Mugabe, Zimbabwe and Anti-Colonialism

Zimbabwe Independence 1980

Zimbabwe Independence 1980

‘The end of an era’ has been used a lot in the last few days in reports and articles about the situation in Zimbabwe. Precipitated by a decision to remove an erstwhile ally in preference for his wife – in a battle over ‘succession’ – the Zimbabwean army took control of the country and placed the country’s President, Robert Mugabe, under house arrest. As I write this the news has broken that Mugabe has resigned as President but whether this is the end of the story is another mater. Whether it be peaceful or violent, will end in smiles or tears, is still unknown.

The events of the last week have only precipitated the inevitable. At the age of 93 Mugabe didn’t have much longer in his role as President and the situation in the country was about to change. But change, although inevitable, does not always happen for the best.

When Mugabe goes it is an end of an era for him but also for the anti-colonial struggle within the continent of Africa.

When Independence was declared in Harare on April 18th 1980 this followed the example of a number of countries that had achieved Independence through armed struggle. Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau/Cape Verde islands had achieved their freedom from Portugal five years earlier and in the process weakening the Fascist regime in Lisbon so that the Portuguese people were able to topple the Caetano regime.

(The so-called bloodless ‘Carnation Revolution’ in Portugal was possible after the shedding of a great deal of blood by fighters who had fought against the colonial power in the country’s African colonies. The Portuguese repaid this debt by a wholesale desertion of those ex-colonies and creating serious problems for the new, independent nations.)

Most of the nations that had achieved independence from their colonial oppressors in the years after World War II quickly became mere client states of imperialism with only a semblance of independence. Any attempts at building a new sort of society, for the benefit of the workers and peasants of the continent, were crushed in the Congo with the murder of Patrice Lumumba at the beginning of 1961 and the experiment in Tanzania had yet to fall apart.

So the group of avowedly left-wing nations, with various levels of developed Socialist ideology, that had gained freedom in the 1970s offered some hope to the poor and oppressed and sent shivers down the spine of imperialism worldwide. Britain was peeved, on both the Tory and Labourite sides of the political spectrum, that Mugabe won a landslide in the elections held in February 1980 – they would have preferred Joshua Nkomo who was much more malleable and pro-capitalist. If Mugabe wasn’t a Marxist-Leninist (although he used Marxist terminology) then the fact that he was so feared by the white, imperialist establishment earned himself a lot of credibility.

There was a great deal of hope and expectation in the newly independent Zimbabwe. During the 1970s most attention in the anti-apartheid movement was directed towards South Africa and its racist Boers. There’s no doubting that South African society was rotten to its core but the figures demonstrate that what used to be known as Rhodesia was a country where the black population existed solely to serve the white minority.

In the early 1980s the whites in South Africa made up a third of the population. Just before the final victory of the Zimbabwean Independence fighters towards the end of 1979 the white population of Rhodesia number was no more than 250,000 – with a black population of about 7 million. That’s a ratio of 28 to 1.

The privilege that came as a consequence of that ratio explains why the Rhodesian army fought in such a vicious manner to maintain their hold on the country. Using techniques that were employed by the Americans in Vietnam, such as chemical warfare as well as the establishment of ‘protected villages’ – to deny the guerrillas contact with the local population – thousands of black Zimbabwean men and women died in the final seven years of the liberation war when the fighting became more intense. In this life and death battle the Rhodesians were supported by the rich and powerful racist regime in Pretoria – who got many of their armaments from the Israeli settler regime in Palestine.

By the time of independence the white settler population in the new Zimbabwe was down to about 100,000 but the agreement made in London, the Lancaster House Agreement of December 1979, maintained many of the privileges the whites had enjoyed for decades. Mugabe kept to this agreement – much to the anger of many of those who had fought in the Chimurenga (Liberation War), presumably with the idea that the British would keep to their side of the agreement in assisting the country to move to a situation where the wealth created in the country would be for the benefit of the majority. If that was the case that was foolish – no one should ever trust the British. The term ‘perfidious Albion’ exists for a reason.

The whole society was skewed in favour of a very small group of people and to change that so the majority could have a decent lifestyle was both difficult and expensive. Promises made during the 1970s that education and health would be provided for all were, in the main kept, but this took a huge amount of resources. Education is something that has to be paid for now in the expectation of returns in the future. But by the time these young people had been educated the situation had moved on – and not to the benefit of Zimbabwe.

Although the battle had been won against the Rhodesians the white South Africans continued the war, taking it into the sovereign country of Zimbabwe itself by making a number of assassination attempts against members of the African National Congress (ANC) who were living there. In October 1986 the President of Portugal-free Mozambique was assassinated by the South African government. The Boers also supported the collaborationist forces of UNITA in Angola. So after gaining independence from colonialism Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau/Cape Verde Islands and Zimbabwe found themselves, to a greater or lesser extent, continuing to have to fight for their existence. The failure of the ANC in South Africa to mount a real and determined liberation war against their own government didn’t help.

Corruption started to appear in all these countries and in Zimbabwe by the middle of the 1980s. A report produced by the Domestic Workers Union in 1986 concluded that the black ‘servants’ were even being treated more harshly by their black employers than they were by the whites. (That shouldn’t be a surprise. Southern African racism was heavily paternalistic and considered the black population like children – something I consider even more insidious than the vicious form of racism that exists in the United States. On the other hand the black employers who took on some of the roles of those whites who had fled the country just treated their servants as people who they had to get as much from whilst giving as little as possible in return.) Mugabe made a serious mistake by not stamping down on this corruption and abuse of power with an iron fist as soon as it arose.

For the whites in Zimbabwe it was very much business as usual – they carried on their colonial lifestyle very much in the same way as they had since WWII, when there had been a large influx of settlers from Britain – many of them working class. They owned the best land, that being the land closest to reliable water resources, and whilst the maize (the basic food stuff) of the small farmers wilted during the drought of 1986-7 the commercial crops, like tobacco, of the large white farmers thrived being irrigated from the waters of Lake Chivero (formerly Lake McIlwaine).

Support, both financial and logistical, promised by the UK government to reverse the inequalities created by colonialism (especially in land redistribution) weren’t forthcoming and by 1990, after the ten year period of grace for the whites, Zimbabwe found itself in a shaky situation economically. The world had also moved on in that ten year period. Neo-liberal economics dominated and any money from the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank came with conditions – primarily the selling off of state enterprises and the opening up of the country to foreign interference, the unequal agreements that have caused havoc throughout the poorer parts of the world. A small group can benefit but society in general loses out. To his credit Mugabe resisted these pressures but it came at a cost.

