CLARE’S Albanian community have come together to celebrate their heritage as part of a photography exhibition, which is set to be launched in Ennis this weekend.
The exhibition has been created in honour of 100 years of Albanian independence and it will be officially launched this Saturdayin the Clare Museum by Dr Jack McCann, chairman of Irish Friends of Albania. The exhibition was compiled with the assistance of the Clare Albanian community and Irish Friends of Albania and it was first showcased in Galway in 2012.
According to Ndrek Gjini, Arts Office Assistant with Galway City Council, Clare is a fitting next stop for the exhibition due to the county’s sizeable Albanian population. “There are more than 300 Albanians living in Clare and more than that, Kosovans who are national Albanians too. Most of them made Ennis and Clare their home during the war in Kosovo in 1999.
During that war, the Irish government decided to send a humanitarian team to help and support those Albanians who were living in some camps in Albania escaping from Milosevic’s regime of genocide. Most of them have got now Irish citizenship and they are very well settled in Ennis and other towns in Clare. They own shops, restaurants, they run different businesses – they are very well integrated into Irish society,” he said.
This year is a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Independence of Albania. This exhibition, featuring photographic prints from the Albanian National Museum, is dedicated to this anniversary. Ndrek explained Albania has been controlled nearly continuously by a succession of foreign powers until the mid-20th century, with only brief periods of self-rule. “In the 11th century, Byzantine Emperor Alexius made the first recorded reference to a distinct area of land known as Albania and to its people. The Ottoman Empire ruled Albania from 1385-1912. The League of Prizren (1878) promoted the idea of an Albanian nation-state and established the modern Albanian alphabet, updating a language that survived the hundreds of years of Ottoman rule, despite being outlawed,” he outlined. “By the early 20th century, the weakened Ottoman Empire was no longer able to suppress Albanian nationalism. Following the conclusion of the First Balkan War, Albanians issued the Vlore Proclamation of November 28, 1912, declaring independence and the Great Powers established Albania’s borders in 1913. Albania’s territorial integrity was confirmed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, after US President Woodrow Wilson dismissed a plan by the European powers to divide Albania among its neighbours. “During the Second World War, Albania was occupied first by Italy (1939-1943) and then by Germany (1943-44).
After the war, Communist Party leader Enver Hoxha managed to preserve Albania’s territorial integrity during the next 40 years but demanded a terrible price from the population, which was subjected to repression of civil and political rights, a total ban on religions, and increased isolation. “Following Hoxha’s death in 1985 and the subsequent fall of Communism in 1991, Albanian society struggled to overcome its historical isolation and underdevelopment. During the initial transition period, the Albanian government wanted closer relationships with the West in order to improve economic conditions and introduced basic democratic reforms, including a multi-party system. “Now, Albania is a member of the UN, member of NATO, member of Council of Europe and a potential candidate of the European Union since January 2003 and it formally applied for EU membership on April 28, 2009.”
The exhibition will be launched at 3.30pm in the Clare Museum and all are welcome.