Restoration of ‘The Albanians’ – National Historical Museum, Tirana – or not

Facade - National Historical Museum - Tirana
Facade – National Historical Museum – Tirana

More on Albania …..

Restoration of ‘The Albanians’ – National Historical Museum, Tirana – or not

For the second time in less than a decade the facade of the National Historical Museum in Tirana is obscured by scaffolding and sheeting. As on the previous occasion (in 2012) the reason is, supposedly, for the renovation of the ‘The Albanians’, the huge mosaic that celebrates and commemorates the struggle for independence through the ages, the victory over Fascism and the construction of Socialism.

Under normal circumstances such work would be a cause for celebration. The mosaic is a wonderful example of Socialist Realist Art and captures the spirit of the nation at the time it was created in 1982. However, this Albania in 2021 and nothing is that simple.

The present work in progress also asks a number of questions. If, indeed, there was work done in 2012 to repair the damage caused by time and the weather why was it so badly done that it has to be done again nine years later? Was the ‘restoration’ of 2012 nothing more than an excuse to cover up the revolutionary work of art at the time the country was ‘celebrating’ the hundredth anniversary of Independence from Ottoman rule? Events would have taken place in Skenderbeu Square and for the present capitalist rulers of Albania the image of the mosaic as a backdrop to the sham celebrations would have been an ‘inconvenience’.

What was certainly the case was that chunks of the mosaic seemed to be dropping off at an alarming rate and the more pieces that fell the weaker the the rest of the structure would become. Structural damage was obvious as soon as the scaffolding was removed short after November 2012, adding credence to the ‘conspiracy theory’. This situation was pointed out in a post on this site two years ago in September 2019.

As with many of the monuments that were identified in the Albanian Lapidar Survey (many of which have already been described on this blog) ‘The Albanians’ has suffered from both conscious neglect as well as episodes of political and cultural vandalism.

Then

The Albanians Mosaic - National History Museum, Tirana

The Albanians Mosaic – National History Museum, Tirana

and up to 2020

'The Albanians' - Mosaic on the National History Museum, Tirana

‘The Albanians’ – Mosaic on the National History Museum, Tirana

At the beginning of this century one of the five original creators of the mosaic (Agim Nebiu) was paid to destroy his own creation. So much for the integrity of the artist. During that act of destruction Nebiu changed three significant aspects of the original design. He removed; the large, gold outlined five pointed star that was behind the head of the central female figure; the small golden star that was situated between the heads of the doubled-headed eagle (that being the official flag of the Peoples’ Socialist Republic of Albania); and the book from the right hand of the central male figure, replacing it with what looks like a sack (the book would have represented both education and the written works of Enver Hoxha). In the process Nebiu created the most amazingly shaped flag.

So the question I’m posing here is ‘What sort of restoration will be carried out this time?’ The chances of the original imagery and intention being re-created is only marginally more likely than that of an ice cream surviving very long in Hell.

But there are further possibilities of ‘re-writing’ history. The War of National Liberation against the invading fascists, first Italian then the German Nazis, was led by and principally carried out by Albanian Communists. This fact is indicated by the images of the red star on the headgear of the figures on the right of the mosaic. As has happened on a number of lapidars these red stars could be made to ‘disappear’ and therefore ‘deny’ the Communists the victory.

There’s obviously a change going on in the official approach to the Socialist Period in Albania. The present (September 2021) ‘Archive’ exhibition of Socialist Realist paintings and sculptures in the National Art Gallery, the covering up of those paintings that have, for years, formed the permanent exhibition in the gallery and the closure of all the rooms and galleries devoted to the National Liberation War in the National Historical Museum itself all seem to indicate that the involvement of the Communists in the war is going to be completely obliterated.

More on Albania …..

The ‘Archive’ Exhibition at the Tirana Art Gallery

The singing partisan
The singing partisan

More on Albania …..

The ‘Archive’ Exhibition at the Tirana Art Gallery

At present (September 2021) the ‘exhibition’ at the National Art Gallery in Tirana seems to be virtually everything that has been in storage over the last 30 years. But calling it an exhibition is a bit of a misnomer. The word exhibition gives the impression that a bit of thought and consideration had been put into the mounting and display of a collection of art. That is supposed to be the art of a curator – although that has been neglected in this case.

What is, in theory, a good idea – and something welcomed by anyone with an interest in the art of the Socialist Period in Albania – just turns out to be a mess. Virtually all available wall space has been used to mount the pictures and the sculptures take up virtually all available space on the floors.

But its all placed without any context, without any information, without any chronology, without any order or logic.

Paintings of pre-revolutionary times are displayed next to some of the last paintings produced under socialism. The works of particular artists can be found anywhere on the two floors which the exhibition occupies. It’s so chaotic that you are never able to understand any development in the ideas of socialist realism in what was Albania’s Cultural Revolution – which started at about the same time as the more famous one in China (the mid-60s) but which lasted longer, going into the 1980s.