When land redistribution became a major issue at the end of the 1990s the matter was pursued chaotically and on an individual basis. This taking back of the land should have occurred in the 1980s and in a structured manner, establishing something akin to collective/State farms on the bigger and most productive properties. Once capitalist property rights were challenged imperialism got together and imposed sanctions on the country in the hope that the colonies they once dominated could be brought under their control again.

But Mugabe stood out against this interference but by now the situation in the country was worsening. In isolation, all the other countries that had gained independence in the 1970s having fallen into the arms of imperialism earlier, Zimbabwe’s situation had no real way forward that would benefit the people of the country.

Opportunists saw their chance and when Mugabe made a silly political error they were ready to pounce. That brings us to the situation at the moment where Mugabe has just resigned as President. But this military and political coup was a long time in the planning, the rebels just waiting for an opportunity to take action. A simple look at the sort of professionally produced posters that were seen on the streets at the ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations over the weekend of the 18-19th November 2017 indicates that this crisis had been anticipated and prepared for long since.

Mugabe made many mistakes however he did maintain independence for his country, he didn’t cave in to international pressures (although he did look east towards capitalist China to help in recent years).

And it is here that we have the ‘end of another era’. The era of anti-colonialism, the era of independence for those countries that had thrown off the yolk of colonialism, the era when ordinary working people had the hope that freedom from white, European rule could mean they could take their fate into their own hands, that they could use the immense wealth of their countries for the betterment of themselves and their children.

Those that now hold the reigns of power, even if they were fighters in the Chimurenga, do not hold have a view of the future that is for the people. They are openly ‘free trade’ in their outlook and it will only be a matter of days before they are opening their country to the ravages of globalisation. State industries won’t stay in public hands for long and the ‘prosperity’ that might arrive in the future will be that for a selective view.

With the fall of Mugabe Africa no longer has a country which isn’t, in one form or another, under the control of those very forces so many fought against from the end of the 19th century, culminating in the liberation wars of the 1970s.

Those brave and courageous men and women who died thinking they did so for a better future have finally been betrayed by all the nations of the continent. What has happened in November 2017 is indeed an ‘end of an era’ – the end of an era where people were prepared to fight, and give their lives, for dignity, freedom and the right to determine their own future.

When shall we see their likes again?

 

‘Skenderbeu’s Wars’ bas-relief in Gjirokaster

Skenderbeu's Wars, Gjirokaster, Hector Dule, 1968

Skenderbeu’s Wars, Gjirokaster, Hector Dule, 1968

Many of the lapidars in different parts of Albania have suffered from vandalism and neglect. This is sad as it is displays a lack of respect of the Albanians for their heritage. Those with a particular Socialist message have suffered the most, attacked by the monarcho-fascists when the country was going through a period of anarchy in the late 1990s. Caught up in this denial of the past are also some of the monuments dedicated to the country’s ancient ‘national hero’, Skenderbreu, and a bas-relief called ‘Skenderbeu’s Wars’ the ‘stone city’ of Gjirokaster has likewise being ignored and allowed to fall into decline.

The monument is located just above the old town, where the road starts to zigzag as it heads up to the entrance of the castle. This is the north facing side of the hill and is covered with trees and bushes which, in the heat of summer, make for one of the most pleasant locations in the city to cool down. However, this is not the best kind of climate for the bas relief created by Hector Dule in 1968. In Albanian it’s official title is ‘Lapidar kushtuar luftrave të Skënderbeut’ which translates as: ‘Monolith dedicated to Skenderbeu’s Wars’.

I’m sure that during the period of Socialism the area would have been kept clear but over the last 25 years or so the trees have been allowed to grow and if you didn’t know what you were looking for would easily miss whilst passing only a few metres away.

The monument consists of two parts – a concrete panel with images from the time of the Skenderbreu wars and a black stone column about twice the height of the panel to which it is attached.

The construction of the bas-relief is different from all the others I seen so far in that the constituent parts were obviously created elsewhere and then brought to the site to be put together. There are 4 square sections (on the left) and a larger, rectangular section on the right. Most later lapidars of similar materials appear to have been created on site. This was perhaps made possible as expertise and the technology improved as this depiction of Skenderbreu is one of the earliest of the sculptural lapidars.

This is not to say that Albanian lapidars didn’t exist before 1968. As the article ‘About the film ‘Lapidari” in Vol 1 of the Albanian Lapidar Survey points out the first lapidars appeared as soon as the National Liberation War had ended – if not before with the placing of simple grave markers over the bodies of some of the fallen Partisans. However, it was not until the mid-1960s that the Party of Labour of Albania decided that these locations would be an ideal place to develop both Socialist Realist Art as well as create an educational and propaganda tool for the promotion of the Socialist ideal – this was the start of Albania’s Cultural Revolution.

There are three males depicted, Skenderbreu himself and two of his followers. Skenderbreu is seated on a rearing horse and takes up more than two thirds of the space whilst the two soldiers stand behind him on the left hand side of the panel.

Here it’s worth well mentioning that the image that all Albanians have of Skenderbreu is one very much created in the mid 20th century by the sculptor Odhise Paskali who created the first sculpture of him in 1939, a head and shoulders bust. From then on that was the image and look that has been perpetuated by all subsequent artists. This ‘created’ image was as a result of the fact that no images exist of Skenderbreu as a fighting man, the only ones I’ve seen are of him when he was well past his fighting days. So here we have another situation where reality has been sacrificed for visual effect.

Although a fan of Dule’s work I’m not a fan of this particular piece. The image of the female Communist over the entrance to the main hall of the Palace of Congresses, for example, is a stunning piece of work but here the image is let down by how he has portrayed the horse – it’s a really ugly horse for a steed that would charge into war. Such horses had be be even more fearless than their riders as they weren’t able to rationalise the environment into which they were forced to go. But this horse looks thin, weak and afraid.

Skenderbeu's Horse

Skenderbeu’s Horse

Its hind quarters, especially, appear as if the hide had been removed and is reminiscent of some of Michelangelo’s sketches of the muscles and ligaments of living creatures he produced 500 years ago. The horse is reared up on its hind legs, front hoofs pawing the air as if it were just at the point of beginning a charge but it doesn’t look too happy about it. To me the proportions of the head are wrong, it looks to small and gaunt for what, at that time, was the version of a tank. The size and speed of the horse was as much a weapon as the rider with whatever vicious cutting instrument he was carrying. The other thing that’s strange about this horse is that he has an incredibly, ridiculously even, long tail, trailing on the ground as it rears up.

