler’s Paradise,” might sound like films that would make for good late-night TV viewing, but they’re actually terms ascribed to Kosovo in various international reports. The Prishtina-based Kosovo Stability Initiative think tank, in a report issued not long after independence, suggested the government tackle the country’s image in a more substantial way. It noted various characterizations in the international media such as the portrayal of Kosovo as a crime-ridden state. Promoting facts including a crime rate comparable to Sweden’s; significant progress fighting human trafficking; as well as the comparatively few numbers of Kosovars being arrested in Europe could change how Kosovo is perceived abroad. But none of this has happened in a meaningful way. Deflecting dissent Highlighting some of the more positive aspects of a country might seem like a no-brainer. But in Kosovo there isn’t an appetite for robust debate. And that mentality of deflecting debate extends to Kosovo’s government, Hajrullahu says. “In discussions with policymakers, after arguing against a proposal or an idea, the person on the other side of the argument usually comes after the meeting and asks if I had something personal with them.” Indeed, even the Council of Europe report has seen a similar fate in Kosovo. It’s commonly called the “Dick Marty Report” and dismissed by top government leaders as Serbian propaganda because the Swiss politician had at one time opposed Kosovo’s independence. This, in turn, frames the allegations in terms of motive rather than their substance, or lack thereof. The report was “constructed to damage the image of Kosovo and the war of the Kosovo Liberation Army,” an official government statement read. It’s a common tactic for deflecting and stifling dissent against the Kosovo government, whose institutions are rife with dysfunction and corruption. Leading up to independence, the prevailing sentiment was to keep silent of any discontent that would avoid jeopardizing Kosovo’s awaited independence, which relied on international support. But three years later, with only 76 of 192 U.N. members
Muhamet Beja, 35 Construction worker
—“Europe sees us in a negative light, as
uninterested in governing our own country. This is not true. Our older generations in Western Europe have shown that we are hardworking and fair.”
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having recognized Kosovo and EU membership seeming closer to a pipe dream than a tangible reality, Kosovo has a long way to go before the rest of the world accepts it as a truly sovereign state. Meanwhile, some say it’s high time for Kosovo to start looking inward. “At the moment, we’re basically looking after the facade while the house is a mess. We should clean up the house first and this is not hard,” Bajri says sarcastically. “We just have to stop lying to ourselves. Just stop bragging about national identity, and all the myths and the legends about ‘our glorious past.’ Those can seem cute, motivating and stimulating, but sorry to bring you the bad news: This is the age of reason. Advanced societies are putting national identity in museums, because that is where it belongs. Now is the time for social identity.”— K
—“We have been sometimes seen
from a religious perspective. … I hope that being Muslim is not the reason why we are left out of the visa liberalization process and hampered in other aspects, too.”
Shpend Lala, 28 Information technology specialist
Saranda Krasniqi, 21 Lawyer
—“I think that we are, slowly but
surely, going forward and that we will improve our image in Europe. The media and culture have an important role to play, as well.”
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“... you were supposed to receive an answer within a month of an application; I waited for three.” Shpend – 26, Presheva, marketing manager
“We waited for 4 hours just to schedule an application appointment.” Blerta – 26, Prishtina, photographer
“I spent 20 hours during working hours waiting in line.” Arianit – 27, Gjakova, aviation lawyer
“My first experience with the Slovenian embassy was awful.” Gent – 16, Prishtina, high school Student
… kosovo 2.0
“The Belgian Embassy was worse.”
passports to nowhere Long lines, bureaucracy, rejection are just the beginning for Kosovars who want to travel abroad. Shpend – 26, Presheva, marketing manager.
Arianit – 27, Gjakova, aviation lawyer.
In 2008, I won a Basileus scholarship to study marketing at the University of Ljubjana. At the time, Serbian citizens still needed to apply for visas. Applying for a student visa entailed different procedures. You were supposed to receive an answer within a month of an application; I waited for three. The embassy in Belgrade never forwarded my documents to Slovenia. After I contacted the Ljubjana municipality and the international relations office at the University of Ljubjana to speed up the process, I was granted a visa three months later. At that point, I had already missed my first semester. —
I spent 20 hours during working hours waiting in line and collecting the necessary documents for a Swiss visa. I had to wait several hours in line just to get an appointment, which merely meant more waiting in line. —
Blerta – 26, Prishtina, photographer. At the beginning of the year, my sister and I were planning on visiting Switzerland. We got right into gathering the necessary documents to apply for a visa. On the last day of January, we went to the embassy and ended up waiting outside for hours just to schedule an application appointment. Feb. 15 was the date, so we returned with more than the required documents, just in case. Again, we waited for over an hour. When they finally accepted our documents, we were given a form to fax to our hosts in Switzerland. Our hosts had to fill it out, send it to the applicable canton, wait for a response, and send the official response back to us. We send the canton’s official response to the embassy a week later. It all went down according to plan. And then we had to repeat it all over, though this time the canton was supposed to directly respond to the embassy – our role was to check whether there was an answer, but no one at the embassy could tell us when exactly. The only contact we had at the embassy was the security guard. On March 8, we visited the embassy for the third time in search for an answer. My sister, who already had six previous Swiss travel visas, was denied on the basis that her bank documents could have been easily falsified. They didn’t return any of her documents, including the health insurance ones, which is a norm with embassies in general. As for me, I visited the embassy many more times, always to find the same answer: “no answer.” —
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Gent – 16, Prishtina, high school Student. The greatest inconvenience is that only in Kosovo do the embassies ask for original documents rather than sending them via email or fax. My first experience with the Slovenian embassy was awful, because my original documents arrived late. I applied two days before having to travel, and the Slovenian ambassador (who was in Spain at the time) had to intervene to hasten the process. In the end, I was granted a three-day visa. The Belgian Embassy was worse. I had to call them five or six times and pay 6 euro for each call just to set an appointment. After scheduling the date, my official invitation from the Free Open Source Software Developers European Meeting conference arrived five hours after my scheduled appointment. Luckily, there were free spots. I managed to get it all done, but not stress-free. —
Arta - 27, Mitrovica, English teacher In 2005, I was accepted to attend a forum in Redding, England, all expenses covered. It would have been my first time visiting the country, and I was excited to see a place I had read and heard stories about. My interview at the embassy lasted five minutes. I was told to return at the embassy at 5 p.m. and pick up my refused visa. They claimed that a 27-year-old like myself would never return to Kosovo, never mind that I was married and had a steady job with an international organization in Kosovo. —K
Fisnik Ismaili gave an independent Kosovo its symbol; now digital comic gives voice to his dejection. In the shadow of the 550-year-old Sultan Mosque, — the broken promise of a nation newly born lies shattered in the corner office of a Prishtina advertising agency. Awards adorn the dimly lit room at Ogilvy Kosovo. Among them is the Clio for Creative Director Fisnik Ismaili’s crowning achievement: NEWBORN, the typographical sculpture that branded an independent Kosovo. I wait for Ismaili on a long black leather couch and sip sweet Turkish tea. Some six months ago, I met him here for the first time. It was October, just two weeks before Kosovo’s government fell. Ismaili had an almost giddy disposition. He was a leader in the upstart New Spirit Party, abbreviated as FeR in Albanian. Its Western-educated founders were the darlings of the international media, and Prishtina’s intelligentsia buzzed
with hope that FeR could strike even a small blow to the country’s broken, corrupt political machine. “We’re going all the way,” he told me then. FeR received a little more than 15,000 votes in early elections, which were widely condemned as fraud-ridden. The 2 percent showing meant that the party wouldn’t get a single seat in Parliament. FeR disintegrated a few months later. By the time Ismaili joins me in his office on this April afternoon, all that remains of my tea is the sweet residue coating my mouth. “This tea is really, really good,” I tell him, impressed that his ad agency doubles as a cajtore, or teahouse. “I’m drinking 30 a day,” Ismaili says as a young woman delivers his cup. That may help explain why Ismaili seems on edge, with sweat accumulating on his brow. He’s a big man. Not just physically large, but the kind of guy who even in a T-shirt and shorts makes a room his putty. Even his whispers have a deafening quality to them. But he doesn’t care for competition, which at the moment is the hammering next door.
STORY by Nate Tabak
“Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over — like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?” — Langston Hughes, “A Dream Deferred”
“Can you tell them stop for 20 minutes — I have a goddamn interview!” he shouts in Albanian. The hammering stops. Transformative moment Things were not looking up for Kosovo in early April. The newly formed government teetered on collapse after the Constitutional Court put an end to Behgjet Pacolli’s brief presidency. The unpopular construction tycoon was the lynchpin on the governing coalition. With Pacolli out and no agreement on a replacement, the government appeared almost certain to fall for the second time in six months. Then on April 6, a wary posse emerged from behind closed doors. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Dell led Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, Democratic League leader and Prishtina Mayor Isa Mustafa, and Pacolli before TV cameras. The scene had the looks of a school principal brokering a playground truce: No one wanted to be there, except perhaps Dell. They had agreed to Dell’s choice for the next president: Atifete Jahjaga, a highly respected, low-profile police commander who’d never had anything to do with politics. The deal averted new elections and ended a political crisis that had dogged Kosovo for more than six months. At the conclusion of the spectacle, Dell assembled the three political leaders for a photo op. The ambassador quickly ducked out of the frame, but there was no concealing that this deal was his handiwork. “We don’t want Mr. Dell to be that transparent in his policies and his agenda,” notes Krenar Gashi, who heads the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development. Only a few weeks earlier, text messages appeared in the Kosovo media #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
showing Dell advising Pacolli during what turned out to be an illegal procedure that elected him president. When Ismaili talks about that April news conference, his blood boils. It goes beyond the unease many felt about Dell very publicly getting into the driver’s seat of Kosovo politics. It hits him viscerally. “There was a moment when Ambassador Dell tapped the shoulder of Isa Mustafa. … That looked so artificial. The whole process was so unconventional, so unconstitutional. I, myself, felt sick when I saw it,” Ismaili says. That sense of outrage would transform Ismaili’s identity from the gifted ad man behind NEWBORN to a Facebookbased insurgent, armed with cynicism coated in vulgarity. He became “The Pimpsons” creator. More than comics A simple observation started it all. An avid fan of the TV animated series “The Simpsons,” Ismaili noticed that Dell resembles the Comic Book Guy character - a portly, smarmy nerd. Ismaili culled together some images from the Internet and wrote some copy. The result was a digital comic strip depicting the imagined moments before the April 6 news conference in a Kosovo political sphere populated by “Simpsons” characters. He posted it on Facebook for all 4,000-plus of his friends to see. The Clio award-winner brushes this off as nothing more than a spur-of-the-moment act. But for a person like Ismaili, who possesses an instinct for knowing what will click with people, those moments of impulsivity are often the defining ones. As of late June, Ismaili had created 67 “Pimpsons” comics. Some offer bold criticism of the backroom deals and corruption that permeates Kosovo politics, while others seem to come from the mind of a teenage boy obsessed with sex, breasts and scatological humor. Treated as a whole, the episodes feel confused. Some days Ismaili is a crusading muckraker, pointing to waste in highway projects; other days he’s the bathroom pundit, having a naked Dell worry that his testicles might shrink in a hot tub. And there are the increasingly frequent comics that simply serve as a propaganda arm of Ismaili’s adoptive nationalist political party, Self-Determination. Stripping it all away, there’s a man not just frustrated with the dysfunction of his country and selfserving political leaders, but someone who feels personally let down by it. “So far I’ve been a loyal, law-abiding citizen, who actually did so much for this country, sacrificed a lot for this country, including fighting in the war in 1999, and this isn’t the Kosovo I fought for 12 years ago,” says Ismaili, his voice cracking. From hope to violence Ismaili didn’t just fight for Kosovo. He bought into the new state’s ideal and gave it a symbol for the world to see. But even his prized NEWBORN has let him down; its yellow sanserif letters are rusting. “It has been neglected for three years. I’ve been trying to maintain it. I’ve been trying to take care of it. But I’ve always been refused by the authorities to do so,” ➳ 47
— “So far I’ve been a loyal, law-abiding citizen, who actually did so much for this country.”
The road to ‘The Pimpsons’ Sept. 27, 2010 – Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu resigns after the Constitutional Court rules him in violation of the constitution for serving as both are largely ceremonial head of state and leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo, or LDK, political party. Oct. 3, 2010 — New Spirit Party (FeR) forms. Its young, Western-educated leaders vow to begin a new era in Kosovo politics on a liberal democratic platform. NEWBORN creator Fisnik Ismaili is among FeR’s founding members. Nov. 2, 2010 — The government falls two weeks after LDK leaves governing coalition, setting the stage for snap elections. Dec. 12, 2010 — Kosovo holds first parliamentary elections since independence. Turnout is 47.5 percent, with 646,623 votes recorded. But numerous reports of fraud, irregularities and intimidation cloud results. FeR fails to secure enough votes to get into Parliament. The nationalist Self-Determination, or Vetevendosje, movement comes in third, getting itself assembly seats in its first election. Jan 9, 2011 — Re-voting occurs in 21 polling places, but the election results largely remain intact. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, takes the most votes but still must find coalition partners to form a new government. Feb. 20, 2011 — PDK signs a coalition agreement with the unpopular construction tycoon Behgjet Pacolli’s New Kosovo Alliance, AKR, and several minority parties that will install Pacolli as president. Many are wary of the Pacolli presidency because of the multimillionaire’s cozy business ties to Russia. Feb. 22, 20111 — Parliament elects Pacolli with slim majority of 62 votes in the 120-seat assembly. It takes three rounds of voting to elect him. Kosovo media later publish images of text messages showing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Dell advising Pacolli during the session. March 28, 2011 — Kosovo’s highest court rules that Pacolli’s election is unconstitutional because improper parliamentary voting procedures. The construction magnate’s presidency ends after just 35 days. With no agreement on his replacement, the governing coalition appears headed for collapse, which would bring yet another round of elections. March 30, 2011 — The Self-Determination party absorbs New Spirit Party as some top FeR leaders resign. Ismaili sticks with Self-Determination. April 6, 2011 — Thaci, Pacolli, LDK leader and Prishtina Mayor Isa Mustafa, and Dell appear in a joint news conference to announce a deal on a nominee for Kosovo’s next president, police commander Atifete Jahjaga.
