The "return" to Gjirokastra of the painter Bashkim Ahmeti

2024-01-14 20:27:28, Kulturë CNA

The "return" to Gjirokastra of the painter Bashkim Ahmeti

The Albanian painter Bashkim Ahmeti divides his life between the United States of America and Albania, being active with his creativity and appearing in various exhibitions inside and outside the country. In his hometown of Gjirokastër, he has painted several wall facades that escaped the control of propaganda during the communist regime of Albania and he is waiting to be returned to finish them. In an interview for the Voice of America, Mr. Ahmeti talks about the motifs of the paintings, the influence of nature and Albanian history, the work of Ismail Kadare, but also from the life of New York.

In the maternity hospital of Gjirokastra, in the lobby where mothers stood in sweet anticipation, some wall paintings had a strange fate during the communist regime.

They were interrupted in the middle by the propaganda commissions of the time and ordered to be painted over, and only the intervention of an official of the time saved them.

The painter Bashkim Ahmeti, the author of these paintings remembers these events and says that he will return to finish them and leave these works of his to the city.

"When the new Gjirokastra maternity hospital was built, a mural triptych was planned in the waiting room of the mothers. There we could not pass the exam, commissions, groups came, even in our absence and the decision was made to stop the paintings and they could not be fully realized. However, there was an intervention by Rashide Gjini, secretary for propaganda, who went down to the maternity hospital after the commissions had passed and wisely said that they should not be painted, because the order was to paint them, but to cover them with an emulation board, as was the style of that time where photographs, quotes, distinguished workers were exhibited. They covered themselves with that board and at least they survived and now they are open. Last summer we were there, we saw them and we will find a way to finish the half-remaining fresco. It is preserved, slightly damaged, but it is repairable. I hadn't been in there for years, I didn't have the heart to go," he told the Voice of America.

Bashkimi is also the author of several murals in the lobby of the former tourism hotel of the city, for which there was pressure, but which were managed to be completed.

"In the tourism of Gjirokastra, we thought of working on a fresco, but even here we had many vicissitudes, many people came and reacted, I also had verbal pressure for the work. At one point, I lost confidence and thought to leave it in the middle, but they managed to finish with success and the complex situation was overcome. It was a confused time that I cannot explain the reasons why there should be problems with a painting like this which is a youth scene that is painted in the style of realistic painting"

Mr. Ahmeti says that Gjirokastra has already overcome the difficult transition and will face the challenges that await it.

"Gjirokastra has taken on a vitality and has overcome the period of crisis it had, the period of danger and has entered a new era, which also has its risks. There is a risk that Gjirokastra will turn from a monumental and museum place into a place decorated with tourist "flowers", which is not good, it is not in its nature. The beauty of Gjirokastra is its monumentality, grandeur and a noble appearance," he says.

Gjirokastra, says Mr. Ahmeti, needs museums to show its past and present, it also needs the youth, what is here, so that it can express its talents and gifts.

"The depopulation crisis that is for the whole of Albania, I believe that both Albania and Gjirokastra will survive this," he says.

Today, the painter Bashkim Ahmeti divides his life between the United States of America and Albania, being quite active in his creativity and various exhibitions.

"I am constantly active, it is not that I have reduced the intensity of work. I open personal exhibitions, I participate in group exhibitions, last year I participated in bigger activities such as "New York EXPO" or other activities. This year I hope to be more present in Albania, to make an exhibition like here in Gjirokastër and in Tirana, maybe I will make some mural in Gjirokastër next to the Maternity one, I have some ideas now".

Asked about his creative work, Mr. Ahmeti says that his paintings have not changed.

"The beauty of Albania and its history, these are the things that fascinated me when I was little and these are the things that keep me thinking even now. Of course, nature is a great inspiration and Albania is a great beauty. I think that beauty, landscape and nature also play a role in building the personality of a country, a nation, a race. Thus, the beauties of nature have entered the genes of Albanians and we find it difficult to live without this nature. I live in New Jersey, which is a place of great beauty, New York is extraordinary, but the beauties of nature here enter the gene in consciousness and are always absent. Our story is also inspiring. All peoples brag and are proud of their history, but not without right, we, even more, have reason to dedicate ourselves to and be proud of the history of our survival as a nation and as a society."

The painter Bashkim Ahmeti also talks about a special tendency of his painting to the literary work of the famous writer Ismail Kadare.

"It was a desire of mine which took me a lot of time to paint his portrait and from the portrait I came out with many paintings and other inspirations that come from his work, plus naturally Ismail Kadareja has played a role in cultural formation and artistic of my generation. Then came the exhibitions and the complete literary work of Kadare was also published, and 14 of my paintings about him were included as the front and back pages of these publications. Kadare's work somehow became a part of my art. Like painting New York for a long time, dealing with it has become one of the main motifs of my creativity."

Bashkim Ahmeti, who already holds the art firm Izano, this year marks the 75th anniversary of his birth and although he has been working as a freelance artist in New York since 1995, his work remains inextricably linked to Albania and his hometown Gjirokastra./ VOA

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