If the horse is hesitant then Skenderbreu certainly isn’t. He has the steely look of determination that such warriors would have had with their faith in their own destiny. But, again, this is Paskali’s image and not Dule’s, the younger sculptor following an older master’s lead. And as always in such images the fighter is shown wearing a helmet with the Kastrioti (his family name) emblem, that of the small head of a ram with long, swept back horns. Here the horns are slightly shorter than normal as that part of the sculpture is beyond the edge of the panel and would have been a weak point if made any longer. (At the same time as the look of Skenderbreu is a Paskali invention I’m not too sure whether the design of the helmet was something else that appeared first in the 20th century.)

Skenderbeu

Skenderbeu

His face is in semi-profile. Dule has him looking slightly to his right, and it’s possible to see the features of the determined face, covered in the obligatory bushy moustache and beard of the time. He is well protected for the period, wearing a chain mail shirt over which he appears to have the top half of a suit of armour. Around his waist can be seen a short skirt of chain mail so this is probably a chain mail doublet.

He has leg guards but it’s not possible to make out from what they are made. He’s wearing some armour but not the full suit that would have been more common at the time in Western Europe so it’s possible these guards were made of leather. What is possible to see is a design around the ankle area, just before his foot is shown in the stirrups, so giving the impression that aesthetics were also part of battlefield etiquette.

His right arm, bare from just below the shoulder, is stretched out in front of him and he is holding a long sword, slightly curved at the end. This extends way in front of the horse, Skenderbreu’s hand holding the hilt of the sword close to the horse’s neck. The empty scabbard of this sword is shown hanging from his waist, over the chain mail skirt. His left hand can be seen gripping hold of the bridle between his body and the back of the horse’s neck.

Finally, when dealing with Skenderbreu, we have his cape which is doing something it couldn’t, and that’s flying out a long way behind him. The only way this would have been possible in real life was if he was charging at full tilt, but that’s impossible on a horse that is rearing up. Either a full blown charge or an incredibly strong wind, neither of which are possible here.

Being a lord Skenderbreu has a real saddle and the rear pummel can be seen at his back. As well as that there are intricate designs on the blanket and a relatively sophisticated stirrup for his feet.

In the bottom right hand corner we are shown that Skenderbeu was victorious in this conflict. Here are the discarded weapons, a scimitar, a shield (with the crescent moon symbol of the Ottomans) and a ferrule at the top of the opposition’s standard, now laying in the dirt, no longer fluttering proudly in front of a powerful army.

War trophies

War trophies

This little collection of trophies is very reminiscent of pictures of another famous warrior fighting against Moslem invaders – Santiago (Matamoros) of Spain. In countless paintings depicting his miraculous intervention in the mythical Battle of Clavijo of 834 (more or less) the battlefield is always littered with discarded symbols of the invaders defeat.

This influence from earlier Christian iconography should neither be considered strange or alien to early Socialist Realist Art. As with ‘Shoket’ in Permet Martyrs’ Cemetery (the work of Odhise Paskali) any and everyone in the early stages of a Socialist society will be carrying with them the influence and baggage of the society that preceded that socialist construction. That will show itself in works of art as well as in language and ways of thinking. It is changing this thinking that is the most difficult task facing Communists after the revolution.

The first soldier behind Skenderbreu and his horse is the standard bearer. He is shown holding the pole of the independence army’s flag. His right hand grips the pole just below the flag (the tensed muscles showing his strength) whilst his left holds it close to his waist. He has the same look of determination on his face as his leader. He also has a bushy moustache but no beard – perhaps that was the private domain of the lords of the land.

Skenderbeu's foot soldiers

Skenderbeu’s foot soldiers

He is also relatively well protected and armed. He has a chain mail vest that extends to the level of his groin which is over a loose sleeved shirt and a fustanella (the skirt like garment worn by men). Like Skenderbreu he is bare armed. His shins are bare and on his feet he wears the standard shoe and socks of the 15th century. Hanging from his waist, so that it lays against his body horizontally, is a short scimitar style sword. I didn’t think these were common in the Albanian army at the time so perhaps what we are seeing here is a trophy of war. (Soldiers in all wars have done this, picked up something from the enemy if it is considered to be of better quality than what is in their possession.) It’s not clear but he appears to have a long cloak that’s attached to a cape that is on his head, the one piece for protection against the weather.

Appearing just before the flag and above Skenderbreu’s flowing cape is the image of a long handled axe, attempting to give the impression that there are more actors in this scene than are actually shown. This is a trick Dule uses on a number of occasions to give a feeling of depth, for example, with the fore hoofs of the horse.

The third soldier stands at the left hand edge of the panel. We are definitely moving down the pecking order now. He is heavily armed but poorly protected. He has something on his head but it looks nothing other than a skull cap (and not a traditional cap with which I am familiar). He’s wearing a close fitting t-shirt top and his arms are bare. It’s difficult to see exactly but he also looks to be wearing a fustenella.

His left hand is gripping the long pole of a double-headed axe at shoulder height – these battles weren’t overly sophisticated, it seems. They just hacked and thrust at each other with as many pieces of sharp metal they could muster, the winners were the ones who hacked the most – an extremely bloody victory.

The double-headed eagle

The double-headed eagle

His right hand is holding a large shield, the point of which is resting on the ground, half way along its top edge. On this shield can be made out the image of the double-headed eagle, the symbol of Skenderbreu, which then became the emblem of Albania when it declared its (short run) independence in 1912 and which became – with the addition of a gold star – the official flag of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania after 1944. We only see the hilt but there’s a long sword behind the left hand edge of this shield.

The face of this soldier is also strange, compared to the other two males shown. It’s back to the style of the horse with it’s frailty and almost a sense of fear. This face is also short of facial hair of any kind. This is the foot soldier who would have been in the thick of battle and who would have suffered the heaviest casualties.

I’m not too sure whether Dule is making a statement about these ‘national heroes’. Yes Skenderbreu fought for independence from the Ottoman Turks but he was first and foremost an aristocrat and landowner. He was fighting for the right to oppress the ordinary Albanian peasant, not for some utopia where all would be equal.