Ismaili says. The monument signified a Kosovo starting with a clean slate. But Ismaili seems to have given up on the Kosovo of 2008. “I slowly realized that I’ve done this huge thing for whom? For people who ignore it and people who don’t care about it,” Ismaili says of his creation. “So then I started feeling not to say angry, but I just felt that this government doesn’t really care about anything. I felt I could in a way be the voice of a certain group of people.” Ismaili has cast his lot with Self-Determination, a political party whose activists sometimes punctuate their message with violence. When Serbia’s chief negotiator for Kosovo, Borislav Stefanovic, came to Prishtina in May on the first official visit from a Belgrade representative since the war, Self-Determination members pelted his car with stones and clashed with police. In a way, the Kosovo Liberation Army veteran is coming full circle, opting to fight once again after losing his patience in the wages of idealism. Indeed, it’s not Self-Determination’s firebrand tactics that mark such an about-face for Ismaili. The party’s ideology is the antithesis of what NEWBORN represents. The independence Ismaili commemorated in the monument came under the supervision of the international community. Far from an oppressed, disenfranchised people organically asserting an intrinsic right to forge their own political density, independence was a carefully orchestrated event that left entities such as the International Civilian Office and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in positions to usurp the republic of Kosovo. SelfDetermination not only views this international oversight as unnecessary, it takes the position that it undermines Kosovo’s ability to exist as a sovereign, thriving state. Embracing his inner Homer Ismaili celebrated his 38th birthday in June and dedicated a “Pimpsons” comic to it. Comic Book Guy version of U.S. Ambassador Dell offers his wishes to Ismaili, represented by Homer Simpson. “Snake has been crying every fuckin’ day from your fuckin’ bloody episodes and I love him very much,” the Comic Book Guy Dell says, referring to Prime Minister Hashim Thaci by his wartime nickname. The Dell character warns Ismaili to stop unless he wants a “gift” from SHIK, the former intelligence arm of the Kosovo Liberation Army. “The Pimpsons” also followed Ismaili to his real-world birthday celebration. The party at the Ogilivy offices featured “Pimpsons” cake, and guests wore T-shirts picturing his Homer character. While Ismaili has embraced newfound identity as Internet comic satirist, the public may have had its fill. The number of “likes” on the comic’s Facebook pages reached 10,000 in its first few weeks, but the growth has slowed to a trickle. As of late June, the number stood at just more than 14,300, which isn’t far from Ismaili’s former New Spirit Party’s tally in the December elections. — K
April 7, 2011 — Parliament overwhelming elects Jahjaga as Kosovo’s first female president. Ismaili publishes the first episode of “The Pimpsons” on Facebook.
Alarm on JUSTICE:
Court Failures to Implement Law Contribute to Murder story by Nicole Farnsworth
Gusts of wind caused the candles to flicker and extinguish nearly as quickly as they were lit. Yet the hundred-strong men and women persisted, huddling together to reignite their candles. The flames were placed with care before the Municipal Court in Prishtina, burning in memory of and solidarity with 27-year-old Diana Kastrati, seemingly killed by her ex-husband days before. Smoke from the candles blemished the freshly painted building, a lasting reminder that the court had failed to act in time to save her life.
Diana’s murder, which occurred in broad daylight in the middle of Prishtina, has challenged widespread assumptions that domestic violence is a private rather than public issue. Her passing has underscored that public and private violence can be intertwined; both should be prosecuted.
to lose her life to domestic Diana was the violence in the last 12 months. Since 2005, more than 16 people have been killed and at least 22 have died from incited or assisted suicide at the hands of family members, according to Kosovo Police. More than 5,300 instances of domestic violence have been reported, primarily against women, including bodily harm, threats with weapons and psychological maltreatment. Evidence suggests that is more prevalent than what is reported. Nearly half of women and 40 percent of men have experienced domestic violence in their lives, according to a 2008 Kosovo-wide survey by the Kosova Women’s Network (KWN). Many women do not report violence because they doubt the justice system will treat them fairly.
For women reporting violence, institutions do not always act in time. Diana, like other women, had appealed to the court for a protection order (PO) forbidding her violent ex-husband from approaching her. As in other KWN-documented cases,
the judge failed to issue the PO within 15 days as mandated by law.
In other instances, police have failed to monitor the implementation of POs, and judges have given lenient sentences when POs were broken. Even repeat offenders rarely received prison time. Further, contrary to the law, courts often failed to prosecute bodily harm if it occurred within the home. In the few trials that were completed, perpetrators received lenient sentences. Insufficient justice welcomes repeat violence. Without a strong message from courts that violence will not be tolerated, outside or inside the home,
perpetrators will continue
to maltreat women without fear of punishment. Cultural norms continue to impede justice. On RTK’s recent ‘Justice in Kosovo’ show, the interviewer asked a woman who had suffered violence whether she had a father or a brother. His question illustrates a fundamental cultural problem with ensuring access to justice: women should not need men for protection. Women should receive equal state protection as individuals in accordance with the laws of Kosovo. Justice and protection for people suffering domestic violence may depend on the extent to which the new generation resists cultural norms that fail to treat women as individuals with equal rights. — K #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
MADE IN kosovo: A rigged game hurts local producers story by Jeton MEHMETI
Ever savor the deep fruit in a glass of Stone Castle vranac wine, let the creamy, tangy bliss of Rugova cheese melt on your tongue, crunch on the perplexing but nevertheless irresistible mystery of beef-flavored Vipa potato chips, and then cleanse your palate with the effervescence of DEA sparkling water? These delights are pedestrian for those of us in Kosovo, and they sit on supermarket shelves, vying for attention among the myriad and often cheaper competitors from the region and across Europe.
— Despite trade agreements and growth in the export market for homegrown products since the war ended in 1999, Kosovo remains an import-heavy economy. Countries that refuse to take Kosovo’s products on the grounds of that political lightening rod known as independence face few barriers in their getting own goods into the former Serbian province. Hyperbolically speaking, Kosovo’s economy is like The Eagles’ song “Hotel California.” Goods can check in any time they want but homegrown products face numerous barriers if they want to leave. Kosovo joined the Central European Free Trade Agreement as a full member in July 2007. Exports rose as companies
tapped into a 20 million-consumer market with a gross domestic product of 120 million euro. Unfortunately the agreement had a very short lifespan. Kosovo declared independence the next year and abandoned the United Nations customs stamp in favor of a Kosovo one – cleared by the European Commission to be as politically palatable as possible. Fellow CEFTA members Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina responded by blocking Kosovo’s products from being exported to or even passing through their countries. Exports dropped by nearly 10 percent in 2008 as a result. This plunge made the existing trade deficit even worse. In 2010, imports totaled more than 2 billion euro, while exports ➳
Rugove – Water bottler is branching out into gourmet cheese.
Tango – Produces fruit juice sold in Kosovo and Albania.
frutomania - one of the few kosovo juices that is not made from concentrate.
Dea – Longstanding bottler of sparkling and still water.
Pestova – one of the largest companies in the country. It grows potatoes. Its products include Vipa chips.
Rugove – Bottles spring water from the Rugova Mountains.
Stone Castle – This successful winery has managed to make a name for itself outside Kosovo. It exports 90 percent of its wine to Europe.
Vita – One of the most famous milk brands in Kosovo carries the slogan 100 percent Kosovo milk.
FLOR EN – One of the largest meat producers. it makes sausage, hot dogs, chicken and tinned meat.
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Bylmeti – One of many dairy companies that have flourished in the country in recent years. It produces milk, cheese, yogurt.
Golden Eagle: It’s among the few energy drinks made domestically.
A young, developing market with few distinctive products to offer the outside world is left with its hands tied behind its back.
➳ barely reached 300 million euro. And products made by for-
eign companies in Kosovo made up a significant piece of that export. Kosovo’s neighbors ceased being the main export destination for Kosovo producers. European Union countries became a more lucrative market, thanks to an agreement with the EU that gives trade preferences for Kosovo companies. Countries like Italy, Germany and Greece are now the main export destinations. But that agreement expired in late 2010. The five EU countries that don’t recognize Kosovo’s independence have held up its renewal. So a young, developing market with few distinctive products to offer the outside world is left with its hands tied behind its back. Kosovo produces everything from dish soap to chicken pate. Yet consumers inside the country often prefer imported products. Established brands like Doritos, Dukat and San Pellegrino have name recognition, which often comes with perception of better quality than their local counterparts. Most homegrown products are from companies that popped up in the past decade, so they have the disadvantage of having to prove themselves as worthy alternatives. And there’s also a question of quality. Some Kosovo products simply aren’t as good or necessarily cheaper, leaving people with little reason
to buy them. That’s just the nature of markets. Some, however, like Rugova cheese and Stone Castle wine are gaining a foothold as local, premium items. Of course it’s normal that Kosovo companies have to compete with foreign products on supermarket shelves. But Kosovo goods don’t get those same opportunities to compete abroad. Vita milk isn’t in Slovenia’s market like Alpsko milk is exposed in Kosovo’s market, just as Flor En’s chicken pate isn’t competing with Slovenia’s Argeta in Austria’s market. The decks are simply stacked against Kosovo companies. Kosovo’s economy is growing at a sluggish pace. Yet there are more than 100,000 registered companies here. Many are local producers whose products carry the Made in Kosovo stamp. They are starting slowly gaining a ground in competing with foreign products. The progress is slow but ongoing and promising, and there remains the woefully undertapped export market, which holds the potential to light a fire under Kosovo’s economy. In the mean time, there isn’t a culture inside Kosovo of eating local and buying local. Maybe it’s time to change. It would mean for the local economy. And local products tend to be fresher and frequently taste better. — K
The foreigners. exposed. story by andrea lorenzo capussela
a former insider opens up about the complex web of international missions that touch every corner of a society that needs them to stay as much as it needs them to go.
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The foreigners. exposed.
(1.) The United Nations Mission in Kosovo arrived in 1999 to usher in the era of international oversight for the then-Serbian province. The once 5,600-strong UNMIK downsized to 418 personnel after Kosovo declared independence in 2008. (photo by Kushtrim Ternava)
— AGAINST A PALE, ALMOST GOLDEN background, the Caravaggio of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana envelops in a natural, serene light two pears, two apples, two black figs and two green ones, two bunches of green grapes and two of black ones. The international presence in Kosovo is similar to this baroque still life: Unnaturally composed of fruits of different seasons, at first sight they all seem fresh but upon closer inspection the grapes of one bunch are overripe, the leaves of another dry, the skins of the black figs are cracked and wrinkled, and the apple at the basket’s center has been pierced by a worm, and might be rotting inside. I had carved out for myself a sabbatical period between two jobs in the private sector, in which I had always worked. By coincidence I spent it working for the Kosovo Trust Agency. Less than a year after my return to Milan, an interest in the Balkans forests and the complexities of Kosovo led me to join the International Civilian Office, or ICO. For a year I was the deputy head of the economics unit and then its head for more than two years, until the unit closed at the end of March. (In fact, I was summarily dismissed three hours before the end of my mandate because I had sent letters to other institutions stigmatizing ICO’s silence on a transaction that I found unacceptable.) In these years I observed the behavior of the ICO, EULEX, the EU, the U.S., the IMF and the World Bank. I will talk mostly of actions that I have reason to criticize, not of those that were useful to Kosovo, because when a wall of a new house collapses, a telephone call to the contractor is unlikely to begin with praise for the standing walls. INTERNATIONAL CIVILIAN OFFICE Mandate - The Ahtisaari plan was meant to be the solution of one major problem: consensually separate Kosovo from Serbia. It failed, but its 65 pages remained. They contain dozens of principles and hundreds of rules that aim to lay solid foundations upon which Kosovo may grow into a stable, open, rich, tolerant, democratic and well-governed society. The mandate of the ICO was to implement them in full, but in a handful of years, in a place where accountability hardly exists, corruption is widespread, political parties are personal fiefdoms, public opinion is weak, and few people vote for or trust the institutions. Execution - It was clear from the beginning that the full implementation of the Ahtisaari plan was a chimera, and the ICO neither had a past, a tradition, a carefully selected staff, or an esprit de corps to draw upon as it begun its work. In these circumstances, the ICO had to adopt a more realistic strategy and follow it with determination: It had to be flexible on the detailed rules, but inflexkosovo 2.0
ible on the main principles; it had to be the watchdog of those in power, not a friend or confidant; it had to represent the interests of Kosovo’s citizens, not shield their government from accountability to them. Like man, ICO’s existence is divided into three phases: in its youth, it worked on the creation of Kosovo’s new institutions; in its adulthood, it asked good policies of them; in its old age, it lost both its sight and its voice. During its life, under growing U.S. influence, the ICO has gradually moved toward the second of each of those three pairs of alternatives. This was a largely conscious and completely inexcusable strategic mistake. When, with an excuse, the ICO postponed the election that should have taken place nine months after independence, it announced to everyone the stuff it was made of. It erected minority municipalities across Kosovo and demarcated the border with Macedonia, but was silent on the unconstitutional amnesty by which each year Kosovo’s president arbitrarily frees about 6 percent of the prison population to celebrate the anniversary of the declaration of independence, on the illegal dismissal of the governor of the central bank, on the city of Prizren’s use of a logo that had been declared unconstitutional. And when an election was eventually held, it hesitated for a long period before denouncing the frauds it had seen, and then studiously avoided to declare whether the elections had been free and fair. Decentralization and exact borders are important, but the rule of law and free, fair and timely elections are necessary and also sufficient conditions for democracy: ICO’s behavior implies that democracy doesn’t matter much to it, and has reinforced the root causes of Kosovo’s troubled image. I use the verb “reinforce” because those causes have not been created by ICO, and cannot only be ascribed to the quality of Kosovo’s elite. Election fraud was amply discussed in the press but sparked no effective protests, and not a word was said about the repeated amnesties, or about the terrible message implied by their link to the declaration of independence. Election fraud, indeed, was expected and is an illness that requires time to be cured, but there was nothing inevitable about those scandalous amnesties. This silence surprised me more than ICO’s. On the economy, my field of responsibility, the ICO didn’t do enough. For instance, it chose to stay away from the highway and didn’t help others do their job. Rather than lending its voice and powers to institutions – the European Commission, the IMF, the World Bank – that have the capacity to chart a plausible course for Kosovo’s development, it often chose not to spend its own “political capital” to fight the “wars of others.” An approach that reflects, in its most charitable interpretation, the mistaken view that ICO should rather spend its “capital” to compete with others for the attention of the government. In fact, when it became senile, the ICO went to the government and said: “Look, I lost my sight and my voice, but if you do these two or three things for me (he spoke, mistaking the names, of a municipality and laws on certain medieval monuments) I will never criticize you in front of your citizens.” The young man smiled, waited for enough seconds to embarrass the elderly gentleman who had spoken, and said, “OK.” At that point, the short, fat, bald man who had accompanied the gentleman nodded to the young man, offered his arm to the old man and led him out of the room. But if in the past ICO’s silences and inaction have harmed Kosovo, lately they #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
(2.) The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo is the largest civilian mission ever deployed, anywhere. EULEX includes police, judges and prosecutors from 26 EU member states and five other countries, including Canada and the United States. (photo by visar kryeziu)
— The ICO had to be the watchdog of those in power, not their friend and confidant; it had to represent the interests of Kosovo’s citizens, not shield their government from accountability to them. ➳ 55
have become so frequent as also to be irrelevant, and Kosovo needn’t worry much about how long the worm will take to traverse the whole apple and thus prove that its existence was, indeed, ephemeral. A testament will remain of the existence of the apple painted at the center of the basket: its “Matrix.” It shows how Ahtisaari’s ambitious plan became – in the hands of lesser men than its author – the blueprint for a Potemkin village inexpensively composed of 16 A4 pages. EUROPEAN UNION RULE OF LAW MISSION Mandate - EULEX must improve Kosovo’s courts, police and customs service, and catch those responsible for the worst and most sensitive crimes. By doing this, EULEX could disseminate the seed of accountability, favor the maturing of Kosovo’s society and political system and thus indirectly assist the ICO in making Kosovo a better democracy.