This is the situation with the paintings but this is mirrored with the sculptures. Many are ‘displayed’ on the same storage racks that would have been used in the building’s basement, many more are just placed on the floor. This means you can’t appreciate any one sculpture in itself as it is so close to another, either to its side or behind. A number of the sculptures have an original label attached so you get discover the name of the artist and work title but little more. The fact that so many of them have even those labels missing gives the impression that even the gallery itself probably doesn’t know for certain the artist, date or subject matter.

And you can’t appreciate a sculpture if the only way to get a decent view is to lie on the floor (if that was indeed possible without knocking over its neighbour).

To add to the ad hoc feel of the exhibition a number of the paintings are lacking a proper frame and are just as they would have been after the artist had completed the task.

One important matter is clear from the taking of these works of art from storage is that no one employed by the art gallery really cares at all about this part of the country’s heritage. As with the lapidars throughout Albania many of the sculptures show signs of damage, presumably due more to lack of care rather than deliberate cultural and political vandalism but the results are the same.

The pictures in the gallery/slide-show below are in an as chaotic order as the exhibition itself. Some are not as I would have liked as the lighting was so harsh in places that to avoid the reflection the photo had to be taken from an angle. Also the pictures that were mounted high up on the walls have obviously been taken from below and hence a certain amount of distortion. And the general ‘crush’ of the exhibits prevents any true appreciation from a distance.

One of the reasons for making such an extensive record of this exhibition is I fear that these objects are very unlikely to be ever displayed again – certainly as a whole representation of Socialist Realist Art. My greatest fear is that some of the more seriously damaged sculptures will move from the exhibition space to the nearest skip to end up in landfill. The State won’t pay for the time and effort that would be needed to return them to something akin to their original state and as such will just take up valuable space. The same could be the fate of the damaged paintings.

These fears are reinforced by decisions which now seem to being made in some other aspects of the depiction of the country’s Socialist past. Not only are those examples of socialist art that have for many years formed part of the permanent exhibition in the sme gallery now covered – for some inexplicable reason – but also the rooms devoted to the anti-fascist struggle in the National Historical Museum are presently closed to the public.

Perhaps the answer will be partly given when The Albanians (the name given to the huge mosaic on the facade of the Historial Museum) which is currently undergoing ‘restoration’ is unveiled. The word ‘restoration’ implies repairing and returning to an original state. However, the mosaic had much of its political significance removed by one of the original five artists (Agim Nebiu) sometime at the beginning of this century – still haven’t been able to find out exactly when – who was willing, for his equivalent of ‘thirty pieces of silver’, to remove the stars from the flags carried by the central characters. A few red stars remained after this act of political and artistic vandalism but whether they will survive the present ‘restoration’ is another matter.

As well as the examples of socialist realist art there were a considerable number of paintings that represent the past struggles of Albanians for independence. Such imagery played a role during the Socialist period as the country was constantly under threat of invasion (or intervention) from either neighbouring Yugoslavia or any of the imperialist nations who couldn’t reconcile themselves to the fact that this small, yet strategically situated, Balkan country had chosen a future not under the control of capitalism.

But even during the 1970s and 1980s this glorification of a 15th century aristocrat was a little over the top. Banging the nationalist drum whilst attempting to construct socialism will always have its dangers as that nationalism can distract from the principal task in hand. And this very nationalism, that was used to reinforce the idea of independence under socialism, is what the present capitalist leaders of the country rely on to give them some sort of historical credibility – as they certainly have no interest in independence, fighting each other in deciding to which imperialist force to sell the country.

What to look out for

  • a bust of Chairman Mao Tse-tung
  • busts of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Joseph Stalin – most of these would have previously been displayed in the Lenin and Stalin Museum (the building now used as a government office, next to the big, new mosque in the centre of Tirana, just behind the Art Gallery itself)
  • at least four busts of Comrade Enver Hoxha, all in ‘good’ condition and without having been vandalised (as is the example in the ‘Sculpture Park’ at the back of the building, on the right hand side)
  • maquettes of a number of sculptures that were later made into much larger structures which can still be seen in various parts of the country such as the ‘Thirsty Partisan’ (ALS10) and Pickaxe and Rifle – one of the sculptures in the ‘Sculpture Park’
  • those images show the lives of working people, using their efforts to create a different type of society to the one devoted to capitalist profit – the art that makes Socialist Realism so radically different (and advanced) than all the art that has gone before
  • the many images, in both the paintings and in the sculptures, where women are presented as being armed and prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in the achievement of victory against the Fascist invaders or in the construction of Socialism
  • and generally the preponderance of ordinary working people in all the images rather than the ‘celebrities’ and the ‘rich and famous’ which dominate in capitalist society.

More on Albania …..