Here we have that stratification, that class division, in society shown by the very clothes the fighters in the same army used. Those at the ‘top’ got most protection and that got less as you closer to the foot soldiers, the basis (however ‘great’ the leader or general) of any army, then and since.

I don’t like this bas relief for the very fact that it ‘celebrates’ the lord who led he fight for national independence but not for the liberation of the people. I also don’t really understand why the myth around Skenderbreu was perpetuated as much as it was during the Socialist period. You don’t have to make such an individual so important just to prove you hadn’t forgotten the past.

Individuals from the past are problematic for a Socialist society. In Britain, for example, some see the person of Boudecia as a heroine as she fought against the Romans in AD60. However, they conveniently forget that first she was a collaborator and then, in seeking revenge for wrongs she considered the Romans had committed against her, became a mass murderer and, in modern parlance, a war criminal.

If Dule’s approach was as I’ve just suggested then I warm to the sculpture but still don’t consider it one of his best. If that was the underhand manner in which he depicted the ‘national hero’ he should be praised for subverting the common held image.

The Monolith

Whilst the panel with Skendebeu and his soldiers is made of concrete the monolith is made of black, local granite. This is more than twice the height of the panel and stands out from the surrounding trees, indicating where the monument can be found.

Top of the monolith

Top of the monolith

However, with so many lapidars, this monolith provides another enigma, conundrum. At the very top of the column the stones are arranged in such a way as to suggest that there was some sort of slogan, message which could be seen from far off. Now it is impossible to make out what those letters would have been. It doesn’t make sense for there not to have been something there originally. For most of its height the column is completely regular, it’s only at the top that that regularity is broken.

I can only assume that this is yet another example of conscious vandalism.

Condition

As mentioned before the trees in the vicinity of the monument have just been left to grow unhindered and it’s quite possible to pass close by and not know it exists. However, it is the lack of maintenance of the monument itself that serious problems are starting to emerge.

The bas-relief is constructed with iron wires throughout and some places these have been uncovered as the concrete has crumbled. The iron then starts to rust and this must have a knock on effect. There are a number of places where this is evident, for example, by Skenderbeu’s foot, and a little bit of restoration would prevent the situation from deteriorating and thus causing irrepairable damage. In places the concrete is breaking down to such an extent that you could actually pull pieces off with your fingers. At the same time, considering there’s been little care of the lapidar for 25 years the monument it has survived well – demonstrating that it was well made in the first place.

Result of vandalism

Result of vandalism

There’s also a place on the sculpture where there seems to have been some deliberate vandalism. The nose and part of the face of the soldier on the extreme left has broken away. This looks like someone has had a lucky hit with a stone and a piece of concrete has broken away. There’s also an indication that Skenderbeu’s nose has been the target for some wag.

Location:

From Sheshi Çerçiz Topulli go up hill along Rruga Gjin Zenebisi. At the crossroads at the top go left along Rruga Gjin Bue Shpata. As the road goes around to the left take the steps that go up on the right. On arriving at a small cafe take the path to the left, pass the stone tables and seats ‘stolen’ by the cafe and the monument is 20 or so metres away.

Lat/Long:

N 40.07375099

E 20.13939497

DMS:

40° 4′ 25.5” N

20° 8′ 21.8184” E

Altitude:

325.6 m

Bas Relief and Statue at Bajram Curri Museum

Bas Relief - Bajram Curri

Bas Relief – Bajram Curri

The early Albanian lapidars were relatively simple affairs, uncomplicated memorials to those who had died in the National Liberation War against Fascism and for Socialism. Come the Albanian ‘Cultural Revolution’ – starting in the late 1960s – the intention was to use such monuments in a much more educational manner as well as establishing a distinctive Albanian identity. This meant that artists who had been educated and trained under the Socialist regime were encouraged to depict events and memorials in a much more figurative manner. Examples of this approach are seen in the Musqheta monument in Berzhite and in the Peze War Memorial. As the Cultural Revolution moved into the 1980s a new approach developed. This was one where the monument told a story which had developed over time, showing a continuum of the struggle. This is seen, in a truly monumental manner on the Drashovice Arch (close to Vlora) and in the Albanians Mosaic on the façade of the National History Museum in Tirana but also on the more modest, at least in size, bas-relief and statue in the north-eastern town of Bajam Curri – although it also presents some new questions of the meaning of Socialist art.

It appears that the Museum, bas-relief and statue were considered as a whole, all being constructed in the mid-1980s. The Museum was looted in 1997 and there has been no efforts to re-open it in the intervening years. Whether the looting was prompted by greed or political revenge I can’t say. Neither the bas-relief nor the statue – which carry a significant political message themselves – do not seem to have been damaged in any way. The area also doesn’t display the same sort of neglect that plagues so many public spaces throughout Albania. Since my first visit in 2011 a small cafe has been opened in the area behind the bas-relief but the area hasn’t degraded in any significant manner.

Bajram Curri - Looted Museum

Bajram Curri – Looted Museum

The Bas Relief

This sculpture is a visual representation of the history of the struggle for independence over the centuries and ends with the situation in the country at the time it was completed – moving forward with the construction of Socialism. Such a depiction obviously draws parallels to how the Church (in Western, Christian societies) decorated the interiors of their buildings in an effort to ‘educate’ the illiterate ‘faithful’.

This was not the case in Albania, the battle to combat illiteracy being one of the first success of the Socialist state, a goal which was achieved by the early 1950s, such an achievement being even more impressive taking into account the recent history of the country and the threat to its very existence that it faced from antagonistic neighbours (first Greece, after the re-establishment of the Fascist collaborationist monarchy, and then, from 1948, the renegade Yugoslav Federation) as well as the two imperialist powers of Britain and the United States.

At the same time the visual representation reinforced the message the Party was attempting to inculcate amongst the people, that their independence had been hard-won and if they wanted to go forward then it would take more and even greater effort, against vicious opposition and enemies, in the future.

The story reads from left to right.

The fight for independence

The fight for independence

In the top left hand corner are two standing men. The one at the rear is holding a spear, his hand quite high up the shaft, and in his left hand an escutcheon, a triangular-shaped shield, although only part of it is seen as the other warrior hides most of his comrade. This other fighter has his right hand on the hilt of a short sword, seemingly in the process of drawing it. The sheath is hidden behind a small, round shield. Both the shields have studs around the perimeter, providing greater strength. The round shield also has an image in the centre, although it’s difficult to say exactly what it represents. The different shaped shields indicate the different roles these two fighters would play in a battle, a difference from defence and offense.

