The research on Kosovo through its creative artists aims to gather life stories of personalities in the field of literature, visual arts, cinema and the theatre. Testimonies straddle linguistic differences and convergences, giving a unique view of the struggle that different generations of artists have had to face in order to emerge on the public scene.

Fatmir Krypa

Graphic artist

… when I went to elementary school, when I explained this to others, they wondered, ‘What is that?’ We called it tafte [board]. Tafte. It was an A4 plaque with a wooden frame, thin like a blackboard. On one side, it had no lines, on the other, it had lines to guide your handwriting. It had wide and narrow lines, wide and narrow. One side was empty, it was black entirely, and, on that side, we would do our   in-class work and continue at home, written with white chalk that would scratch the surface, it would leave white or gray marks. And that was our school notebook, that was all we had, what was in our possession. […] The worst that could happen to you, while you were going to school, a friend, well, a malicious friend, would come from behind and erase your homework and you would have to go to school without homework.

Rexhep Ferri

Painter

Tajar Zavalani translated that [Mother by Maxim Gorky], he understood what communism is and left, then he worked at Radio London. My mother would listen to it a lot, ‘Communism will end today, tomorrow.’ One is inclined to go from one extreme to the other. When we returned to Gjakova… our property was confiscated and my dad, dad, dad did not, he left, he never… he thought that he would be safe in Gjakova, that he would not have to leave his family. From Fadil Hoxha to Sahit Bakalli, they were his schoolmates and worked together as teachers in the Gjakova Highlands. 

We met with Sahit Bakalli, before meeting him… and Sahit Bakalli said to him, ‘Look Shaban, you cannot spend the night in Gjakova. We cannot protect you from Serbs and Montenegrins, you are the heir of Jakup Ferri, Hasan Ferri, the brother of Riza Ferri, Shemsi Ferri that have led the war against the partisans, and you also were with them. You have to leave and go to Albania, in Tropoja, where you used to teach, where your in-laws are. This tempest will pass and you’ll be alright somehow.’ He followed him out of the town, my dad left and we stayed.  

[…] sometimes when you are lonely, alone, if one person knows two words in Albanian, you think it’s your brother. He would call my mother sister and she would call him brother, and they weren’t even from the same village or city, but from the Gjakova Highlands. Pashkë, Uncle Peshk [Fish] I would call him. He was unlettered, but he smoked like an aristocrat – it seemed to me that way then –  with a pipe. My mother sent to him the clothes that she made with the loom to sell and he sent her off with a couple of lies, ‘Ms. Hatixhe, I heard on Radio London yesterday night that a week will not pass and communism will end.’ And that lie would amuse my mother for a week. Next Monday, he would lie to her again, and the years passed, we grew up.

Luljeta Çeku

Theater director

The cultural life was complemented by the arts and culture societies which were based in the city of all nations and nationalities, as we referred to them at the time. Along  with the theatre, I was also a member of the Agimi Society, and their concerts oftentimes were good, not very often, but they were quite good and successful. Also, the experience I had in that society was grand. […] I was lucky that at the age of 15, 16 to go to Germany with the Agimi Society for example. That was a great experience, because the city of Prizren and Bingen were twinned and that tradition continues.

So they have the Bingen Fest, they collaborated with Progress, a Prizren-based company and the wine producers of Krusha e Madhe and Rahovec. So, for the first time as a 16-year-old I flew by plane, at that time it was rare and out of the ordinary. The same trip we took two years after with the Agimi Society at a festival in Turkey, in Italy, and many other places in Yugoslavia. We also participated in the Olympics in Sarajevo, I led the Society’s concert. We were invited to the Olympics in 1984. […]

That was a very unique experience for all of us, because youth and their parents could not afford it, not all parents could afford to have their children travel to other countries. That was the satisfaction and the reward that you got, of course, you also received a certificate, an acknowledgement for your role that you played, and that was very satisfying for us.

Pranvera Badivuku

Composer

You know, very, I don’t know what did they do, the things were all over the place. The machine, for example, was ruined, an old stove was taken upstairs, you know, I don’t know how did they carried them, those things. There was a lot of disorder in the building, empty apartments, without anything inside them. They didn’t touch the pictures and some documents because, after all, it was a building. 

And one, one resident there, she was Dalmatian, older, she didn’t have anywhere to go, so she stayed there. She told us that they brought the truck at the entry, so we couldn’t see what they took, what are they loading. Cassettes, we had a lot of video cassettes, all with serious music, recorded, different kinds. My husband was fond of classical music, he used to record instrumentals, orchestras, of different kind. We found those in another building. So, unexplained things happened, I don’t know, I don’t know.

But it’s interesting how one remembers everything he had, it happened a few times, people don’t remember everything they have, but if the things are missing… It was a bit funny. I made the list of everything that was missing because I knew what I had in my cabinet. Only notes, notes, my songs and so, I, I threw them behind the cabinet, there was free space but couldn’t go down further, I found them there.