(3.) EULEX and UNMIK drew the scorn of many in Kosovo after Serbia’s demands led to the UN Security Council approving the EU mission. EULEX thus came under UNMIK oversight as something neutral to Kosovo’s independence. (photo by kreshnik berisha)
— The EU is a selfish and skeptical friend of Kosovo, but a rational, predictable and loyal one. Unfortunately, this woman suffers from an internal rift, which calls for some patience on the part of the young man she has proposed to marry. 56
Execution - Unlike the ICO, which ended up doing the opposite of its job, EULEX is simply not doing it: Even though there are encouraging signs of activity on war crimes, the number of criminals on Kosovo’s streets is unchanged, its courts have not improved, corruption remains rampant, the rule of law is weak, and the possibility of enforcing accountability has not been demonstrated. Foreigners take note, and Kosovo’s image remains what it is. Unlike the ICO, therefore, EULEX is an apple that can still ripen magnificently. It is true that in one case – that of the governor of the central bank – it sinned just like the ICO did, and that the public relations debacle on the organtrafficking report confirmed the impression that in Kosovo the moment has not come to confront the shadows of the past, but I am optimistic about EULEX because closing it, or leaving it as it is, would imply the conviction that its job is either impossible or unnecessary to Kosovo, none of which seems a respectable argument. The EUROPEAN UNION Mandate - The EU looks after the interests of its member states, not those of Kosovo and its citizens. These two sets of interests, however, broadly coincide. The EU intends to absorb the whole of the Western Balkans, which are an unstable enclave within its borders. Kosovo and Bosnia are their poorest and most problematic parts. Unrest in Kosovo could shake Macedonia, whose uneasy balance is unlikely to survive the test, affect Serbia and Montenegro, draw Albania into the melee and thus destroy 10 years of progress. Hence, Kosovo’s growth into a more stable, open and rich society is in the interest of the EU. This is why perhaps 70 percent of the aid received by Kosovo comes directly or indirectly from the EU and its member states, a far higher percentage than their share of the combined GDP of Kosovo’s donors, and comes mostly in the form of money. But the EU will not a priori prefer Kosovo’s interests if they conflict with those of the stability of the region or with those of its neighbors. The EU will have to choose, and its choice will depend on its own judgment as to where its best interests lie. No better way to explain this point exists other than to take the most delicate and contentious angle. Objectively, Kosovo still merits greater atkosovo 2.0
tention than Serbia, but Serbia is larger, houses more investment from EU companies, trades more with the EU, lies at the center of the communication routes of the region and can still do major mischief in Bosnia and – in a vicious circle – also in Kosovo. Hence, for instance, I don’t think that the EU will – or indeed should – risk a rise of Russian influence in Serbia, or even a wave of popular Europhobia, for supporting all of Kosovo’s demands vis-à-vis Serbia in the current dialogue, no matter how subjectively but objectively justified they may be. This – to those convinced of the historic guilt of Serbia toward Kosovo – will seem immoral; but, aside from the merits of that claim, I don’t find morality a persuasive argument, because the EU is not in the business of righting wrongs. So the EU is a selfish and skeptical friend of Kosovo, but a rational, predictable and loyal one, because it thinks that its own long-term interests are aligned with Kosovo’s. Unfortunately, this bloc of nations suffers from an internal rift, which requires patience on the part of the young suitor she has proposed to marry. Execution – Through the policies it advocates and the money it provides, the EU has consistently attacked the causes of Kosovo’s image problem. And it deals with Kosovo in a manner that is both respectful and encourages responsible behavior: It spells out its own requests and the consequences of following them or not, while waiting for an answer. The question is: How effective has it been? Perhaps it didn’t push enough, but this is because it lacks influence due to its division on Kosovo and the government’s distinct preference for the U.S. accent rather than the European one. Perhaps it is slow, but this is because its agents in Kosovo represent three large bureaucracies. Even with these limitations, the EU has done good things for Kosovo, including when it recently denied large grants it had promised: The conditions for disbursing them had not been met and the EU kept its word. This is an important lesson, which public opinion remains free to make its own in order to pose questions to the government that lost the money. Hopefully, in the years to come we will see that the value of responsibly responding to irresponsible behavior was greater than the money that Kosovo lost. On other occasions the EU helped the electorate judge its government. Its progress reports and several other statements speak clearly, if one cares to read them. But this is the job of the opposition, the press and civil society, and they probably aren’t effective enough. In a country that aspires to join the EU, a government that frequently ignores, displeases or fails the EU should not survive for long. UNITED STATES Mandate - The mandate of the U.S. Embassy is to protect the interests of its government, not those of Kosovo. The problem, rather, is that compared with the EU, it is much more difficult to identify what interests the U.S. has in Kosovo. Washington is now more interested in China and India than in Europe or the EU, faces complex challenges from Egypt to North Korea, and has nothing to fear from unrest in Kosovo. I fail to see any powerful strategic reason for the U.S. to engage itself on Kosovo issues. I suppose that few of the many reasons – which range from guilt for Srebrenica, to the future of NATO and the delineation of the spheres of influence of Russia, the EU and the U.S. – that explain #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
(4.) On August 26, 2009, members of the Self-Determination, or Vetevendsje, movement vandalized EULEX vehicles. They objected to a cooperation between EULEX and Serbia that excluded Kosovo. Twenty-one were arrested. (photo by petrit rrahmani)
(5.) In April 2010, EULEX police raided the offices and home of then Transport and Telecommunications Minister Fatmir Limaj. He was targeted in a two-year corruption probe linked to a major highway project worth 700 million euro. Touted as the biggest EULEX investigation to date, it has yet to yield any results. (photo by visar kryeziu)
(6.) EULEX raids on Kosovar institutions in April 2010 brought tension between the EU mission and the government. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said it sent a message that “Kosovo’s institutions are at war with the international institutions.” Former EULEX prosecutor Johannes van Vreeswijk, in turn, called Thaci’s remarks “dangerous.” Van Vreeswijk recently left his post. (photo by petrit rrahmani)
(7.) U.S. flags, such as this one above the Administration Ministry, commonly fly at the entrances of Institutions. It’s an expression of Kosovo’s gratitude toward its most-beloved international friend. (photo by kreshnik berisha)
the push for the 1999 bombing were related to Kosovo’s interests. Also their decisive support for Kosovo’s independence stemmed largely from reasons – such as demonstrating the reliability of U.S. support for its smaller friends, and making another move in the chess games played with the EU and Russia — that are equally unrelated to Kosovo. Still, these are two good reasons for Kosovo and its citizens to be grateful and friendly to the U.S.: They were moves played on distant chessboards, but thanks to them today many Kosovars are alive, free, at school and are citizens of a state they feel is their own. Such gratitude creates influence, and gives to the U.S. both an interest and an almost costless opportunity: keep Kosovo friendly and make use of that friendship. This, for instance, explains both the level and the nature of its assistance to Kosovo. The U.S. offers much less than its share of the combined GDP of Kosovo’s donors, and its aid mostly comes in the shape of consultants placed near ministers, who likely offer useful advice but certainly extend U.S. influence on Kosovo’s government. The U.S. Embassy manages the relationship I just described, which is an unequal one. Execution - The U.S. gave Kosovo freedom, independence, recognitions and a highway. In exchange, it received gratitude, docility to its demands and money. Did the U.S., or this deal, contribute to Kosovo’s bad image? Directly, no. Indirectly, yes. But the question is irrelevant because Kosovo’s interest in removing the causes of its troubled image was not part of the deal. This, literally, is a tragedy, because this deal was necessary, and probably still is, at least until the EU and all its member states will recognize Kosovo. A partial solution for this tragedy lies in observing that the U.S. has an interest in the permanence of this deal, which could be damaged by excessive exploitation. For instance, the highway costs 20 percent or more of Kosovo’s GDP, but only half of it (say, two of the four lanes) is useful to Kosovo. So, one-half of the price is public money unnecessarily paid for a useless object, and most of it is paid to a U.S. company. This seems to be excessive exploitation, because Kosovo cannot afford it and because, for all it did, the U.S. has not spent 10 percent of its GDP for Kosovo. Secondly, docility doesn’t always require stability, and stability doesn’t necessarily mean bad government – though it was probably necessary to have that government want that highway, organize that tender and accept that contract. In other words, there may be some distance between the essence of the deal and the way in which it is translated into practice. This distance – given the nature of the relationship between Kosovo and the U.S., and the relative unimportance of Kosovo to the U.S. – is within the realm of the U.S. Embassy. It is a realm largely left to the personal inclinations of the ambassador, which, in turn, are magnified by the power that this person can exercise in the name of the oldest and perhaps the best-functioning modern democracy. So, we can now formulate a narrower but more relevant question: Has the U.S. Embassy exceeded the deal and unnecessarily damaged Kosovo? I am inclined to answer yes, because of the many disproportions of the highway and because of what that embassy did to support the leadership that signed that contract and must now keep to it. I would quote the precious photo opportunikosovo 2.0
ties in Washington offered last year to the former Minister of Transport Fatmir Limaj, when he faced a corruption investigation precisely on road building, and, more recently, the support for the salary increases that lost 150 million Euros but helped keep Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in power, and the SMS messages that helped him close the deal with Bagjet Pacolli on the new governing coalition, with Mr. Pacolli as president (subsequent problems with the election of the president were solved with a more traditional but safer means of communication: an envelope). So, even in my reading of the relationships between Kosovo and the U.S., it makes sense to criticize these actions because none of them was a necessary consequence of the deal. But all we are left with is the conclusion that – until the EU takes over the role of its main friend – all Kosovo can do is hope that the next ambassador will come soon and will be a little friendlier to it, or a little more closely watched by Washington. And perhaps also a little more tactful. For instance, one who – in a country where journalists are harassed – doesn’t threaten lawsuits to journalists who do their job, or one who – in a country where nepotism is rife – advises his wife, and the wife of his deputy, to turn down the job offers they have timely received from, respectively, an institution of the U.S. government (USAID) and one that is partly financed with U.S. public money (the ICO). I am perhaps too pessimistic, however, because the U.S. often says that Kosovo is a European problem. By this, I believe that they mean: Kosovo is a problem and it is the Europeans who should solve it. But can they? The case of the salary increases – that damage the economy, lost an IMF program and millions of Euros, but helped keep Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in power – was stark: the U.S. Embassy (and ICO’s boss) defended them, to support that elite; the Europeans criticized them, to defend Kosovo from the irresponsibility of that elite; the increases are now being paid every month. So, until the U.S. adds “and we will help them,” I prefer to read that statement as a purely geographical observation – “Kosovo is a problem; Kosovo lies in Europe; consequently, Kosovo is a European problem” – which makes it less interesting but at least hides its sardonic irony under the rigorous progression of the syllogism. The only way I see to escape that conclusion is to hope that the dialogue will end in a grand bargain, which would open Kosovo’s path to the U.N., the EU and much else, and Serbia’s path to the EU – today, 22 member states disagree with Serbia’s understanding of its own borders – would remove a scar from the face of the EU’s nascent foreign policy, and allow it to finally take over the role it ought to play in Kosovo. But, again, some of the keys to the grand bargain are held in U.S. hands, the only ones that can point this elite to where Kosovo’s objective interests lie. INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND and World Bank Mandate - The mandate of the IMF and the World Bank is global but only looks at macroeconomic stability, sustainable growth, the reduction of poverty and so on. Their only aim in Kosovo is to improve its economy and lift its citizens from poverty, but in their actions they must also take into account the interests of other economies and regions. And when these interests conflict with Kosovo’s they must choose depending on what alternative better improves the welfare of this and the next generations. #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
— The U.S. offers much less than its share of the combined GDP of Kosovo’s donors, and its aid mostly comes in the shape of consultants placed near ministers, who probably offer useful advice but certainly extend U.S. influence over Kosovo’s government.
(8.) Kosovo’s Camp Bondsteel is the largest U.S. military base in the Balkans. It houses up to 7,000 soldiers and is under KFOR command. Its post exchange, or PX, inside the compound is the largest military exchange in southeastern Europe. The base has a university, movie theatre, recreation buildings, a fire station, a military police station, a chapel with various religious services, a Burger King, Taco Bell, to name a few of the amenities. (photo by kushtrim ternava)
— And when these interests conflict with Kosovo’s, the IMF and World Bank must choose depending on what alternative better improves the welfare of this and the next generations of mankind.
(9.) NATO has been leading a peace support operation in Kosovo since June 1999 in support of wider international efforts to build peace and stability in the area. Today, some 6,300 troops from the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), provided by 31 countries (23 NATO and 8 non-NATO), are still deployed in Kosovo to help maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin. (photo by kushtrim terrnava)
Of the IMF and the World Bank I would say what I said of the EU: They attacked the causes of Kosovo’s image, behaving responsibly and expecting responsible behavior, and where they fail, it may not be their fault. For example, the World Bank wants to resurrect Kosovo’s agriculture and make billions of dollars available for investment by fixing the land cadastre. But work has been delayed because, unfortunately, Ahtisaari wrote that the cadastre must be left to the 27 or so municipalities, and on this ICO is inflexible. A delicate question, however, has arisen in relation to energy policy. Obilic pollutes Kosovo, infects its citizens and doesn’t produce enough electricity. Imports cost a lot and Kosovo has the cheapest source of energy of the region, its lignite. Hence the idea – in which the World Bank is involved – of building a power plant that would turn that lignite into much cleaner electricity and money. But burning coal later became contrary to a global policy of the World Bank and to the ideas of its main shareholders, the U.S. and the EU member states, and helping Kosovo build that power plant became a risk for the credibility of their stance in the global debate on climate change: a rather difficult dilemma, if you don’t only look at Kosovo’s interests. I believe that the EU, the U.S. and the World Bank will eventually solve it in Kosovo’s favor, but precious months have been lost. Keeping tabs About half of the persons who inhabit the offices I just described are foreigners, who usually have greater say on their actions than those of their colleagues who are citizens of Kosovo. It may therefore be useful to ask oneself if the attitude of those foreigners toward Kosovo has had an effect on the behavior of those institutions, and whether such an attitude is common enough to be an interesting subject of inquiry. Abandoning the scientific method that I have followed, I will answer yes to both questions and set out my personal impressions on an arbitrarily chosen and fictional category of foreigners: the average participant to the daily morning meetings of the ICO. She confusingly calls her interlocutors in Kosovo’s authorities by their first names (“I spoke to Enver and he said … ”; there are two Envers), but uses “they” when referring to the rest of its citizens. This reflects her perceived degree of proximity to the subjects of her sentences but perhaps also her loyalty to them, because – no matter whether she resents it or not – her career depends less from the anonymous mass than from those who have first names. Over time, the sight of litter in the streets and of graceless, unfinished buildings along the roads increases her distance from the anonymous mass, and she unconsciously develops the thought that they have tastes and desires that are quite unlike hers. In parallel, her repeated dealings with the Hajredins and the Jakups (who, in fact, are both only one) and the deals she intermediates with them imperceptibly lead her to lose much of her capacity to be surprised, or even shocked. Yet, on this she is firm: The partial amnesty for some lesser crimes related to immigration that the greens have managed to bring on the agenda of her parliament is a thoroughly bad idea. — K
kosovo: Expanding the horizons
Story by kreshnik hoxha / illustration by driton selmani
A country to some, a province to others — Kosovo, with its rhombus-shaped borders constitutes quite an adventurous trip for those tourists who want to be submerged in their own adrenaline and overcome prejudice. — Some worry about visiting due to the radioactivity bollocks from the NATO bombings in 1999. Little do they know! If mutations from radioactivity did their job, surely our brain cells would be reproducing too! Now, you just need to look at Kosovo’s holy leadership and realize that no brain cell reproduction has occurred ever since 1999. This proves that radioactivity in Kosovo does not exist, much like the freedom of movement. So, that should lift some weight from your shoulders and persuade you to visit. You are guaranteed to expand your horizons of culture, imagination and absurdity. Before your visit, you are bound to look up the country on Wikipedia. Good idea! But the next day, you might realize it has changed its name to Kosovo and Metohija. You shouldn’t worry too much. Certain people in the Balkans practice their imagination in this way, despite the fact that the country’s official name is Republic of Kosovo. Upon arrival, you can choose to stay at Grand Hotel Prishtina, a five-star hotel with a comforting atmosphere and tremendous services of 1980s standard. While in the hotel, you’ve got to experience the soothing and rejuvenating effect of its worldfamous swimming pool. Bring the usual swimming kit and make sure you shove some imagination in the kit, otherwise swimming might prove challenging. The architecture in the city has a breathtaking effect on visitors:The professionally asinine urban planning will suffocate you. We are renowned for certain things. We tell interesting conflict stories, we make amazing new headlines and we cook #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
delicious food. Once you relish some local food, you will wonder what on Earth you’d been eating all your life. Drinking habits in Kosovo are yet another interesting malarkey. You are bound to be served some petrol in a tequila glass. You will instantaneously recoil in horror, but its sensation after a sip will warm you to the country more. It’s called the rakia effect. Oh, and one more thing. Regardless of the fact that the nightlife in Prishtina continues until early hours of the morning, you might hear some interesting sounds coming from every corner of the city. It’s not a karaoke. It’s the call to prayer coming from the mosques. Should this confuse you, because in the morning you saw a huge cathedral in the city centre, then please refer to the Ottoman Empire. If you think this is too much of a hassle, then you might need to expand your culture horizons a bit more. And if religion and drinking perplexes you exponentially, then it is advisable to keep intensifying the rakia effect. Finally, when you return home, you are bound to be asked questions about your experiences. It’s up to you what you say. But don’t forget to tell people that there is life over there, with a vibrant society — and potential. If you want to sell it really well, please refrain from mentioning its leaders. Your friends might consider changing planet. — K 61
FLYING ACTIVIST PARADES KOSOVO FLAG SKY-HIGH graphic by bardhi haliti
PILOT JAMES BERISHA IS DEVOTING HIS LIFE TO FLYING FOR KOSOVO. HE IS TRAVELING THROUGH AFRICA IN HIS SINGLE-ENGINE PLANE, WITH KOSOVO’S FLAG PAINTED ON ITS TAIL, CALLING ON COUNTRIES TO RECOGNIZE KOSOVO’S INDEPENDENCE.