Both of them are sporting large, bushy moustaches and the one in the front has long hair, tied at the back. It seems that for a long time in Albania’s history of resistance to foreign invaders abundant facial hair was considered a sign of virility and is so depicted in older paintings and then up to the age of early photography. The spear bearer has his head covered with a qeleshe (the, normally white, brimless, felt cap). The sword bearer is bare-headed and has his jacket open and loose.

They are marching forward, as if advancing towards the enemy, with both their right legs shown in front of them. On their feet they wear the opinga shoes, the ones that have the toe slightly bent upwards, a type of footwear that was common in Albania for centuries.

These two men represent the fight for Independence from the 15th century when the national hero, Skenderberg, was leading the battle against the Ottoman Turks. Skenderberg as such is not depicted here but as in many Albanian lapidars neither is he totally absent – as we shall see later.

The next figure, to the right of the first two soldiers, I find slightly problematic. Here we have a man on a horse in the act of firing a primitive rifle. I assume this is now bringing us closer to the present day, to the battles that took place in the 19th century, going by the look of the weapon. He is upon a large horse, the head of which obscures the earlier mention fighters, and gives the impression of movement as if it were in the middle of a charge.

What is problematic about this image is that Albania is a mountainous country and virtually all the successes of the Albanian fighters for independence on the battlefield have been where they use the terrain against their enemy. This was the case in the 15th as well as the 20th century. Horses would have been in very short supply as fighting animals. If used at all they would have been used in the role as draft animals, as would have mules and donkeys. Animals are not very common on the lapidars in general but can be seen in this role on the Pishkash Star.

Yes, Skenderberg is often shown riding a horse, but then he was a ‘lord’ and not one of the hoi poloi. In the battles depicted in the murals of the Historical Museum in Kruja, for example, he is shown leading a cavalry charge against the Turks but even in those images we see that the Albanian foot soldier would use such nominal superiority of the Ottomans against their enemy, raining stones down on them as they went through narrow defiles in the mountains. Basically, if Skenderberg had used such open field tactics against the occupier then he wouldn’t be remembered today, having died in his first battle. It makes for a dramatic mural, especially such large ones, but I have my doubts of how close to reality they might have been.

But getting back to the bas-relief in Bajram Curri. All the images (I can’t think of a lapidar where this is not the case) where someone is shown actually in the act of firing a weapon that weapon is pointed downwards. That makes sense. Without having to give any further explanation we are told that these are fighters in the mountains, ambushing their unsuspecting enemies. The soldier on the bas-relief is shown firing downwards, from a horse. He is, therefore, either shooting someone laying on the ground or from a high vantage point. If the latter why on a horse – it really doesn’t make any military sense.

Like the first two fighter he also has a busy moustache and is dressed in traditional countryside clothing, including a qeleshe on his head. He doesn’t appear to be sitting on a saddle but there is evidence of embroidery on the blanket he’s sitting on.

The horse might have been included to create a feeling of dynamism but it goes against historical reality and sense. This is mirrored in one of the murals in the looted museum (see the picture above) where a horse is included when it wouldn’t necessarily have been there in reality. Perhaps a situation where an artist, an intellectual, sees the world from their own perception and not from a study of what actually existed at the time.

The last fighter on this side of the relief brings matters even closer to the present day. This is a Partisan from the National Liberation War, fighting in the hills and firing downhill at the enemy. He is in a pose seen on other lapidars: kneeling on what is obviously uneven ground, thereby stressing that he is in the mountains; the image of rocks in the bronze, again making the point that the success of the Partisans was dependent upon their dominance of the terrain; the machine gun (this one on a tripod and with a belt of ammunition that can be seen hanging down below the firing mechanism) firing downwards, another reference to mountain warfare but also suggesting an ambush, the tactic of guerrilla fighters; he’s wearing a cap on which (in profile) can be seen the star, indicating that he is a Communist; the bandana around his neck – yet again a sign of his political allegiance; around his waist, attached to his belt are ammunition pouches, three of which can be seen here; and, finally, on his feet he is wearing the 20th century version of the opinga shoes, indicating that he is from the countryside and showing that the Partisan army was one that included both workers and peasants.

Partisan firing from the hills

Partisan firing from the hills

Now all these fighters are facing to the left – the opposite direction to the vast majority of the other individuals on the panel. This indicates that this is the fighting that has gone on in the past, the past being shown as something that is in the opposite direction to the future, the direction in which the young people on the right hand side are marching. Even the flared muzzle of the machine gun of the Partisan is actually outside the edge of the rectangular panel, as if to emphasise the connectiveness, yet separation, of the other events depicted.

The next scene, as we move towards the right, is a common one and has appeared on other lapidars, for example, the Mosaic at the Durres War Memorial. This is the entry of the Partisans into town after the defeat of the occupying Fascists. In this particular scene we have four actors, two Partisans – a male and a female – an older civilian woman and a young child.

However, in this image in Bajram Curri there are a few discrepancies which will need a bit of thought and analysis to see how it fits into the story of lapidars in Albania.

To the best of my knowledge Bajram Curri wasn’t even ‘liberated’ in the way that it was in other towns and cities in the country. Bajram Curri as such didn’t even exist until after liberation, when the town was chosen as the administrative centre of the Tropoja region and given the name of the Kosovan hero and fighter for independence of the early 20th century. The town is not easy to get to in the 21st century let alone before any thought of a transport infrastructure was created during the Socialist period. Even today the minibus from Bajram Curri to Tirana goes via Kosovo before returning to Albania just north of Kukes.

So the scene which shows a meeting of the Partisans with the civilian population, as well as a parade with the young, bare-footed girl being carried by the female partisan, seems to be an invention. It did happen in many places in the country but not necessarily in this remote region. The many dead commemorated in the town’s Martyrs’ Cemetery, down the hill at the entrance to the town proper, would more likely to have fought and died in other parts of the country or, possibly, fighting with the Yugoslav partisans across the border.

There also seems to be a discrepancy with the uniforms. The great coat of the male officer seems too modern for what would have been used by a Partisan from 1939-44. He’s dressed more like an officer of the Army of the People’s Republic of Albania than a Partisan who had just come down from the hills. He’s just too smart. His great coat fits too well, with a dispatch case hanging from a strap over his left shoulder whilst he has a rifle hanging from a strap across his chest over his right shoulder – the end of the rifle barrel seen just behind him.

