Dear friends of the Albanian House of Books (Shtepia e Librit),
this month we’ve been very excited to see the introduction of a new cultural review magazine in Albanian and English. The magazine itself represents a unique publication for Albania and one that we are convinced will contribute much to the cultural heritage of the country. For a greater understanding we invite you to read the following introduction by Prof. Dr. Ardian Marashi, Director of the Centre of Albanological Studies, Tirana.
Waking up the sleeping beauties
Cultural reviews in Albania are a rare occurrence, a sort of luxury in a country that is coming out of poverty. The pressing needs of the past two decades mobilised people’s wills to help rebuild or reinstate cult monuments; the needs of the next two decades are now mobilising us to reinstate the cult of monuments.
Although many of the religious monuments in Albania were forced to change destination or indeed were altogether razed to the ground during the fatal 1967 Enverist cultural revolution, many others stood their ground in the midst of the ideological hurricane, the same as they had survived other blows dealt on them over the centuries by the ‘double act’ of history and climate. The new review Art & Trashëgimi (Art and Heritage) positions itself clearly in this context: by raising the cult of monuments in the Albanian cultural landscape we aim to revive the civilising spirit of generations past that populated this land, give back to Albanians proud memories of countless marvellous works of art by renowned and anonymous artists alike, and provide interested non-Albanians – scholars, friends, tourists and citizens of the world – with a golden key that opens the beautiful gate to the Albanian world.
On this land destined to be a hub of civilisations (the Illyrians, the Greeks and the Romans co-existed here in a prosperous symbiosis for over a millennium), a meeting point of cultures (Albanian, Byzantine, Slavic, Turco-Persian, and later Italian, Germanic and Francophone cultures fruitfully intersected on this fertile environment), a place of coexistence of rival faiths and religions (Christianity, Orthodoxy and Islam have been living and developing together for centuries among the Albanians, nurtured in this historical cradle of harmony and respect for each other), monuments of material and spiritual heritage are not only numerous, they are multifarious.
It has to be said that History has not pampered Albanians with long spells of peace at any given time, so it was only after World War One that the exploration, registration and systematic cataloguing of the national treasures started in the territory contained within the political borders of the Albanian state. Other areas historically inhabited by Albanians, however, did not fare that well: where they did not actively fight this heritage openly and on all fronts, they made sure it was ignored and abused.
We have now reached a new stage, we have entered the third Millennium: a colossal amount of work has been done for the identification, inventorisation and study of national treasures, but deplorably little has been done to properly exhibit, display or otherwise make them available to the general public. A great number of treasures, especially archaeological and ethnological have come to light over the years, but many more are still in a centuries-long slumber: some of them deep in the entrails of the earth, others in inadequate storage annexes and pavilions, often left totally undisturbed in their slumber, either because of lack of attention or because they have been forgotten. Art & Trashëgimi addresses precisely this problem: it aims to awaken the “sleeping beauties” and bring them in the limelight and in full view of the admiring eyes of the public. One thing is for sure, countless people will fall ‘victim’ of their enchanting powers.
In order to ensure the achievement of this goal, the Review has brought together an impressive team of outstanding contributors who are passionate about art and heritage: Ben Andoni, Ilda Mara, Jutta Benzenberg and Bavjola Shatro – without their courage and hard work this initiative would have been archived as ‘case closed,’ just like a number of similar initiatives that went before it. Then there are the present administrators of this Heritage: Genc Pollo, Ardian Marashi and Kastriot Dervishi – theirs is the merit for ‘opening the Sesame.’ Expert researchers such as Aleksandër Meksi, Afërdita Onuzi, Emin Riza, and Luan Përzhita invest the Review with authority and provide it with a unique identity, while cross-disciplinary specialists, including researchers like Kristo Frashëri, Pëllumb Xhufi, Shaban Sinani, and Moikom Zeqo, help establish links among various fields of study and offer precious insights into many important details.
Other quality contributors will undoubtedly join this common effort in the future issues: historians and archivists, authors of archaeological excavations, ethnographers on the ground, private collectors and restorers, ethnologists and numismatists, art historians and culturologists, museum curators and project managers – all of them will help make the Albanian Heritage folder complete with each and every newly published issue.
The editorial line will be the same as the one you will find here: a combination of the beauty of images, accurate information and a tourism-oriented perspective.
With this first issue, the editorial board had the pleasure to present the readers with two gifts at the same time: a new publication entitled Art & Trashëgimi and an ancient town called Berat.
Prof. Dr. Ardian Marashi
Director of the Centre of Albanological Studies, Tirana