FLYING LOCATIONS NEXT STOPS RECOGNIZE KOSOVO YET TO RECOGNIZE KOSOVO
CHN WALL OF INDEPENDENCE: Messages of support at www.kosovothanksyou.com
I am Chinese. I will stand by your side forever! Ruirui, China Feb. 23, 2008
HUN We are happy to see that you have managed to gain independence and wish you good luck and prosperity in the future. We really rejoice in your happiness. Atti, Hungary Feb. 17, 2008
GBR Well done on the freedom of the country; every country should be free. Jo, Scotland Aug. 26, 2008
ESP People of Kosova: congratulations for the historic event, for the independence of your country. All the best and good luck in the future from Spain! Ramon, Spain Oct. 9, 2008
REPUBLIC OF KOSOVO DECLARED INDEPENDENCE: February 17, 2008 RECOGNIZED BY: 76 out of 192 U.N. member states 3 out of 5 U.N. Security Council permanent member states 22 out of 27 EU Member States 24 out of 28 NATO member states 10 out of 22 Arab League member states CONTINENTS VISITED BY JAMES BERISHA: AFRICA EUROPE NORTH AMERICA SOUTH AMERICA JAMES BERISHA HAS LOBBIED IN: 5 European countries 19 North American countries 34 South American countries 53 African countries Stops in Eritrea and Egypt will wrap up his 2011 Africa trip. At the end of the year, Berisha flies back home.
CAN I’m really happy to see a new nation flourish, and I’m happy that it makes you happy. Louis-Francois, Canada Feb. 19, 2008
AUT I congratulate you and wish you all the best for the future. I hope that you will have a future of prosperity and democracy, and that we will see you some day in the EU. Michael, Austria Aug. 25, 2008
SRB I am so happy and proud to see an independent and free Kosova! You have my full support! Best wishes and regards to all of you! Dragan, Serbia May 5, 2009
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IND Hi to all the people of Kosova - the independent newborn baby state. I wish you all the best from the core of my heart. Ayachit, India April 14, 2009
BGR Happy Birthday. I wish you happiness and health, and more recognitions of course :). Ko4o, Bulgaria Feb. 17, 2009
PRT Thank you, people of Kosovo, for showing to the world that people cannot be ruled by force, and that the fight for liberty prevails over those who still deny people their rights. Johnny, Portugal Feb. 6, 2009
TR As we are Turkish people, we are enthusiastic that Kosovo is an independent country. I cannot explain how happy we are. The recognition of Kosovo is a pleasure to all the Turkish people and Turkish government. We have always supported a new democracy for Kosovo, which brings contentment to all Kosovar people. As we have lived for hundreds of years with our Albanian brothers and sisters, we want to congratulate the Kosovar people. Arda, Turkey Feb. 18, 2008
story by sarah wischmann photo by armend nimani
EG Egypt will recognize you as all Egyptians and Arabs support the independence of Republic of Kosovo. I have started a new group on Facebook, and I have called it “Egyptians Who would like to see Egypt Recognize Republic of Kosovo.” Mohamed, Egypt Sept. 18, 2009
Airplanes captivated James Berisha from a young age. While working in the fields with his grandfather, the boy from Brestovc would pepper the old man with questions as each plane passed overhead. As an Albanian, Berisha didn’t see a future for himself in the aviation industry in communist Yugoslavia, so he left. Berisha moved to Switzerland, where he worked hard to finance his education. Seven years and two countries later it paid off. The FlightSafety Academy in Vero Beach, Florida, made him a pilot and flight instructor. Berisha traveled the world and when Kosovo declared independence, he decided to use his skills to support his country. In 2009, Berisha started his mission in South and Central America. Wherever he goes in his single-engine Cessna, he brings a formal recognition request written by Kosovo Foreign Affairs Minister Vlora Citaku to her counterpart in the respective country. He also meets with members of the media to deliver his message about Kosovo. Berisha faced a setback after his Cessna’s engine died over Sudan. He crashlanded in the desert and is working to get the plane back in service. Escaping serious injury, Berisha is preparing to continue his journey through Africa with his propeller-driven banner for the republic of Kosovo. — K
“Though I will not have time to wash the entire aircraft every time I land, I will always wash the flag and make sure that it shines bright enough for the whole world to see. Because when I see the colors of Kosova I don’t just see a flag, I see the mountains, the rivers, and the people of my country. When I see my flag I remember people of the past who have fought so hard and died for my country, and I think of the future of our children who deserve happiness and should never have to experience fear and uncertainty for standing on the ground they were born on. This flag is so much more than just paint, the image represents something so profound for so many people and while I am alive I will never let James Berisha it become clouded with dirt.”
X things that complicate our lives story by the foreign policy club
More than three years after Kosovoâ€™s independence, the citizens of the newest country in Europe remain isolated and unrecognized by a majority of world countries. Two-thirds, including five European Union member states and two neighboring Western Balkan countries, refuse to recognize Kosovo. This denies Kosovars the same privileges and basic, fundamental freedoms that their Balkan and European neighbors enjoy. Kosovars remain hamstrung in many areas, and they face unfair standards and barriers in joining international structures, benefitting from exisiting ones, traveling, conducting business and trade, communicating, securing education and more. The Prishtina-based Foreign Policy Club identified 10 such issues. The think tankâ€™s December 2010 report spells out the reasons behind the politics and the repercussions that affect the people.
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— Kosovars are the most constricted people in the world. They rank just behind Afghanistan’s citizens, who can travel to 22 countries visa free. Kosovars can travel to only five countries without a visa: Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Turkey and Haiti. Kosovo also is the last country in the Balkans whose citizens need a visa to go to the European Union. The EU lifted visa requirements for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2010, just as it did for Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro the previous year. The European Commission keeps putting off the visa-liberalization process for Kosovo. This subjects 2 million Kosovars to long, expensive and often humiliating application processes. They’re rejected about 30 percent of the time, the highest in the region.
— Kosovars face the highest interest rates in the region, with particularly lengthy application and approval rates. Foreign investors demand a 15 percent return on investments; banks maintain that high risks exist due to lack of economic and political stability. Meanwhile, the business and agricultural sectors are at the greatest disadvantage for developing and expanding, while being key to Kosovo’s overall economic development.
V — Kosovars can travel to only five countries without a visa.
— Kosovars pay double or triple airlines prices from countries in Europe because flights from Central and Northern Europe to Kosovo must travel an additional 200 nautical miles and 30 minutes in order to land in Prishtina International Airport. This stems from the fact that Kosovo is not a member of the International Organization for Civil Aviation and that Kosovo’s air space has been closed from Serbia since 1999 and only low corridor flights through Macedonia could be used. After Montenegro’s declaration of independence in 2006, their corridors were also opened, shortening journeys to and from the U.K. and Western Europe. Planes still can’t fly through Serbia’s airspace. This means additional expenses for airline companies for fuel and higher ticket prices for those traveling to and from Kosovo.
— Kosovo is almost entirely absent from the virtual world because RIPE European IP Network has not granted Kosovo membership and IP addresses. So although Kosovo is the leader in the Balkans in terms of Internet usage, with more than a half-million Internet subscribers, Kosovars cannot purchase a book from Amazon.com or just about any other e-retailer. They can’t even do a bank transfer since Kosovo does not have an International Bank Account Number or IBAN code.
— Kosovars can register and use websites by registering through another country. But it doesn’t offer a sustainable solution as data on telephone and postal codes need to be provided. On top of it, Kosovo hasn’t been issued a country phone code by the International Telecommunications Union, which operates as part of the U.N. Kosovo has about 1.1 million mobile and 80,000 landline phone customers, but for landlines it has to uses the code of Serbia and Slovenia, and the two mobile operators use Monaco and Slovenia. And with the illegal Serbian mobile operators in the north of Kosovo, it loses around 200,000 potential consumers.
VI — If traveling by car, Kosovars have to pay insurance for each country individually since Kosovo is not a member of The Council of Bureaux, which would allow it to benefit on vehicle insurances. For example, upon entering Greece, an individual pays 180 Euros for insurance for only 15 days, while other countries use a green card insurance for any country they enter.
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— Kosovo is a part of only four international sports federations. A few determined individuals have made it to international fields but by playing for other countries.
— Kosovo cannot export or transit goods through Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. While all three are members of CEFTA, the Central European Free Trade Agreement, which guarantees open, free trade without custom barriers when importing or exporting raw materials and finished products, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovna don’t recognize Kosovo Customs stamps. On top of it, Kosovo’s economy suffers because it losses potential to attract foreign investors, who get discouraged to invest in Kosovo as it cannot offer access to the entire regional market free of tariffs.
— Kosovo’s sports teams and individuals can’t compete at the Olympics and most other international sports federations. The International Olympic Committee doesn’t accept Kosovo’s Olympic Committee. To date, Kosovo is a part of only four international sports federations: table tennis, softball, weightlifting and wrestling. A few determined individuals have made it to international fields but by playing for other countries.
— Opportunities for studying abroad are just as limited even though Kosovo has begun implementing the Bologna process, it is still far from becoming an equal, full partner in the process (mainly due to the fact that Kosovo is not a member of the Council of Europe). This diminishes Kosovars’ opportunities to apply and study at various European educational programs, benefit from scholarships, fellowships and exchange programs and opportunities. Kosovar diplomas also are not recognized at many worldwide institutions. Only a few manage to attend international programs, which are generally aimed at youth from the region, and as such, more scarce in terms of variety and number of programs.