One possible reason for this is the late date of the bas-relief (1986),which makes it one of the latest. In fact, I can only think of one later lapidar and that’s in the centre of Lushnje, dated 1987. There are a number of reasons why the creation of lapidars came to an end around this time, not least of which was the death of Enver Hoxha in April 1985.

The inability of those who followed him in the leadership of the Party of Labour of Albania to maintain Socialist construction meant that the ‘Cultural Revolution’, which had been losing its momentum for some time, really came to a halt soon after Enver’s death.

Isa Balla, the sculptor, would not have been born at the time of liberation. Unlike many of the sculptors that created works in the late 1960s and 70s he would have had no personal connection to the Partisans. However young they might have been in 1944 many of those artists had had some experience of war and those who fought in it.

Assuming that Balla came from the Tropoja region (most one-off works of art catalogued by the Albanian Lapidar Survey were created by sculptors from the region in which the work was located – even if it was only as an assistant to a more experienced sculptor) he would have been very much more aware of the modern, Socialist Army. The threat posed by Yugoslavia from 1948 onwards meant that this region would have had a significant military presence right up to the end of the 1980s. That knowledge is what gets fed into his work.

This displays a possible growing separation of artists from their own history. Creating his masterpiece – I still like it despite its flaws – in 1986 Balla then seems to have disappeared. At least I haven’t come across any other works by him elsewhere. But with these caveats, back to the scene.

It depicts the meeting of two generations apart from anything else, two generations who had fought for and desired independence if nothing else (nationalism without socialism rapidly heading towards fascism). The young Communist Partisan Officer – he has a red star on his cap – is shaking hands with a much older women, one old enough to be his grandmother. She is dressed in traditional peasant clothing of the mid-20th century, with a loose sleeved dress and a head scarf (though not the hijab or any other head covering indicating an Islamic influence). Their rights hands are already clasped and she appears to be moving her left hand towards his so that she cane have his hand in both of hers, a sign of warmth, friendship and affection. This is accompanied with eye contact between the two of them.

The double-headed eagle

The double-headed eagle

The reason for this closeness between them is demonstrated by the image above and behind the couple. Here there is a stone arch with a double-headed eagle carved into the keystone. The woman in front of her home is declaring her long-held wish for independence, which was only really achieved with the final victory over the Nazi invaders on 29th November 1944. Hence the warmth of their meeting.

The next image, that of a female Partisan carrying a young child on her shoulder, is also a familiar trope in liberation tableau. This is very well represented in the Bestrove Mosaic, where a poor boy is holding hands with a male Partisan, admiration obvious on his face as he looks up to one of his heroes and the statue in Berove, where the male partisan has his hand resting protectively on the shoulder of an early teenage girl. This all makes sense. Zogu, the self-proclaimed ‘king’ who ran away to Britain once his erstwhile Italian masters decided he was of no further use, would never have consorted with the poor if he had been arriving back in the country. Capitalism has had centuries to overcome poverty yet it is becoming more acute, whether it be relative or absolute, and only a new approach to the problem will provide a permanent solution.

So here we are presented with a heart-warming image. The little girl is happy even in her poverty (she is bare-footed). She has her left hand high in the air above her and is waving at an unseen crowd. She’s smiling, perhaps the time of her suffering is at an end? At least there are now people who offer her young life some hope.

Partisan and child

Partisan and child

Yes, it’s idealistic. But the aim of Socialist Realist Art is to present a different future. In a predominantly agricultural society as Albania was before 1939, ruled by tribal/feudal landlords the Albanian Communist Party offered: land to the peasants; education for all; control of the country’s resources by the working people; true independence, although this brought with it a whole shed full of problems; and, most importantly, hope for the future. But all that had to be fought for and the greatest battles might well have been in the future. A revolution is not the solution to problems, just the start of the solution.

(And, in a society where capitalism is presently ruling the roost, we have to remember that ALL victors in a war use images of a happy population during periods of success to promote their own particular political and economic system – and hope everyone will forget times when things go against that same system – such as Dienbienphu (where the French imperialists were defeated in 1954) and the crashing of the tanks of the National Liberation Front into the US embassy in Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City) in 1975.)

The female Partisan is very well dressed, wearing a cap with the Communist star and a bandana (which would have been red) around her neck. (There seems to be another anachronism here in the style of her shoes.) She is confident, marching forward and carrying the young girl into an uncertain future but one that would be beneficial to the poor if they took the opportunity into their own hands. (There also seems to be a lot of hair, not as bad as the awful representation of young Liri Gero in Fier, but seeming to presage later ‘developments’ in Albanian sculpture.)

The central group, an old man and two young children (a boy and a girl) is replete with symbolism. The backdrop to the group is a huge double-headed eagle with a large star just above the heads. This is a development on from the small symbol of the eagle carved into the stone of the arch previously mentioned. The star means that the struggle for independence of the past had eventually been achieved under Communist leadership and (although not considered at the time of this lapidar’s construction but which today has become a reality) could only be maintained under such a social system.

The figures represent a unity of the past with the present (a grandfather figure and very young children) but also the idea that what had been fought for in the past was important in order to make a bright future. The old man is dressed in traditional costume, elements of embroidery being evident on his jacket and trousers. He wears a qeleshe on his head and the headband becomes a wide scarf which is thrown back over his left shoulder. On his feet are the opinga shoes. He has the obligatory bushy moustache of his generation but what really connects him to an even more distant past is the musical instrument he is playing. This is the gusle, a Balkan version of the lute, which was played not by plucking the strings, as in western Europe, but with a bow.

Playing the gusle

Playing the gusle

(This picture is supposed to be from Herzegovina and is dated 1823. Why it has a symbol which is very much Albanian in origin is a mystery to me.)

What is especially interesting about this instrument is the neck, or more specifically the carving at the top of the instrument. This is where Skenderberg appears in the tableau. Most of the depictions of Skenderberg, whether it’s on the statues of him, riding his horse in Tirana; standing in Peshkopia (where it is held in his left hand, against his body); in the murals in the Historical Museum in Kruje; or the numerous paintings of him throughout the country he is always shown with a helmet that has the very distinctive design of a ram’s head with very long, swept back horns.