Sevim Baki

Artist/Singer

When I was very young, there was a song by Emel Sayın, Sevda sevmessen [When you don’t love, love]… It was called Rüzgar [Wind], I was very young and I used to imitate her very often. When my cousins would come to stay over, I would say, ‘Do you want me to imitate Emel Sayın?’ I would sit down, put the pillows on the floor, my hair on one side {shows with her hands}, I would say, ‘Go get the hairdryer so my hair would look like it’s blown by wind just like hers in the music video.’ They applauded me. When a guest would come to visit us, my father always used to say, ‘Come on, sing some songs.’ Now, when I think about it, I can say that these were the hints that I was going to be connected to music.

Shkëlzen Maliqi

Philosopher

I told him, ‘I have come to submit a topic that does not exist: Byzantine Aesthetics.’ He jumped off his chair and said, ‘Who has misinformed you? How come it doesn’t exist? (laughs) ‘Alright’ I said. He said, ‘Write me an outline.’ I had already started reading some stuff. When I submitted my draft, it had two-three topics that I wanted to work on. And he looked at it and said, ‘You will end up writing a book’ (laughs). I said, ‘No, no, just like that…’ He said, ‘Ok, go ahead!’

[…] Somehow I wanted to become a Byzantine scholar, learn ancient greek. I started taking some courses there, but we got into the ‘80s, the political circumstances changed in Yugoslavia and my status as a…. In ‘78, I was employed at the Philology Faculty in Belgrade, in the Albanian Language Department. Now, you know, we were all caught up by the politics and these things, and to me no longer seemed interesting to study that, you know. Although I always had the ambition to finish it, to publish my work, to work more on it. Only after 20 years, you know after 1999 I published the first volume of ‘Byzantine Aesthetics’ in Albanian.

Flora Brovina

Poet

My little sister was small when we visited our father in Peja. In Peja’s prison, which was filled with Albanian prisoners. Why do I know this? As a child, well I was quite little myself, I wasn’t going to school yet. I know because in front of the prison all the families that came to visit the prisoners gathered and had a bag in their hand {makes a move to describe the bag}.

[…] But these miseries that childhood carries will follow us throughout life because childhood [experiences] leave a trace. Luckily it did not fill me with hatred and I like that oblivion did not take over. I remember them because I never took them as personal, but I believe I share them with all the people who waited to visit theirs in prison. I share them with all the people who have been excommunicated, politically persecuted families, excommunicated by the society, a time when your neighbors did not pay you a visit because they were afraid.

Abdullah Zeneli

Publisher/Writer

Then we had big crowds in our cinemas. You know, Cinema Rinia, Cinema Vllaznimi and Cinema of People’s Army, known as APJ […] The Cinema Vllaznimi was where ABC is today. Rinia Cinema is here {shows with hands} facing Qafa. While APJ is where UNMIK used to be. Recently, I think it was reopened. It was by chance that I was there and I saw some people, and I was really glad. I remember that cinema very well. And sometimes they held… we went there for various brasswind concerts, instruments… and different theatre plays. As a child, I followed theatre plays. I loved it very much. […] The best world plays were staged. At that time the adventures of the Indians [Native Americans] were interesting. For example, it was Winnetou.  We not only watched Winnetou on film, but it was also staged in the theatre. I also remember something very interesting from that time period. For example, as I was walking one day I saw the commercial announcing Tartuffe [The Impostor] in the theatre, it was 1962, I was eleven years old then. I went and bought the ticket, and went to see the play. I was very interested in Molière’s Tartuffe, seventeenth century, mid-seventeenth century… That long hair of {touches his hair}, you know, French aristocrats. And to me it was an entirely new world, very interesting. Perhaps it has to do with that time, also the Beatles, and I had an admiration for long hair and since then I have long hair (smiles).

Adem Mikullovci

Actor

I don’t know, don’t know, when I finished [high school] matura we had a big discussion in my family about what I will study, and many suggestions were given. From, I don’t know, physics, mathematics, astronomy, languages… geography and what not. My father would say, ‘Lawyer, the pig should become a lawyer, his mouth never stops grinding like the grinder’s funnel, and he will put everyone to shame.’ Whilst my late mother would say, ‘Doctor, doctor. He has poor health, perhaps he will find himself a cure.’ Even, even, and I am sure about this, the cleaner, the shoe cleaner in the mahalla [neighborhood] engaged in this conversation about my studies. [He said] ‘Professor, become a professor and you will be a master for life.

Sokol Beqiri

Artist

I chilled for ten years at the coffee shop here. I followed through few generations, now Era and her friends are the youngest generation… nothing, I took walks, sometimes I… I want to tell you two stories. One day, when my older daughter Toska was little, my father asked her, ‘What does your father do?’ And she was wondering what her father does, ‘What does your father do?’ He was trying to help her, you know, to say a piktor [painter], and he said, ‘Pi – pi – p…’ She said, ‘Pijanec’ [A drunk] (laugh) and the other one, I am telling you what my second daughter told her teacher, that’s what I did ten years in a row. When her teacher asked her, ‘What does your father do?’ She said, ‘He has fun.’ (laugh)