— Kosovars do not have access in the European Court of Human Rights because Kosovo is not a member of the Council of Europe. So if human rights of Kosovars are violated, whether in Kosovo or any other country, they cannot seek justice in the highest court of its kind in Europe. — K
365 days online
one year kosovo 2.0 the blog_ A letter with a ‘camouflaged’ address Ode to fear By Hajrulla Ceku_ Oct. 15, 2010
Before I start sharing my story, I would like to start this letter by thanking you for enabling and encouraging me to place these words together. If it weren’t for you, there would be no letter; I would not be inspired or motivated to write one. You are, and you will remain, the power of our subconsciousness, which makes us think and act. Therefore, dear leader, I am thinking of you, and I dedicate this letter to you. The old days were dreadful. During the years of occupation, in addition to the oppressive state machine, there were subversive components between our people. Such that, while the occupier was cooking racist meals in nationalistic kitchens, they were establishing universities, theaters, museums and other institutions. Allegedly, all was done on the name of social emancipation and national empowerment. But, the truth was completely different. They were adding up some more injustice to the historical injustice carried out against our people. They claimed they were building governing institutions for a normal functioning of our country, but they were actually serving the interests of the occupier for our people to remain permanent slaves of the occupier. The revolution finally broke out. All the institutional and
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cultural disaster created under the state-building pretext turned upside down. The new time, the one for correcting history has finally arrived. You came along with it. Actually, you brought the new history. It came with you and your friends. Dear leader, it came with your friends, who defend your ideology and serve your principles of the new cultural order? The world history will write with piety about this new order and place it along with the cultural revolution of Mao in China and Franco in Spain, Juche idea of Kim il Sung in North Korea and other emancipating and illuminating movements. Your mission was, of course, to correct the history and historical gaffes carried out against a nation. Dear leader, we have no worries nowadays. Actually, we live happily. You give us bread and public jobs. You give us equal chances, which enable us to foster the development of our state under your instructions, as well as enlightening and progressive principles. You help us be hard workers and proud people. Your wisdom is guidance for the future of our people. Our future is eternally safe and enlightened with you and only you as our leader. Today, dear leader, we are not concerned about politics or political conflicts. We do not even need to think for whom we should vote. We have only one leader, whom we respect with commitment. You, dear leader, have been building roads and schools for us every day. You reward our votes and membership cards by hiring us in public administration. You make us known throughout the world as a new nation with a new cultural identity. You build monuments that help us forget the bad collective memories. You make us. Dear leader, you make me proud, you turn me into — a coward. After One Hundred Years of Solitude, the Cup Found its Lid. By Jeton Jagxhiu_ May 12, 2011 The oldest relict in my house is a metal cup that my father’s grandmother, Sabrie hanum, brought into the family. She was a dervish lady from an old Gjinali family from Prizren, and it seems that she has brought the cup with her dowry, almost a century ago. The old metal cup is handmade. It has oriental ornaments on the exterior, leafs and arabesque, which are intertwined with an Arabic calligraphic inscription “Allahu Ekber” (God is one). The ornaments on the surface of the glass rhythmically change their colors between gold and metallic, interfering with one another. With the ancient metal’s patina, they give the glass an appearance of a mystic illusion, which reflects the Shia Muslims’ worldview. My father had a great affection for the cup due to its beauty, age and memories of his grandmother. He kept the antique cup in one of the most visible places, in the guestroom – in a glass case below the television, above an oval lace. However, about 20 years ago, when my parents came back from a visit to Turkey, the ancient cup again caught my family’s attention. During their visit in the main Tekke of the Bekteshi, my parents, unexpectedly, spotted a twin of our cup. The cup originated from the town Haxhi Bektash, named after the founder of one of orders (tariqua) of the Shia Muslims. Among other things, the guide told them that a long time ago, the Tekke had another completely identical exemplar of the cup, but it had been lost. Consequently, we understood that grandmother Sabrija’s cup was no ordinary old cup, but a ritual cup of the Bekteshi ordinance dervishes. The holy water from the cup was given to those in need – those who had only one wish. Now the cup, apart from its beauty, years and memory of my grandmother, had one more raison d’etre. Its value has risen, and one day, one 70
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of my family members took it from the glass case and placed it by the TV. And, as if our attention was not enough, its other half had to be found – its lid, to transform this cup into the real star of our house. The story unraveled as a true miracle. Walking hastily through the streets of Gjakova, I spotted an antiques vendor. I stopped to ask him if he had a mangall (coal-burner), for which I'd searched for a long time. While the seller was checking if I was a serious buyer, I was looking at the antiquities he was selling. On a double blanket, he piled up a lot of old household equipment – sahana (brass plates), cinija (oriental bowls), cups, vases, mumlluk (candleholders), wooden spoons, and all sorts of other junk. While I was talking to the salesman, I noticed something that shined strangely, something that was familiar to me. And there, below a nutcracker, I noticed a lid with cubes. I had to hold it only for a moment, and I was convinced that I found the other part of the cup. How happy I was! But I did not share my enthusiasm with the salesman. I thought to myself that if he understood how precious this lid was to me, he would most ptobably not sell it. I just held it tightly. I continued to wander around his blanket, talking about mangalla. As I was leaving, I asked the salesman: “How much for this one?” He answered: “3 euros, if you have them.” I gave him the money, my telephone number for mangalla and walked away. And so, without knowing that the cup once had a lid, I joined the two. After maybe 100 years of solitude, the cup found its lid. This wandering lid perfectly matches the cup. Its top is shaped like a Shiacupola, which symbolizes the Bektashi order. It is made of the same metal and on its surface it has engravings with ornaments. The gold color and old patina on its surface are of the same kind. That’s it. The Cup and its Lid are old friends with fascinating beauty. Lovers from who knows what century. Now, I have placed the Cup of Sabrije hanum, my great-grandmother, on the top of TV and the lace, and each time a new guest comes, I tell them the story of the inherited Cup. This inspiring story is dedicated to my great-grandmother Sabrije and to dervishes of the Bektashi order who are celebrating the 800th anniversary of their founder, Haxhi Veli Bektashiu. “Stuff People From the Balkans Like” By Silvia Valencia_ Feb. 22, 2011
I was given a book for my birthday called “Stuff White People Like.” Obvious by its name, it describes the stereotypical urban Westerner and its exactitude is incredible. Although this book was given to me as a joke, it made me realize two things. Stereotypes don’t always have to be bad, and they are especially funny when they’re accurate. With this as my inspiration, I have sought out to embrace and describe the ever-so-lovable Balkan stereotype. Remember that this is in good nature. Of course it does not apply to most people, and those who use stereotypes as a means of discrimination are not people who should be credited as informed individuals. That being said, let’s have a little fun: “Stuff People From the Balkans Like” 1. History: Not just regular history dating back a couple of centuries like normal people. When people from the Balkans talk about history, they refer back to the monarchies, the empires, the cavemen and every insignificant detail in between. 2. Realism: Cold, hard realism. There is no room for sugarcoating in Balkan conversations. They tell it like it is, whether you like it or not. I once had a Balkan guy tell me “optimism is for the weak — they can’t handle the facts.” #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
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Touché. 3. Sarcasm: Because it compliments the realism nicely. 4. Nikola Tesla: Regardless of the fact that the different Balkan ethnicities don’t always get along, they can at least come together for the sake of bragging to the world that some of the greatest inventions came from their region and not yours. 5. Driving like the world is going to end in 30 seconds. And then laughing at you when you’re visibly scared. “Pff, you think this is fast?” 6. Hard liquor: They make their own because the store-bought ones aren’t strong enough. Cocktails are for wimps — homemade rakia is the future. 7. Being skeptical: The nicer you are, the more suspicious they are. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you - they just want to make sure you don’t have any ulterior motives before they start being warm toward you. Trust is earned. Period. 8. Debating: Because you can’t let all the knowledge about the last 5 billion years of history go to waste. 9. Blunt Honesty: The Albanian guy from whom I buy burek determines how much burek I’m allowed to buy based on how fat I look that day. 10. Salt: Don’t get insulted if a person from the Balkans puts salt on the food you’ve already salted, without even trying it first. His taste buds are a bit damaged from the 70 percent alcohol rakia. High blood pressure isn’t really a “condition” in the Balkans; it’s more of a lifestyle. 11. Swearing: Swearing in English discredits an opinion, but when people from the Balkans swear, it really emphasizes the point — it even makes you want to take them more seriously (and not just because they talk like they’re mad all the time). 12. Yelling: Those in the Balkans differ from those in the Mediterranean with this. People from the Mediterranean (Greeks or Italians, for example) have two volumes: “loud” and “louder”; Balkan people, on the other hand, have “louder” and “silent.” If they have something important to say, they’ll scream it at you. Otherwise, they’ll remain quiet, as they are either angry, or trying to read your mind to determine your ulterior motives. 13. Telling outsiders why their ethnicity is better than the other Balkan ethnicities: They’ll most likely refer back to a few thousand years ago, and they’ll find a way to justify everything that their people have ever been criticized for. 14. Being right: Everyone likes to be right, but Balkans find pleasure in being right to an infinite extent. Balkans are horrible losers, but they’re even worse winners. They’ll never, ever let you forget that they were right and you were wrong, ever. 15. Proving that they’re right: It’s your own fault for doubting them. 16. Reminding you that they proved they were right: For the rest of your life. 17. Scoffing at Westerners when they talk about saving the planet, eating organic food or exercising. And yet, people from the Balkans manage to maintain a reputation for youthful complexions and great figures, and they’re among the lowest polluters. Their “secret? ” Riding bikes and eating real food. The actual “secret”? Debating is an antioxidant, and a really good workout. 18. Modesty: .... just kidding. 19. Drinking five cups of Turkish coffee a day and then wondering why they can’t sleep at night. They might even decide to diagnose themselves with a couple of different medical conditions in the process. And finally, 20. Other people from the Balkans: It’s the weirdest thing. Regardless of the fact that they come across a bit angry, sometimes cold, and most definitely stubborn, somehow they adore people who are just like them. A Balkan stereotype embraces it and is proud of it, and will declare it the best of all 72
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the stereotypes. A Balkan stereotype will come up with a statement that logically explains why everyone should be like a Balkan stereotype. A Balkan stereotype will contribute a few more points that the stereotypical Balkan writer forgot. Boundaries By Nela Lazarevic_ July 28, 2010
When I told one of my best friends who is Montenegrin but lives in Serbia that the notary public at my improvised wedding in Florence was an Albanian, she could hardly hide the jaw-dropping-eye-flashing shock written all over her face before she had time to think of hiding it for the sake of political correctness. Now, this wouldn’t be surprising at all had my friend not been one of the most open-minded people I knew on this piece of Earth (I call it piece of Earth because I don’t believe much in cartography and imaginary lines, and I don’t believe in packaging people into boxes with nationality stickers on their foreheads). So, when I imitated her face reaction so to make my point, she smiled in a self-conscious and auto-ironic way. Then, we laughed in the face of the awkward moment of silence that we spontaneously shared before we could head on to the next topic. I’ve known my friend since kindergarten, so no further commentary was needed. She knew, that I knew, that: She was not a nationalist, and her reaction was an automatic reflection of the general mood of the people surrounding her. I knew, that she knew, that: Having met my Albanian friend on a neutral territory (i.e. Italy) had given me an opportunity to judge this person freely, without societal pressure and prejudice. Actually, when I first met Fatjona in Florence several years ago, we recognized right away that Italians had packaged us both into the same box with labels: “ragazze de ll’Est” (“Girls from the East”), “extracomunitarie” (“Non-EU ”) — each one carrying a more offensive connotation than the other. This has given us enough common ground to never have to discuss our national differences. We both came from former communist countries; we both studied journalism; we both needed visas to travel virtually anywhere; we both came from places that had beautiful underdeveloped coastlines; and we both came from families that encouraged us to look at the person rather then their passport name. How many Albanians had I met before I started studying in international schools and living abroad? Zero. How many Albanians had my Montenegrin friend in Serbia met in person? I haven’t asked, but my guess is zero. Propaganda, bloodshed and country flags have made us package them all as “evil neighbors” into one hermetically closed box with “danger” written all over it. And I’m sure it’s not much different on the other side of the imaginary wall (i.e. borderline). Now, my wedding was sort of an Italian version of “let’s go to Vegas and get it done” type of thing. So, I needed a quick notary public who was already in Florence. My lifelong friends from home were unfortunately excluded by these criteria, so I asked myself: who is the most good-natured person I have met in this town? The answer was Fatjona. Her passport was important in this story only because she needed to identify herself before the wedding officiate. After the Skype video conversation with my dear Montenegrin friend in Serbia, I browsed the Web for a while, and encountered a quote by Martin Luther King Jr.: #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
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“We learned to fly like birds, and to swim like fish, but we haven’t learned to live like brothers.” Will we, ever? Three and proud, A birthday card on Kosovo’s three-year independence anniversary By Hana Marku_ Feb. 15, 2011 We’re almost 3 years old. I need not tell you how much needs to improve, change and revolutionize in our little republic. I need not tell you that we are poor, that we have corrupt politicians and that we are a long way from joining the European Union. And this isn’t a rhapsody of empty patriotic words. Rather, it’s a reminder of why being a Kosovar should make you feel proud. “What is there to be proud about? We are so corrupted, backward, passive, behind …” My answer is, “No, we are not.” We are our parents, who pushed through dark times. We are the young people who leave and make something of ourselves. We are the young people who stay and make something of ourselves. We are the ones who are not corrupt, not backward, not passive, not behind — and there are many of us. We are the ones who speak more than three foreign languages. We are the ones who attend the University of Prishtina and the ones who attend the University of Cambridge. We are the ones who go to work every morning without stealing or cheating or lying. We are the ones who treat our brothers and sisters the same. We are the ones who take care of our parents when they can no longer take care of us. We are the ones who get excited by books, music, art and science. We are the ones who argue while remaining open to others. We are the ones who listen while remaining critical. We are the ones who care when injustice happens — and act upon it. We are the ones who are creative with no reward. We are the ones who start things from scratch. We are the ones who work decently and love decently. This is the majority of the people whom you know, and you are one of them. This is my Kosovo. I don’t want to hear any more self-deprecating comments about how intrinsically, in-our-soul shameless or dumb or beyond hope we are. I don’t want any Kosovar anywhere to feel like they should be embarrassed about who they are or from where they come. I also don’t want any Kosovar anywhere to feel like they come from a martyred people. Martyr is another word for victim. We aren’t victims anymore. No more martyrdom or big, empty words. No more old people, either. No more suits, no more ties, no more news programs dominated by old, rotten men. No more Milaim Zeka. No more books about the bloody past. No more telenovelas. No more tallava. The Kosovo that I know is the same one where I’ve met honest people, good neighbours, old friends and great thinkers. This is us, now. We have been hijacked by something that is not us, by people who are afraid and greedy. They have taken our true face and turned it upside down. It won’t always be this way. We are not our politicians. It’s easy to get distracted and frustrated while waiting for a new government to unfold, for the Council of Europe special rapporteur Dick Marty’s report to be investigated, for international recognition, for EULEX to end its mission, for visas to be liberalized, for jobs to appear, for diplomas to be meaningful again and for spring to come. These things should not depress us, even though they can enrage us. This isn’t about ignoring reality or being grandiose. This isn’t about idealizing the past, it’s about celebrating what is here now — what we forget we have in our hand as we bend toward the future. On our third birthday, let’s remember who we are. 74
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In Drenica, the clash of mythology and reality By Nate Tabak_ Feb. 23, 2011 If the fight for Kosovo’s freedom is a religion, then Drenica is God’s country and resistance is his gospel. The region produced the largest insurgent movement against Serbia, the Kosovo Liberation Army. Celebrated guerrilla leader Adem Jashari was born here. Jashari and dozens of family members died in 1998 as Serbian forces besieged his compound in Prekaz. For Kosovo, that fight is something of an Alamo. The 1836 defeat of American secessionists in Mexican territory that later became Texas gave rise to a national myth embodied by folk hero Davy Crockett, a congressman and frontiersman who died at the Alamo. The “King of the Wild Frontier,” Crockett’s nickname courtesy of a 1950s Disney movie, personifies the rugged individualism at the core of Americans’ romantic view of the United States’ westward expansion, which left a trail of blood and destruction. During a recent visit to Skenderaj, Drenica’s biggest city, I couldn’t escape Jashari’s legend. The image of the burly bearded fighter is everywhere. An imposing statue of him also made me wonder if he dabbled in bear-wrestling, too. There’s a certain purity to the cult of his personality: a hyper-masculine figure who died in the noble act of defending his home. It’s hard to think of a more perfect symbol of the mythos surrounding the liberation struggle at the foundation of Kosovo’s statehood and its power structures — a foundation showing signs of cracking. While Jashari’s death enshrined him as a noble warrior, frozen in martyrdom in the late 1990s, his surviving colleagues kept busy on his coattails long after NATO bombs drove out Serbian forces from Kosovo. The KLA leadership formed the seeds of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, which sprouted into the most powerful and deeply entrenched political machine in the country. Another Drenica son, Hashim Thaci, now sits at the helm as prime minister and mafia boss if the Swiss senator Dick Marty’s report, approved by the Council of Europe in January 2010, and the leaked NATO intelligence report are to be believed. The accusations of organ trafficking have stolen the headlines, which some have distorted into an image of a well-groomed George Clooney lookalike, Thaci, plucking kidneys from the still-warm bodies of executed donors. (For the record, no one is accusing the prime minister of having any direct involvement with this dreadful enterprise.) But they’ve overshadowed the larger indictment of this political machine as a vast, corrupt criminal enterprise dubbed the Drenica Group, whose roots are in the KLA. Thaci and his cohorts have skilfully rendered inseparable their activities of the past 12 years with the painful struggle to rid Kosovo of its oppressors. They command remarkable loyalty in their heartland, too. One of these true believers is Bilall Koci. He’s a professor and actor who approached me on the street in Skenderaj and led me into a shoe store for a chat. Koci told me that in Skenderaj, Thaci is known as the second Atatürk, referring to the founder of the modern Turkish state. While he’s “300 percent sure” that the allegations surrounding Thaci are false, Koci said, “if they are true, then none of the personalities in Kosovo have value. Because Hashim Thaci is a representative of the mass, then Hashim Thaci is the mass of Kosovo’s morality.” The way things are going, my new friend in Skenderaj may be in store for some very painful soul-searching. #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