(Travelling around Albania visitors don’t have to be interested in history to notice this symbol of Skenderberg as it is used by the Kastrati Oil Company as its logo and appears on all their petrol stations. Kastrati is a version of Skenderberg’s family name (Kastrioti). This present company would have been the basis of the nationalised oil company under the period of Socialism but which the people of Albania allowed thieves to steal from them in the early 1990s.)

Listening to the music

Listening to the music

On the right hand side of the gusle player stands a very young girl. She’s wearing a dress and her long hair is tied in a pony tail by a large ribbon. He stance is interesting. Her right forearm is resting on the old man’s thigh, with her hand on his knee. Her left elbow rests on her own right wrist and her left hand is under her chin, supporting her head as she listens to what is being played. She’s looking up to his face and her mouth is slightly open, possibly singing along in her own manner.

The young boy is sitting on the ground to the left of the old man, his left arm stretched out behind him and supporting his body as he leans back. His right hand holds the top of a book which is resting on his right thigh. He too is looking upwards but more to the little girl than the old man. He’s wearing a short-sleeved shirt, shorts and sandals. We know he’s a young pioneer as around his neck is a scarf, the triangle rucked up over his shoulders.

All three are on different levels and it looks like they are out in the countryside. This is, again, a reference to the mountains and a trope that appears often to stress the importance of the mountains to Albanian culture.

The right hand section refers to the period after the war and the construction of Socialism.

The backdrop for these images is, again, a common aspect of such monuments. This is where there’s an image that defines the exact location of the lapidar. This was seen, for example, in Durres on the bas-relief that commemorated the tobacco workers strike. There an image of the Venetian tower pinned the event to the town. In Bajram Curri the image that plays that role is the outline of the mountain range that dominates the town. In fact, if you walk into the middle of the road below the museum and look north along Rruga Sylejman Vokshi you will see exactly the outline that is carved into the bronze of the lapidar in the distance.

Superimposed over this mountain scene is a single electricity pylon. One of the achievements of Socialist Albania was the electrification of the country, providing power to even the most isolated parts of the country. This was an achievement on the same scale as the electrification of the Soviet Union although the geographical scale of the two countries was so different. The Soviet Union was the biggest state in the world at the time and after its revolution Albania was one of the smallest but taking into account the base point from which they started the achievements were as important and what achieved as impressive. This pylon appears here as a recognition of the construction of the dams and the hydroelectric plants which created Lake Koman, only a few kilometres down the road.

In the top left of this right-hand section are two soldiers, both of them having the thumbs of their right hands behind the strap of their rifle which can be seen behind them. One is in normal uniform and looks out at the viewer. The other is in winter camouflage and is in profile, looking towards the outline of the mountains. This implies that the Socialist army is one which is not the same as an army in a capitalist state. It aims to protect the people and is not an aggressive force which is sent to different parts of the world to defend the interests of the ruling class.

In fact, the Albanian Army was one that abolished the hierarchical system of ranks and placed more reliance upon an army that was more of a militia where the population were responsible for defending their country – the oft ridiculed (by those with an anti-Socialist agenda and/or ignorance) bunker system was an integral part of this strategy. But Albania did have a hostile neighbour – Yugoslavia – and a huge area in the north-east of the country, which was very sparsely populated, bordered that potential enemy. For this reason the army had to have professionals who were trained to work in the potentially hostile climate of snow-capped mountains for a significant portion of the year.

Below the soldiers there’s the image of a miner pushing a mineral tub. This alludes to the mining of high value minerals that used to take place in the Tropoja region. I would like to think that even when these mines were working concerns during Socialism that machines would have been moving these heavy tubs from place to place but it’s difficult to represent industry in such a limited space. The miner is in profile and he leans forward as he strains to move the heavy, fully laden tub. He wears heavy protective clothing for the nature of his job, a pair of heavy boots and a helmet on his head.

It was only under Socialism that the mineral resources of Albania were exploited for the benefit of the population. The town of Elbasan, for example, was the location of one of the biggest chrome processing plants in Europe – now almost totally abandoned. And there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of activity in the Bajram Curri area at the moment. This is despite the fact that the area is supposed to be extremely rich in some of the most expensive and rarest of the minerals used in the expanding worldwide electronics industry. However, there are few attempts to extract these minerals for the benefit of the Albanian people – the exploration, exploitation and profits being offered to foreign-owned multi-national companies. This includes large reserves of platinum and associated elements. This is an issue throughout the country with lack of investment leading to an increasing number of accidents and deaths which have led some miners to get their courage back with a recent spate of strikes in Bulqize area (in the early part of 2016).

Collective Farmers

Collective Farmers

But Albania is also a fertile region for agriculture and the State Farms and Co-operatives are represented on this lapidar by a male and female agricultural worker, both of them carrying huge sheaves of wheat – the male with it cradled in his arms and the woman holding hers above her head with her right hand, resting some of the weight on her shoulder. (This is a similar image to that on the First Party Cell monument in Proger and the ‘Toka Jonë – Our Land’ sculpture in the centre of Lushnje.) They are both wearing the standard working clothes of the 1980s (but there’s evidence of embroidery on the woman’s blouse and there’s an apron around her waist). The woman holds a small scythe in her left hand, that hand resting on her waist. He is looking out towards the viewer whilst she is looking towards her left, her face in half-profile.

The Army, industry and agriculture have now been represented in the new Socialist society and the three other individuals on the sculpture represent the youth of the country – the future in a figurative sense.

Here we have two young males, both in profile, marching towards the right hand edge of the panel. The one nearest the viewer has a pickaxe balanced on his right shoulder, holding the wooden handle close to its end in his right hand. The other, all but his face obscured, is carrying a shovel. These will be students who are off to do their ‘voluntary’ work.

Revolutionary Students

Revolutionary Students

I’ve put the word voluntary in parenthesis as, especially as we came into the 1980s, a growing number of students, not having any experience of society before liberation and thinking themselves ‘special’ and manual work being beneath them, might have resented this obligation. However, it is a standard idea of the integration of the young people in a Socialist society into the world of work. In a country where illiteracy was a problem for the overwhelming majority of the population before the 1940s the elimination of this feudal heritage was one of the first achievements of the new society. But in a Socialist society there are both rights and obligations and young people who never would have had chances of a university education in a Zog run society had the obligation to make their contribution to the society which had given them certain privileges. A possible reason for the students playing such an active role in the counter-revolution of the 1990s was possibly due to this idea that ‘intellectuals’ are somehow different from the rest of the population – but this is something to be explored later and elsewhere.