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Let’s talk about sex By Kaltrina Ademi_ Feb. 13, 2011 I was having a drink with my girls when one of them started telling the story of a famous Albanian celebrity and his ex-girlfriend. He is well-known for being good with the ladies. Throughout their relationship, or so it has been reported, he cheated on her more than a few times. However, the main plot of the story was that he had publicly called her a whore in the middle of a crowded café, suggesting that she had cheated on him. Instead of running away, humiliated by her newfound reputation, she simply stood up, looked him in the eye and said, “If you want me, come get me. If not, stay where you are!“ Many of my girlfriends were so quick to call the aforementioned girl “easy“ or a “whore“ regardless of whether his accusations were true. His reputation in this case did not matter, either. Nobody would call him a “male whore“ and even if they did, most men probably would view it as a compliment on the length of their sexual résumé. Most Albanians know how important sex — or lack thereof— is in our society. Even though many youngsters claim that sex before marriage is becoming very common, and therefore, virginity is losing its status as the currency that approximates a woman’s value, there are just as many, if not more, who think otherwise. We are still a nation deeply rooted in patriarchal thinking, which often leaves us women perplexed as to which road to take when it comes to sex. I have met people who would easily label any woman a whore if she’s had sex with anybody other than her current partner. And those people were not, as one might imagine, villagers whose brides were going to get picked by their parents. Then again, I also have met people who think the other way around, but this is quite uncommon. There are double standards in every society, regardless of their scale of “civilization,” but in this case I am just going to be pick on our own. In the 1960s and 1970s, our nation was so focused on its polygamous marriage to the Orient and the West while also having a passionate affair with communistic ideals that it missed the party known as the sexual revolution. This plays an important role in the perception most of us have of sex, especially of women and sex. I know many women who feel they have to suppress their sexual desire out of fear that they’d be kicked out of the marriage market. I also know plenty of women who are willing to take part in any sexual activity except the one that would cost them their hymen. Many of us still feel the need to lie to our friends, boyfriends, brothers, fathers and husbands about our sex lives, past and present, suggesting that we aren’t as emancipated as we portray ourselves. I am in no way suggesting that promiscuity equals emancipation, let alone civilization. (Also bear in mind that these characterizations don’t apply to all. I am not trying to generalize.) My main concern is that this situation is no one’s fault but our own as women. We are the first ones to label other women as promiscuous. This gives men the right to label us and allows some to base our value on whether we lead active or inactive sex lives. If we were not so quick to label one another with all those pejorative names, I think the reality would be a lot different. Now don’t misunderstand, I am in no way against abstaining from sex until marriage or saving yourself for the so-called “right one.” I think it is a great 76
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decision, but it should not be based on the opinions and expectations of others. It should be our own choice based on our own beliefs — religious or otherwise. Only then can we speak of virtue. Kosovo and macchiato mystery By Puhie Demaku_July 16, 2010 Kosovo is the small place that was at war in 1999 and declared independence in 2008. It is a place where the United States and Europe invested millions of dollar and euros in taxpayer money. However, despite this aid, it remains underdeveloped more than a decade after the war’s end. We owe a debt of gratitude to different international organizations for the progress achieved in various spheres of life, such as in economy, agriculture, justice, environment, business, etc. But there is a field for which we are meritorious. Neither the Europeans nor the Americans have a share in it because we have developed it. That is ours. That is the macchiato culture. The macchiato culture is Kosovo’s pride – we have reached this result without any assistance. Even if all other fields of life stagnate in Kosovo, macchiato will always remain the top success. Served in cups from 4 to 6 cm high, macchiato hides many mysteries. Neither the local people nor the internationals who visit Prishtina can understand why bars in Kosovo, where the unemployment rate exceeds 40 percent and about 17 percent of people live in extreme poverty, are always full of people who have their macchiato. When one sits in a cafeteria in Prishtina and listens carefully to the debates of people around while they have a macchiato, he may realize why someone saves his last 50 cents for a macchiato. The complex political situation cannot always be resolved in parliament, government meetings or conferences with the civil society. But creative solutions are always found during the conversations accompanied by macchiato. The macchiato forums are the most serious generators of possibilities for the grave political situations. I believe that if the opinions of Kosovar macchiato lovers were taken into account, the government would not get stuck in a crossroads. I was convinced lately that we could find solutions to regional problems, let alone to the local ones, over a macchiato. While the West prefers to resolve love problems through sessions with “relationship counselors,” we cure and settle down ours with 50 cents. Over a macchiato, we elaborate even the smallest love, relationship, and marriage problems. If someone buys us a macchiato, we can discuss even the problems of our neighbors or colleagues, who have not requested our assistance — but charity is served together with the macchiato. Macchiato provides employment opportunities. One creates the most interesting conspiracy theories over a macchiato. We fight unemployment and boredom over a macchiato. We also soften love pain by having a macchiato. Therefore, why do you wonder why cafes are full of macchiato lovers? Isn’t it obvious that we do not need sport fields and activities? We do not go to theaters and cinemas, we do not go to huge concerts, and we do not seek relaxation because we have already compensated it in the best way — we have relaxed over a macchiato. So, how can’t we be one of the most optimistic people in the world? — K
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Masculine Habitus: How to Think of Men in Kosovo Story by nita luci/ photography by atdhe mulla
— ON March 8, 2005, Ramush Haradinaj, then Kosovo’s prime minister, and two other former KLA fighters, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, responded to the charges brought against them by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia in Hague. Haradinaj immediately resigned from his post and stated his readiness to respond to the indictment. In a statement he read at a televised press conference he declared:
During the following week and months, media headlines and coverage created a unified space for asserting solidarity with Haradinaj. This emerged as a momentarily novel practice among media outlets, known for their dependency or alliance with specific political parties. An overarching agreement was that not only did Haradinaj respond in a way that adhered to an internationally sanctioned “civilized” manner, but his act carried the meanings of Albanian culture as deeply tied to manhood. Writing the following day, Agron Bajrami, editor of daily Koha Ditore, titled his editorial “Time of men.” Bajrami wrote about Haradinaj’s response as affirmations of his honorable (read manly) character and called on the government and political parties to set their individual differences aside and begin work towards Kosovo’s future. The social and political texts created around this event — Haradinaj’s enactment of “virtue,” “the peoples’” sacrifice and strife for an independent state, the establishment of justice — moved furiously through public and private discussions and shows of solidarity. For the public in Kosovo, Haradinaj’s response was read against the backdrop of Serbia’s inability or unwillingness to deliver Radovan Karadžic and Ratko Mladic being charged for crimes against humanity by the ICTY, and functioned to confirm the ready response to calls for justice as a national attribute.
These sets of practices rendered Kosovo’s dignity as an expression of manly attributes. The expressed solidarity was articulated as a fraternal bond of the nation, a bond created through challenge and sacrifice, whereby the attributes of individuals would generate the existing links of nation. But to understand how this event could be communicated and understood in such a way, one must unearth the ways in which both manhood and womanhood have figured into the cultural formations that have informed Kosovar national projects. By following the dominant conceptual calendar of before and after the war in Kosovo, and through ethnographic awareness, we can identify the politics and creative practices that have animated national belonging as part of everyday life and thus make visible that which is most taken for granted: manhood. As in all modern conflict and post-conflict situations, where national belonging comes to dominate political sentiments, a multitude of boundaries are constituted by and constitute one of the most powerful forms of cultural reproduction: gender. While anthropologists have long been interested in the roles, aesthetics, and politics of gender identity in the building of kinship groups and other communities and markers — class, sexuality, language, race, etc. — the past couple of decades have been particularly fruitful for those interested in nationalism and the nation. Feminist anthropologists, in particular, have been unyielding in writing histories of women, addressing women’s voice and agency (complicit and revolutionary) in the making and unmaking of national cultures and politics. Although there are exceptions, men as an analytical and social category have remained unexamined, despite the fact that most of us have come to the agreement that nations are masculinist projects. In recent years, this has changed and attention is increasingly focused on economic relations and masculinity, male friendships, sexuality and embodiment. Nonetheless, most studies of Eastern Europe, and more specifically the Balkans, have attended to the structural and discursive shifts regarding
"I am of Kosovo and willfully sacrifice myself for my country… All of my actions in war were in accordance with the morals of war, international rules and the code of manhood."
women and only passing reference is made to men as gendered The reconciliation of blood feuds among Albanians in Kososubjects. I In the context of former Yugoslavia, masculinity has vo was such a formation, and from 1990 and 1992 it made for been mainly considered as a function of nationalism ( for ex- one of the most powerful enactments of new political identiample in the construction of martyrdom) But, perhaps more ties. importantly, ethnographic inquiry has begun locating this catAs a movement, reconciliation became remade within egory as a diverse process of gendering cultural practice, which novel framings of human rights, set as a modern political pracis to say that to be a man is not the same at all times and places. tice, while reviving and reinventing national traditions. DurWhen people ask me what I research, the answer generally ing the two-year period, some 2,000 to 2,500 feuds were recelicits two types of responses “S’ka me burra ne Kosove” or onciled. Notions of forgiveness, besa, and dignity became the “cka paske pune.” Respectively they mean, “there are no more language of protest. Besa, which translates into given oath or men in Kosovo” and “you have your work cut out for you.” vow, was used in reconciliation while emitting the binding Both statements attempt to stabilize what is ties of morality, family, and, in this otherw ise a tenuous social relation. So, instance, nation. Anton Cetta, the rethere are the men of mythic proportions, tired folklorist who emerged as the — Respectively they mean, the honorable safe-guarders of tradition, leader of the movement, with other “there are no more men in nation and family. They are how men once intellectual and political leaders, Kosovo” and “you have your seemed to be echoing a cohesive asused to be. Then, there are the men that do not live up to cultural and social expecsertion: Paradoxically, traditional valwork cut out for you.” tations. Usually these are the untrustworues could shed backwardness and inithy and effeminate men. Among and tiate Kosovo’s cultural return to through these archetypes exist the complex Europe. Reconciliation became articpractices through which men’s gendered ulated as always already existing reidentities are formed and enacted. sistance to foreign domination, and served to reinvent tradition towards building legitimacy for a newly formed political project of inMen of their word dependence. Kosovo Albanians argue that the socialist state was always perSimultaneously, events of reconciliation became characterceived as a foreign governing body; this would be particularly ized by an enthusiastic creation of space for the enactments of true for Serbia led by Slobodan Miloševic. With the revocation public rituals, and specifically gendered identities. Attended by of Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989, and the beginning of Yugoslavia’s thousands, televised, and covered by all available media at the disintegration, a coherent movement for independence began time, events of reconciliation enabled performances that negoto publicly emerge in Kosovo. While elections, declarations tiated ideas of tradition, nation and gender. Particularly pertiof independence, protests, and impositions of martial law were nent concepts of honor and shame, and conceptions of male experienced as some of the most relevant and revolutionary and female virtues — which delineate domestic and public aspects of the beginning of the 1990s, the intersection of such spaces according to gender, generation and rank — worked to major events and the refashioning of everyday life offers maintain and bring back a new patriarchal order of things. This recognition that any political mobilization draws on cultural order relied on the privileging of male discourses and practicresources. As Veena Das argues, when the everyday, which is es within a political/public sphere constructed as following also supposed to be the site of the ordinary, is ruptured by traditional dictates through which family and kin relations are v iolence, new liberating formations are also made possible. exercised. The reconciliation of blood feuds exemplified a pro#1 IMAGE Summer 2011
cess in which men’s traditional role to defend the honor of the continued to construct the universal (neutral) political subject family was explicated once again, but also redefined and exas male. Such is most evident in the erasure of any public distended to the whole nation. The reconciliation process, which cussion of the sexual violence committed against women, and could be seen as contradictory to this type of manhood and men, during the 1999 war in Kosovo, and the very fact that it tradition, was also rationalized through a national discourse was used as a strategy of violence and “ethnic cleansing.” that required men to be honorable and manly by forgiving for If blood relatedness has been a means to produce belonging in the sake of the greater family, the nation. Kosovo, creating particular gendered hierarchies has also been As numerous Albanian customary law scholars have obcentral to legitimating nation-state building projects. Although served, an overarching significance and meaning of the Kanun relations between nationalism and gender can be understood in is its mobilizational affect and power to ensure internal coheterms of explicit political ideologies, they must also be understood sion when there is an outside threat. in terms of larger cultural systems from which they derive. Therefore, any attempt The basis upon which cohesion is forged nonetheless has varied through — Any attempt to understand to understand Kosovo’s 1999 war for independence, and the responses to former Prime time and space. In times of apartheid, as was Kosovo during the 1990s, the Kosovo’s 1999 war for Minister Haradinaj’s indictment, must focus enactment and perhaps nourishment of independence must focus on the on the bonds and ruptures that occurred berelations built around particular gender bonds and ruptures between tween and among Kosovo’s earlier political arrangements became the life world elites and those in the war zones between that affirmed the spreading of cultural Kosovo’s earlier political elites fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army. messages of resistance and imparting and the KLA. Unlike the movement for blood-feud reconinformation vital to survival. Reconciliation, and politics of peaceful resistance ciliation was a form of cultural work during the early 1990s, “the liberation war” that went into forging new forms of relatedness and belonging mobilized forms and values of family, manhood and national solbetween people. Elsewhere, I have argued that these social and idarity that had to do with “fighting back.” In this instance, nopolitical movements centered on the key notion of blood and tions and practices of Albanian manhood acquired new meanings manhood, through which relatedness and the reproduction of and repertoires but remained key to conceptions of the nation’s families and the nation would be imagined and practiced. political subjectivity. Within such relations, manhood is not a social construct deLegitimating new kinds of social and political confrontations fined only in opposition to women, as proprietary extensions with the state on the part of the KLA was inspired by cultural and historical understandings of justice, their marginality in of groups and that of the men of other groups, but powerfully former Yugoslavia and the constant violence strategically exeras a relation to the men of the same national group. cised by that state over populations in what later became KLA strongholds. Although socialist Yugoslavia’s persecution of enA brave new man: From beaten to freedom fighter emies of the state was by no means reserved for Albanians, “ethThe governing political body in Kosovo has based its legitimanic considerations” had created a political economy based on cy on a moral superiority over its others, particularly through the ethnic division of labor in Kosovo. The political visions of values assigned to gendered cultural practices. As movements those placed differentially within former Yugoslavia’s economfor independence in Kosovo sought empowerment through loic and political distribution of rights and mobility, enjoyed by cal idioms of cultural particularity, ultimately, different forms a minority of Albanians in Kosovo, had also created constant of suffering and resistance have been culturally and morally acsocial and cultural confrontations. In Kosovo, members of ilceptable for men and women. In particular, the national project legal underground movements — including the Popular Move80
Movements for independence in Kosovo defined their resistance as ones against an unjust and latter immoral neighbor (Serbia), rejected the attempts of writing a particular exclusionary socialist Yugoslav history and sought empowerment through local idioms of cultural particularity. Claims to the latter were built upon shifting identification, bodily and emotional bonds, to experiences of suffering and resistance, as enduring motifs of national tradition. The governing political body based its legitimacy on a moral superiority over its enemy, particularly the values assigned to certain gendered cultural practices. The attainment and enactment of womanly and manly character was made possible, in contexts of extreme impossibility, by suffering the domination over the nation and resistance for the empowerment of the nation. Ultimately, different forms of suffering and resistance would be culturally and morally accept-
able for men and woman, as the national project continued to construct the universal (neutral) political subject as male. It is perhaps undeniable that structural constraints determine people’s options for action. Once a fellow student from Belgrade told me the story of how she was always afraid to walk home from school because she thought that the Albanian construction workers building New Belgrade might rape her. While this danger may have been real, that is women’s general insecurity in everyday life, what was also present in these encounters was the regime of representation that defined Albanian men as sexual aggressors. But, while material and systematic organization and employment of gender posit men and women in binding ways, is that all there is to it, or do people also actively engage with their sense of belonging and move towards shifting the relations of power? We may attempt to locate the variety of gender relations spatially and temporally, but there is no single thing that is masculinity. Instead of focusing only on the dominant and hegemonic, I would point to the fault lines between what men do, how they do it, how they express control, recite, embody, or fight, in an attempt to insert historical action to our understandings of manhood. Therefore to talk about men is about the necessity of making visible the historical processes and creation of political sanctioning and possibility, regardless if they proved libratory or disappointing. In Kosovo, national manhood became that space where the apparent impossibility of alternative action is turned into a possibility for empowerment. Within nation building projects, a multiplicity of elites will compete over the kind of man one has to be and his place within cultural systems of representation. Men acquire, act on, and respect the sensibilities and conflicts that emerge between socially dominant and shifting cultural inscriptions of manhood. Ethnographic inquiry can show that the nation is an ongoing negotiation of history, remembrance, and varied gender relations. Recognition of this can become possible only with changing definitions of participation in political life. — K
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ment for Kosovo (Lidhja Popullore e Kosoves), which later came to constitute the ranks of the KLA — came from backgrounds in which memories and experiences of resistance since the first Balkan wars had marked their political aspirations. Sociologist Anton Berishaj has noted that Albanians remained cautious of the state and experienced it as a source of violence and brutality; therefore, understanding the emergence of the Kosovo Liberation Army requires recognizing the longer history of relations to the state that aided the formation of resistance and underground movements in Kosovo. Comprehending the personal and collective experiences of political organization and persecution is a first step in recognizing how an armed response in Kosovo became a new means of survival and how this has generated a new habitus of aesthetic, political, economic and cultural relations. In post-war Kosovo, the public landscape is dominated by representations of the previously marginal, but who now serve hegemonic masculinities that draw their legitimacy from victims that can no longer speak on their own behalf. Many sides to masculinity
A perfect bride STORY By NITA DEDA / PHOTOGRAPHY BY YLL CITAKU
A FEW HOURS FROM PRISHTINA, A WRITER GOES UNDERCOVER TO EXPERIENCE WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE DECORATED AS A BRIDE FROM LUBINJE.
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A Lubinje bride's decorations rival those of Natalie Portman's Queen Padme Amidala in the "Star Wars" saga.
— Someone wise once said that in order to grow, you have to leave your comfort zone. And I did just that to be transformed into Queen Padmé Amidala, played by Natalie Portman in the “Star Wars” saga. It took hours of layering materials on me, coloring my face and drawing shapes on my cheeks. Little did I know that my experience would be far more profound than simply sharing the likeness of a blockbuster movie characters. I was a bride, without a husband or a white dress. ￼ I had never heard of Lubinje. My knowledge of the place and its traditions was a clean slate. A picturesque village near the city of Prizren, Lubinje is populated by 3,200 members of the Trebesh community. The strong, tight-knit community lives in big colorful houses. I found myself warmly welcomed in one of the three houses of Aziza, the last bearer of a tradition passed on generation after generation: the rite of beautifying brides on their wedding day. But today, Azize worries that their old tradition will fade
away with her. According to tradition, marriages usually occur between young people of families within the same community, while the new brides go to live with their husbands. But as many generations of younger men moved from Lubine to European countries in search for better working opportunities, mostly the elderly are left behind. Now, the younger generation of women is hesitant to carry it on. Seated inside a modern house built by her married sons, who work as construction workers in Switzerland, Azize carefully prepared for the ritual. Azize felt nostalgic as she repeated the same rite she performed to beautify the brides of her sons. And with a white layer spread over every inch of my face, it began.
In order to be accepted as equals and truly become part of the community, every bride in Lubinje undergoes the same ritual. Their faces are transformed and decorated meticulously, while their bodies are covered with five to six layers
Old women in the village of Lubinje want the marriage rituals they've performed COUNTLESS times to continue long past the end of their lives. brides-TO-BE are covered from head to toe with costumes, makeup and accessories.
â€” Their faces are transformed and decorated meticulously, while their bodies are covered with five to six layers of traditional handmade costumes.
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The village of Lubinje is just a few hours from Prishtina, but, especially on wedding days, it can seem a world away.
The bride's face is covered with a veil until she reaches her new home.
— Aziza says ensuring brides’ uniform appearance protects them from the evil eye, and discourages gossip and speculation.
of traditional handmade costumes and accessories that bulk you up and weigh you down. After the decorating is over, the bride is taken to her husband’s house by horse. Her head is covered with a veil to hide her face until she reaches her new home. Once there, the bride has to stand inside a room flanked by her husband’s mother and sister, who attends to the new bride’s every need. Meanwhile, the entire village visits in order to see and welcome the bride to the community. Aziza says ensuring brides’ uniform appearance protects them from the evil eye, and discourages gossip and speculation. Bit by bit, Aziza drew symmetrical lines and placed colorful accessories on my face and body. She’s done this at least 200 times in her life. As is customary, Aziza was having an engaging conversation with some other old women from the village who were keeping her company. That day, they discussed some interesting Facebook pictures in the profile of one of their neighbors. Even this little village isn’t immune from modernity in a clash between the old and the new: the big colorful houses with flat-screen TVs, pools and the old, traditionallooking villagers living inside, or the gossiping on and about social networks. ￼ I came away with much more than a set of extraordinary pictures. Aziza transported me to a different world where a special kinship reigns. And it’s just a couple hours from my home in Prishtina, a city where fervor is replacing a sense of community. I arrived with a face plain with transparent lipgloss and a bit of powder on my cheeks. I returned as a bride from Lubinje. — K
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Artist yearns inside vendor secutive years, Polaroid announced plans to close down operations, which left 450 unemployed people in the United States and one desperate boy in Prizren. Armed with an instinct for survival, Gezim left his Polaroid at home; he bought a batch of different brands of cigarette packs and joined the legion of the most talked about cigarette salesmen in the region. Young Kosovar cigarette sellers have often found themselves in the media spotlight, being mentioned in hip hop songs and folk music alike, but never made it high up the list of priorities or agendas. The numbers of cigarette “salesboys” has grown into hundreds and their experiences are countless as they await the sunlight and roam the city cafes and bars. Although Polaroid and Fujifilm have revived instant photography, Gezim feels far away from the novelties. Out of Love Gezim does not like to blurt out dry words. Fairy tales are not his strongest weapon, but his scarred skin betrays the hidden experiences that gave Gezim his fairy-tale minutes. He does not recall the details, yet his face lights up when describing the most beloved chapter of his life, that of an actor. “Out of Love” is a fictional documentary that unveils the stories of young Kosovar cigarette sellers to international audiences. Birgite Staermose, a Danish director, joined by a small group of Kosovar film makers, researched and stored the stories surrounding these boys, which were then transformed into spoken poetry told by Gezim and his other young cigarette-selling friends. As one of the main storytellers, sur88
rounded by a team of professionals, terrified from the attention and a little forgotten from the street, Gezim found his true calling. Today, among the vocations he wants to pick up, from construction to agronomy, acting remains the greatest dream. He’s fallen in love and believes it wasn’t luck. Gezim knows the people and their characters. He knows the streets and the scene. He feels he has everything except for an understanding of the English language. Gezim remembers the splendor shining from the cameras, but has forgotten the text he had managed to memorize in only one night. He remembers the high and professional level of the crew and feels equal to their professionalism. Gezim is ready for a second film, and he only needs one chance. Today, five years after dropping out of school, Gezim feels paralyzed. Options for survival abound, but they keep shrinking within the borders of reality. They make him drift away from the beautiful dream of becoming an actor, the fairy tale Cinderella fate and from tasting a little bit of the success the movie has had at world festivals. Gezim was mesmerized when “Out of Love” was awarded the Rotterdam Film Festival’s Golden Tiger, which is listed in the top five prestigious film festivals along Cannes, Venice and Berlin. Proudly, he lives through minutes of his debut since he was on the clip presented in the Berlinale. But his dreams have shattered. The burden on Gezim’s shoulders now accounts for the fate of his father, mother, sisters and brothers. Although he’s been loosing interest, he is not out of love. So, before he goes to bed, Gezim prays. He prays to God for money that will help him build a house for his dearest. He has everything else, and consoles himself with the fact that time will find a cure for his heartbreak. — K
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THE MEATLESS RABBLE-ROUSER food. I don’t just do it. I like to make it nicely, so I can’t be angry. When I am angry it stays outside, all the anger stays out. K2.0: You are saying that making food is very spiritual — it is not only a process. Do you think you can keep it this way should your business expand? Is it sometimes like in TV show “Hell’s Kitchen” with you? Do you yell sometimes? Qehaja: I would yell if someone pisses me off from outside, but not while I am doing things (in the kitchen). When I am cooking, I have to be concentrated. If I am concentrated and you interrupt me, you are in deep shit. I just need to be left alone, and do that, do that, do that. Probably, if we expand, we would need another person in the kitchen. It’s just two of us for now. It would be the ideal to soon have someone else that loves food as much as I do. They would not need to know anything. Just train them. I like to have a good energy in the kitchen. If someone with good energy works there, it is always going to be good. I believe that when I make (food for you), I give you my energy in the food. I would like to have people that are happy in the whole process. What you give is very important; it’s your hands, it’s everything. So it’s basically that I’m giving you what I have in me, to you. That’s what I believe. It would be disrespectful to give you something bad. K2.0: What influences does your menu have? Qehaja: It’s more Middle Eastern and Mediterranean, but really it’s Middle Eastern because falafel is Middle East-
ern. Garlic yogurt is Turkish. Humus is Middle Eastern. K2.0: In terms of capacity that you were thinking of right before starting, were you surprised by the rush of people who came to try it or did you expect it? Qehaja: I did expect people to try and like it because I knew myself that the taste wasn’t that different from what we eat. It is impossible (not to like it) because it is not that different. If you gave people Indian food, then you would be a bit scared because they never tried it, and they don’t know it. But these are all flavors that we actually did have in different forms. K2.0: How do people react to your banana sandwich? Qehaja: They laugh. And then they taste it and they are like “wow, this is not bad.” It is a bit of an education. It’s fun at the same time because it is nice to see people’s reactions. In fact, people are way more open than I thought they would be. They are nice and are receiving the food well. Then, there are people who come in and go: 2.50 EUR for no meat?! No thanks. — K
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strings inspire So in a small and isolated cultural market, surviving from such work is almost impossible, especially when it isn’t tailored for the mass market. For Kuci that means making sacrifices. “Tonight, for example, I’m invited to hold an instrument in my hand as part of a playback performance <what is this?> at a certain show. But it pays well,” Kuci says.
Taking those kinds of gigs is something Kuci laments because they come at the expense of doing the music he loves. ”Nowadays I can’t find enough time to work on these kinds of things as most of my energy is spent on the things I have to do for money,” Kuci says. Still, the violinist does find time to work on smaller projects with students and local and foreign artists to nurture Kosovo’s cultural life. Not surprisingly, Kuci has become somewhat of an institution, not just as a young person of exceptional talent, but also as pillar for the local music scene. That’s why musicians like Salihu are eager to play with him. “Whether in rehearsals, studio or on stage – having Kuci close to you is, except the pleasure and joy that he brings with his humor and talent, a huge professional comfort,” Salihu says. “You can always rely on his instinct because he always unties the knot with one hand; it’s as if he is the link between the ensemble and some hidden musical spiritual commission.” A commodity worth exporting Kuci could have found ways to stay in Germany after graduating from the University of Münster in 2006, but home beckoned him. “Nobody needs me in Germany. I would just be one more musician there,” Kuci says. “Here you need to work on building things up for yourself and for the community. This can be nerve-racking but also challenging and exciting. I kind of felt that my experience is needed here.” Kuci wishes, however, that more Kosovar musicians had the opportunity to be unofficial ambassadors for their new country. Just as his rendition of Bach astonished a Germany priest, he says other musicians could show the world that Kosovo has much to offer. “Our government spent more than five million Euros on an image campaign for Kosovo, publishing advertisements in foreign mass media,” Kuci says. “Yet they rarely send any musicians or artists to performances abroad, which I think would reach less people but would have a significantly stronger impact on those it does reach.” — K #1 IMAGE Summer 2011
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Cagllavica’s combustible liquid the quality. The numerous cafes and bars in Prishtina, in most of the cases offer rakia produced by Kosovo Serbs. A glass of rakia costs from 50 cents to 2 euro. If you are Tomic’s guest, you’ll be rewarded. He will not let you leave without a bottle of rakia. Don’t reject his present; you’d make a big mistake. — K
through all the songs, and we went to Skopje, we played together. I had fun, I didn’t know the lyrics, it was fine, everything was fine, and after that… Ajeti: Rock ’n’ roll.
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gillespie returns with a smile Shkodra: Being from Kosovo and having a band means to get pissed a lot mostly on the society and then secondly in everything, on the system and everything else, cause nothing works well, so we know we were working our asses off and then there were no results in the end, you know, nothing happened. We had the same people coming to the gigs, and it’s usually art critics who come to our gigs, like 90 percent of the audience are art critics and the 10 percent have fun. So we got a bit sick and tired of it, and then we just took a break. K2.0: But when you got back together, there was a bit of uncertainty and drama because your lead singer left soon into your reunion. Shkodra: Yes, I think she found herself not fitting anymore or I don’t know what happened but then she just decided to leave, but you know, we still write that way, we have the new singer, we’re extremely happy with her. Ajeti: A better one... K2.0: So, Hana, how did you get thrown in to this? Zeqa: They called me, they wanted to add some electronic sounds to their music, and I play piano so we started to practice and the other singer decided to leave the band. Actually they booked a gig in Skopje, and the gig was two days from then and they didn’t know what to do so they called me and said “Look, please if you can help us out in this thing.” We got to practice only one day, or one day and a half - just for two hours we went 90
K2.0: So guys, what’s the band like with h av i n g t h i s new le ad si n g er? Ajeti: It feels much, much better, really. I’m not saying because Hana is here, but really... K2.0: How does that change the dynamic? Shkodra: I think it’s a bit more positive, and a bit more cheerful, cause we’ve seen that on the gigs, it’s, I don’t know why, but we got this positive energy from Hana, the three of us, and it feels better, or it feels perfect. K2.0: Now that you putting the finish touches on your new album, what have you discovered about the band? Shkodra: The new album I think it’s us in the end, cause you can also see that the whole thing is based on the base guitar lines or something. It’s us in the end. I think it’s a bit more mature. Zeqa: Sometimes I sit and wonder what do the lyrics mean. But it’s really positive at the end; it gives you that positive energy. I don’t know how the inspiration came, but it always comes with something positive and beautiful like flowers, sky or something. Ajeti: With music you can’t change the world, you can’t change the world. Music is about good mood, yeah? So, there’s no politics on it, social problems, come on … Shkodra: Everyone sings that, you know. Our songs are about love, going and living - all you need is love. K2.0: Do any other artists significantly in f luence your music, as wel l? Ajeti: When you mix the drum lines, then you’re inspired from the drums of the Keith Moore or Jimi Hendrix’s drummer, Mitch Mitchell, the drummer of the Supergrass band, or Primal Scream and you mix with baselines of Primal Scream and New Order sometime, and the guitar lines from U2, Sonic Youth style guitar so when you mix those together it comes very unusual … kosovo 2.0
Shkodra: You know, U2 never was my favorite band… Ajeti: So when you mix those, it becomes very unusual stuff. K2.0: I don’t think that people really understand that someone from Kosovo, because of the restrictions they face, just basically basic freedom of movement… Shkodra: First of all, we have to pay extremely like very high plane tickets because we don’t just take a van and travel because we’re not allowed to pass through Serbia. Secondly, we need a visa for Bosnia, we would need a visa for Croatia, we would need a Schengen visa for Europe. You never know if you’re gonna get the visa, and then for us it’s a bit of a mess to organize everything because there are no clubs who say “OK, we’re sending the official invitation letters.” If we would go play outside that would probably mean a lot of technical issues to face and probably to have a part time job throughout the whole year just to arrange everything. K2.0: What do you think that you and other underground bands from Kosovo have to offer the rest of the world? Shkodra: We’re not doing anything extraordinary, but we still should have the equal rights as all the other people do, I don’t know, all the countries in Europe. You know there’s a song, “Give peace a Chance.” Give people a chance, just give people a chance to show themselves. You may like it and then you end up making the life of someone in, I don’t know, in Brazil, happier.