However, in this tableau the students seem happy to do their bit. It’s worth mentioning that young people were very much involved in the building of the railway network that was created throughout the country. But all that effort has been just let to go to waste in the 25 years or so since the counter-revolution and now the rail infrastructure is in a sorry state – virtually in terminal decline.

The two young males are accompanied by a young woman. She’s facing out to the viewer and in place of tools she carries a book in her right hand. Here we have another allusion to the unity of education with the world of work.

Poppy - Albania's National Flower

Poppy – Albania’s National Flower

This covers the principal images but there are still a couple of other points of interest. In the bottom, right-hand corner, just to the right of the leg of the female collective farmer there’s a single poppy. The poppy is the national flower of Albania but the only other monument it appears (so far, to my knowledge) is as an element of the statue in the Lushnje Martyrs’ Cemetery – where it accompanies sheaves of wheat in the hand of the young boy standing on the female Partisan’s thigh. The Bajram Curri bas relief and the Lushnje statue are only a couple of years apart in their construction (1984 in Lushnje, 1986 in Bajram Curri) so I’m not sure if there was a change of direction, perhaps only subtle, from the emphasis on Communist iconography to a more nationalistic representation.

In the extreme right hand corner there’s the date of the inauguration (1986) under the name of the sculptor (Isa Balla). This is another development that seems to accompany those lapidars created in the 1980s. Up to that time the majority of the monuments gave no indication of the identity of the creators. This was in line with the Socialist approach to art. An engineer didn’t have his/her name in a prominent position on something they had made so why should an ‘artist’. Here we are introduced to the question: what exactly is an artist? Is not a railway engine, in many respects, as much a piece of art as a sculpture? Many hundreds of people would have had an input in such a machine. Even in the bas-relief here in Bajram Curri Balla would have designed the statue from which the mould for the foundry was made but there were many more people, whose skills were vital for the final product, who don’t get a mention but without whom the bas-relief would not have existed.

This is another indication that the ‘intellectuals’ were starting to draw apart from the rest of the population and were becoming ‘special’ in the society. A dangerous development when what happened only a short six years after this lapidar was unveiled is taken into account.

So far I’ve been unable to come up with any more information about Balla and haven’t come across other works of his in other parts of the country. If the normal procedure was followed he would have very likely been a local artist, attempts being made in the past to have a local influence, connectivity, to a substantial work of art – even if, at times, they were teamed with a much more experienced sculptor.

Another point to be made about this work is that it is the first, where Partisans are depicted armed, that a woman does not carry a weapon. Here the only woman soldier is shown playing the role of a mother, caring for a vulnerable young child. This may be a small matter but when we consider the idea of the Albanian Cultural Revolution and the way that women would be depicted in works of art it’s interesting that the female Partisan is not as powerful here as she appears on other lapidars.

This bas-relief demonstrates a number of significant changes in the cultural direction in Albania in the second half of the 1980s, after the death of Enver Hoxha. It was also one of the last major lapidars to be created in the country before everything fell apart in the early 1990s so, perhaps should be seen more in the context of what followed its creation rather than what came before.

Bajram Curri Statue

Bajram Curri Statue

The Statue

Just a few meters to the left of the bas-relief stands a large statue of the Kosovan/Albanian patriot and fighter, Bajram Curri, the one who gives his name to the town. Although not born in what are now the borders of Albania he was considered an Albanian hero as Kosovo has for long been considered a real part of the mother country, even to this day. This dispute of where the region of Kosovo belongs was one of the reasons for the antagonism between Yugoslavia and Albania from 1948 to the late 1980s.

During World War I Bajram Curri organised guerrilla units against the Ottoman Empire and after the war played a role in different levels of the Albanian government. What would have endeared him to the victorious Albanian Communist Party after the defeat of the Nazis in November 1944 was Curri’s opposition to, and even taking up arms against, Ahmet Zogu (who later became the self-proclaimed ‘King Zog’). Curri lost in the war against Zog and was killed in 1925 just around the corner from the present town, in the Valbona Valley.

Bajram Curri

Bajram Curri

The statue stands on a plinth on the edge of the museum complex and looks down on the main street into the town. He stands with his legs apart as if stepping forward with his left leg leading. His head is slightly raised and he looks straight ahead. His left arm is at about 45 degrees to his body with the fingers of his hand splayed to their fullest extent. His right arm is hanging straight down, slightly away from his body, and he holds a bolt-action rifle just in front of the firing mechanism. The rifle itself is slightly raised over the horizontal.

Like many of his contemporaries Bajram sports a bushy moustache. On his head is a fez and he wears a long, heavy great coat over a tight, leather shirt and a pair of trousers known as tirq. On his feet he wears the opinga shoes. Around his waist he has a brez (a wide, cloth belt) into which is tucked a pistol. A pouch hangs from the belt.

The pistol is interesting. It has a curved grip which is covered in nodules which were, presumably, to give a better grip in wet conditions. This appears in other statues of Bajram Curri’s contemporaries, such as Isa Bolletin in Shkoder and a very recent one (2012) of Adem Jashari by Mumtaz Dhrami in Tirana. I assume it’s a true representation of the weapons used at the time. I’ve forgotten to check this in the different museums where such arms are on display.

I also don’t know the name of the sculptor (I always place an emphasis on the name of the artist when describing the lapidars. I’m not against their names being known, I’m against it being carved into the monument itself). I don’t see great similarities between the bas-relief and the statue but that doesn’t mean that Balla wasn’t responsible for both. It wasn’t a very good day when I took the majority of the pictures and I forgot to check if any name and date was inscribed on the plinth.

The Museum

Bajram Curri - Mural in Looted Museum

Bajram Curri – Mural in Looted Museum

The Museum building is quite large and I’m not sure if all of it was actually used for the display of artefacts from the National Liberation War and other, previous, struggles for independence. I only had the opportunity to stick my head in and take a few quick pictures of the damaged murals a few years ago. Whether there are any plans to re-open the museum I wouldn’t know. It is happening in a few towns around the country so it’s not impossible that something will arise from the ashes of destruction in the future.

Location:

The main road into Bajram Curri, from Fierza or Kosovo, heads up hill, the rest of the town off to the right. The (now looted and closed) Museum, where the monuments are located, is at the top of this hill, the statue of Bajram Curri himself being an obvious landmark.

GPS:

N 42.35690

E 20.07312

DMS:

42° 21′ 24.84” N

20° 4′ 23.232” E

Altitude:

384m