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Beyond Fashion Design
Describe your work: It is organic. It is about the freedom to move and express yourself, while being comfortable and exuding self-confidence. What is your inspiration? I like architecture, so my inspiration comes from architecture: sketches, descriptions and lines. It has so much harmony, and I enjoy taking the inside out. Then, as I manipulate the fabric, it always gives me new shapes, and shape is crucial for trendsetting. Who do you design for? For women who know what they are buying. Who or what is your greatest influence? New York and Paris. New York because of the lifestyle and Paris because it inspires the elegant side of my style. Can fashion have a political ambition? It can express dissatisfaction: political and social. Essentially, it is about expressing individuality. What is your favorite piece? A dress I designed 10 years ago, for which I received an award from the head designer at KENZO. It was a lovely black on black piece. It summarizes my philosophy: very unique, very modern. What’s wrong and or right with the way people dress in Prishtina? I have mixed feelings. There are some that are not afraid to experiment, and some that are more conservative.
Describe your work: Sky is the limit. What is your signature design? Feather. What do you have in mind when you design? Eighteenth-century paintings and Dracula. It’s not about a particular character, it’s more about that era. What is your greatest influence? Theater. What is your philosophy? I have no philosophy. I never think of fashion; it just clicks. I believe that before there is thinking, there is imagination. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned? Simplicity. Which is more important in your work: process or product? Process. What is your favorite piece? A corset and hat-piece that resembles 18-century costumes in the style of Marie Antoinette and Dita von Teese. Njomeza Luci’s shop in Prishtina is located on the first floor of the Sunny Hill shopping center. Her designs are sold in Shanghai, Paris and London.
Describe your work: Make dreams happen! Meh, it sounds like an ad for a bank loan, or worse, a dating agency. What is your signature design? If I have to be precise, it’s the finishing touches, hidden pockets, linings and folds - in and out of proportions. What is your definition of beauty? A unicorn. What is your philosophy? Change: It’s not just a conspiracy theory perpetrated by the fashion designers so they can sell new clothes. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned? I’m stubborn, so I’ve learned to let go. What is your favorite piece? It’s a shirt — an oversized men’s shirt, my first design and sewing experience. It has buttons sewn partially in the front and back as some sort of ornament resembling a map. How would you describe the mix of styles in Prishtina? An ongoing process of deconstruction that is mixed and matched with different mind sets, echoes of distant copies of a copy passing through, resulting into a heavy cultural clash. Buqkurish! Talking gibberish? No it's actually a word with no source of origin, as is our style. Surprisingly enough, there are parts of it that I find very much likable! — K
Luci’s store is located at the Sunny Hill Trade Center, Prishtina.
Mustafa’s store is located at St. Fehmi Agani 1, Nr.4, Prishtina.
Rugova’s store is located at Garibaldi st. nr. 17, Prishtina.
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Handsome Furs ROAD GIG: PRISHTINA
It’s about 2 a.m. on April 27. Handsome Furs has just finished its conversion of Filikaqa from Prishtina sports bar to a grindinducing altar of indie pop worship. The Montreal-based wifeand-husband duo of Alexei Perry and Dan Boeckner, of Wolf Parade fame, were catching their breaths outside when Kosovo 2.0 caught up with them. interview by besa luci and nate tabak / photography by kreshnik berisha
— The pair stopped in Kosovo’s capital during their European tour. We talked everything from Yugos to Busta Rhymes. Handsome Furs just released their third album, “Sound Kapital.” The keyboard-driven record draws heavily on the sounds of 1980s Eastern Europe.
absolutely no barrier after the first 15 minutes of introduction. K2.0: Are you aware that you were competing with Busta Rhymes, who also performed in Prishtina tonight? Perry: Sadly. We know that there is probably a huge crossover between the fans. I’m just joking. K2.0: How did you make it here? Perry: Very luckily. Boeckner: We had a European tour, Central European tour with some Poland and Czech Republic thrown in there. And Kirga, this guy from Skopje, put us on a festival called “Zdravo Mladi.” K2.0: Do you know what “Zdravo Mladi” means? Boeckner: Yeah, it means Hello Youth.
Kosovo 2.0: You seemed a bit surprised by the audience response. During the intermission, you’d say, ‘you guys are amazing; you guys are amazing.’ Why? Alexei Perry: We weren’t expecting so many people. We weren’t sure if the show was gonna go off, because during sound check the power kept going out. We were terrified there would be no show, and then the response was incredible. Dan Boeckner: We were singing “Radio Kaliningrad,” the song we wrote when we were in Latvia, and they were just singing the chorus and it was loud. Perry: It was amazing. People were really dancing. Boeckner : We just came off a U.S. tour where there is a definite space and distance with the audience. I love touring in the States because we have a big fan base there. But I feel that a lot of the times you meet people that are worried about a) what other people around think about them and b) what you think of them. Here, at least with people that we met, there is
K2.0: What was the last book you read? Perry: The one I’m reading right now is on the history of the Yugo, the car. Passer-by: What were you listening to when you were 15? Boeckner : When I was 15, I was Fugazi and Metallica. Perry: You can’t steal mine. I said Fugazi; he’s lying. Boeckner : OK, I’ll change mine then. I was listening to Metallica and a lot of shitty metal.
K2.0: How does it feel to be in a place like Kosovo? Boeckner: It is the newest country in the world. Perry: Yeah, like 65 percent of the population is under 30, which is pretty cool. Boeckner: I mean, not to put my toe too deep into Balkan politics, but I am an armchair Balkan politics fan. I read as much as I can about it, because I have a lot of friends here. Perry: We are both nerds; we read a lot.
Perry: And I was listening to a lot of dancehall, because I partly grew up in the Caribbeans. K2.0: This is your first time in Kosovo, right? Handsome Furs: Yes. K2.0: What’d you think about Kosovo when you arrived and how does that relate to what you are experiencing now? Boeckner: I haven’t talked to enough people or been here long enough to absorb it all. I get a vibe from the city; it seems a lot more active than Skopje. I mean, I love Skopje, but it seems more like…I am making hand gestures. Perry: Yeah, people can’t see this. Boeckner : It’s busy; it’s really busy. It seems like people are on the street, and there are cars everywhere. We were in a bar. What was the name of the bar? K2.0: Tingell-Tangell. Boeckner : Yeah, this great bar, little bar. Everybody was talking really loudly and smoking. It was great.
more screens than people. What are we gonna do?” Boeckner: I mean, it’s not the weirdest place we have ever played. We’ve played in some really… we played in Myanmar, in Burma. Somebody snuck us in the country, basically. And we set up a secret show in a karaoke bar that was running off from four diesel generators, they were half inside. So there was smoke inside the club, and we set up our own security. We hired some kids with walky-talky’s to make sure the police did not come.
Perry: It would have been very bad for the band we were playing with if they had been discovered, and we would have been immediately deported ‘cause we were there very illegally. Boeckner: So that was a bizarre show for us. It was a great show, but it was a lot stranger than playing here. I grew up playing in punk bands. We’d play fuckin’ anywhere. We played in sports — “We weren’t sure if the bars, basements, somebody’s parents living room. show was gonna go off,
because during sound check the power kept going out. We were terrified there would be no show.”
K2.0: But how does Prishtina compare? Boeckner : I haven’t been here long; I’ve had three or four full days. This is a stretch because Skopje’s infrastructure is pretty shaky, but it seems that the infrastructure here is a little shakier than in Skopje. It’s just an initial impression. One thing that surprised me is to see UN / KFOR; I didn’t know they were still here. I mean, maybe I’m an idiot. When we came to Skopje last time, I had seen KFOR trucks coming through Macedonia into Greece, maybe to get supplies. I don’t know. But I didn’t know there were so many of these people still in Kosovo. It was kind of surprising for me to see that. K2.0: How did it feel to play at a sports bar? Perry: It was hilarious coming here. “Oh my God, there were
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Perry: Handsome Furs people play anywhere. Boeckner: Yeah.
K2.0: So where do you go from here? Boeckner: We go to Podgorica tomorrow, and then Dubrovnik and then Sarajevo. We have three days off in Sarajevo, and then we go in a big European tour. K2.0: Do you spell Prishtina with S or SH? Boeckner: I don’t know man; I have seen it both ways. KS2.0: Which one would you go for first, S or SH? Boeckner: After being here, I’d go for … If I was spelling it for a Western audience, I’d spell it with SH. Perry: I’d spell it with an S, ‘cause that’s what I keep saying here. — K 93
Photo Courtesy of DOKUFEST
DokuDream – as reel as it gets Ten years have passed since a group of film lovers tried to turn their dream into a reality. When one dreams, thoughts of failure perish while moments of joy, imagination and possibility captivate the mind’s spotlight. Starting a film festival in a city without a cinema is exactly such a dream, and yet DokuCity is as real as it can get. Screening the most acclaimed documentaries and short films in improvised outdoor cinemas over the riverbed or inside the city castle, and organizing workshops in Prizren’s old Turkish baths is what makes DokuCity real, yet dreamlike. story by nita deda
—Coming to life as a small festival organized by a group of friends, DokuFest International Documentary and Short Film Festival has evolved into one of the largest cultural events in the region and is now one of the world’s top 25 documentary film festivals. DokuFest is best known for its lively atmosphere and amazing enthusiasm that grip the city, its people and more than 150 volunteers working for the festival. Yet, along with a strong lineup of competing films and documentaries, the festival is also known for numerous other activities taking place there. Such is the case with DokuKids, which is a small festival within DokuFest, screening films for children and organizing workshops, where kids can learn about animation and documentary filmmaking. Regional and international bands come to Prizren to play live music at Mullini by the river during DokuNights – the entertainment section of the festival. DokuPhoto, hosting exhibitions of regional and international artists, is the space dedicated to those with a passion for photography, while DokuCamp, the beautiful camping site by the river, gathers youngsters from all over the world to enjoy the amazing nature of Prizren, mingle and sing. This edition, DokuCity becomes 10 years old. To mark and honor this achievement, the program planners at DokuFest are preparing a special program with the top 10 docs and shorts screened in DokuFest during its 10 years of existence. In fact, the rapid growth and evolution of the fes#1 IMAGE Summer 2011
tival is apparent when you look back at the achievements of the past 10 years. With a remarkable annual audience growth of 30 percent; the launch of yearlong projects such as DokuMonday, which screens films every week for high school children from Prizren, and with the recent “Human Rights Film Factory – Stories from the Kosovo Margins” project supported by the EU, DokuFest is a story of a dream. Today, Dokufest is building its own Doku Film Centre equipped with all shooting necessities, while the ‘Human Rights Film Factory’ targets young filmmakers from the Balkans and invites them to produce documentaries addressing human rights issues in Kosovo. Above everything else, DokuCity is the city of film. People who share a passion for films carefully prepare the DokuFest programs. Every year, the festival screens more than 200 films that serve the noble cause of raising awareness on social and human rights issues, or reflecting different problems and realities. Organized debates taking into context all political, social and cultural issues take place after every movie screening, while workshops with documentary filmmakers from all over the world inspire aspiring local filmmakers to grow. The program planners at Dokufest are preparing the categories, where this year’s 2,000 film submissions will compete from July 23-31 of this year in Prizren. — K 95
IN KOSOVO, FESTIVALS SIZZLE Year-round happenings bring culture and flair through animation, film, music, art and a whole lot of partying.
JULY — 24-31 DOKUFEST, Prizren DOKUFEST, the International Documentary and Short Film Festival, is the largest film event in Kosovo, and is held at the picturesque and historic town of Prizren. DOKUFEST has been selected as one of the 25 best short film festivals in Europe. This year, DOKUFEST will be celebrating its 10th anniversary, and film screenings will be held twice a day at three open-air cinemas and in two closed cinemas. Other DOKUFEST activities include film workshops, Dokukids program, Dokuphoto exhibitions and Dokunight music concerts. ≥ www.dokufest.com
august 24-27 ANIBAR, Peja The second edition of the International Animation Festival ANIBAR returns to Peja. This year will feature around 100 animations from all over the world. The selected animations will compete in two categories, “The Best Animation in the Balkans” and “The Best Animation in the World.” The movies will be screened at the city cinema and an open air-cinema, near the youth center Zoom. During the day, the festival screens animations for children and teenagers, and in the evenings, animations in the category 18+ years old.
9-13 SURF Summer Urban Festival, Prishtina The Summer Urban Festival organizes a range of Prishtina events, such as concerts, art exhibitions, graffiti and literary workshops. Other than the summer activities, SURF organizes concerts throughout the year. Some of the big names have included the trip hop Morcheeba band, the French musical collective Nouvelle Vague and the French Spanish originating singer Manu Chao. ≥ www.summerurbanfestival.com 22-29 PriFilmFest, Prishtina The third edition of PriFilmFest will be held in September. The festival will feature a competition, middle-length and special features programs. The festival’s highest award is the “Hyjnesha ne Fron,” (the prize is named the Golden Goddess), the legendary statue that represents Prishtina. ≥ www.prifilmfest.org
november 2-6 Prishtina Jazz Festival, Prishtina This year will mark the seventh edition of the Prishtina Jazz Festival. The festival has continuously collaborated and cooperated with international artists, associations and festivals, and has found its place in the network of European and world jazz festivals. Every night after the concert, young, promising musicians show their improvisation skills at the festivals open jam sessions. ≥ www.jazzprishtina.com
9/11 Dedication Festival, Prishtina The one-day film festival that commemorates the 9/11 attacks will take place around September 11, at Prishtina's National Theatre. The festival features short films (5 to 30 minutes) by Kosovar directors, all provided with English subtitles. This year will mark the festival’s eighth edition. ≥ www.911fest.com — 96
For more, check out Kosovo 2.0 What&Where at: www.kosovotwopointzero.com kosovo 2.0
Azerbaijan-born Timor Ismailov's film “Bingo” won the Best Film Award at the eight edition of Skena Up Festival, Prishtina.
december SKENA UP, Prishtina The SKENA UP Festival is unique for the region; it is dedicated only to film and theater students. Its aim is to help build a crucial link in the chain of artistic creation: interaction with and feedback from the audience. The festival caters to Kosovo students from all over the world and introduces them to internationally renowned directors, producers, writers and actors. In the evenings, SKENA UP organizes after-parties with live local and regional acts at venues across Prishtina. ≥ www.skenaup.com
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