Britain turns it’s back on the world with its vaccination programme

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

Britain turns it’s back on the world with its vaccination programme

If you wanted to be generous, you could probably have said that any government would have had a problem facing the pandemic that hit the world at the end of 2019/beginning of 2020. Indeed, it was unprecedented – a word which has been so overused (as have so many others) in the, now, just under two years. But at the same time we were told (in Britain), over many years, that the government was prepared for such an event. It’s just that when covid arrived it was ‘the wrong type of pandemic’.

From the beginning we were faced with a government which had no idea what it was doing, had no strategy (and still doesn’t) as it bounced around from decision to decision. Supposedly, decisions made ‘following the science’, but in reality they’ve been clutching at straws when it comes to the action they’ve taken.

We’ve been struck by innumerable U-turns, so many it’s impossible for most people to give you an exact number. And after such a long time Buffoon and his government seem to have become accustomed to this way of doing things. Before any decision is made there’s speculation going on for days. There’s uncertainty. There are contradictory statements being made – even at the highest levels of Government. Nobody really knows what’s happening and when there is a decision made, few people in the country really understand what’s been decided.

And this is the case with the change in the vaccination policy which has taken place in the last few days.

12- to 15-year-olds will now be vaccinated as well as something like close to half the population, getting a third, so called ‘booster’, injection.

In a sense, this was bound to happen and should come as a surprise to no one. Not because of the science, not because of how it keeps people healthy. It’s because it’s playing to the audience.

In a country of rabbits people are looking for something, anything, which will assuage their fears.

And children getting vaccinated, older people getting a third ‘booster’ jab just panders to all those fears.

But what it doesn’t do is play any role in social justice with the recognition of the fact that there are still vast parts of the world where you could count the number of those who are fully vaccinated on the fingers of one hand.

Some scientists have been arguing against this extension to the very young and the so-called ‘vulnerable’, not on esoteric grounds (i.e., that it’s the ‘right thing to do’) but that vaccinating as many people as possible in the poorer parts of the world would be, ultimately, beneficial to all, even in Britain.

But even those arguments don’t go down well in a country which has reverted to simple tribalism and narrow-minded parochialism.

Rich countries take advantage of their wealth and their accessibility to vaccines and the rest of the world can just go hang. And that’s the situation we are in in Britain at the moment – a selfish little island nation scrambling for more and more vaccines and finding the weakest ‘reasons’ to justify their approach.

It’s been quite interesting the way the vaccine rollout started with the old and ‘vulnerable’ and the age has gradually gone down to include more and more people – with more and more spurious arguments to justify it. Yes, arguments can be made for vaccinating everyone on the planet but not the least vulnerable when there are still billions of people who won’t see hide nor hair of a covid vaccine needle until well into 2022 – at the earliest.

No doubt once the 12- to 15-year-olds have been given their one jab someone will start looking at extending the programme to even younger children. After all, it’s the really young, primary school children who have been the principal vectors for the annual flu outbreaks in the past.

What is also interesting (and important) is that the extended vaccination programmes will both be using the expensive and difficult to store Pfizer Biontech vaccine.

As time has gone by the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine has not proven itself to be any better than virtually all the other vaccines that are around. Each one seems to ‘shine’ during a different period in the life cycle of the virus and the battle against it. But what makes the Pfizer vaccine stand out is the smear campaign the company carried out (with willing accomplices such as the Zionist Settler State of Israel) to denigrate and create a climate of fear in many so that the cheaper, just as effective and more manageable AstraZeneca vaccine is being effectively shunned in the ‘civilised’ world.

So, in Britain, not only is the extension of the programme fundamentally immoral it also has the effect of, yet again, shovelling even more public money into the bank accounts of ‘Big Pharma’.

Vaccination programme in Britain ……

Take-up of second covid jab in England levelling off – concern as scientists say vaccinating adults is more important than inoculating children or booster shots.

Vaccine passports will make hesitant people ‘even more reluctant to get jabbed‘.

Mandatory jabs for health staff being considered in consultation.

UK scraps covid-19 vaccine deal with French firm Valneva – why would anyone be foolish enough to have any dealings with ‘perfidious Albion’?

….. for children ….

NHS planning covid vaccines for children from age 12.

Ministers could defy Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and go ahead with covid jabs for all 12- to 15-year-olds.

Covid-19: 12 to 15-year-olds to get ‘final say’ over covid jab if disagreement with parent occurs.

UK vaccine advisers ‘acted like medical regulators’ over covid jabs for children.

All children aged 12 to 15 in the UK will be offered one dose of the (surprise, surprise – the hugely expensive and not necessarily more efficient) Pfizer-BioNTech covid jab.

….. and/or boosters ….

Vaccine boosters are likely to increase protection against variants. Presumably, if you keep pumping all the available vaccine into the same arms you’ll eventually produce a super resistant race amongst the dead population from the rest of the world.

Britons with severely weak immune systems to be offered third covid jab.

No urgency on covid booster shots for healthy adults.

AstraZeneca bosses warn against rush for boosters.

Boosters not needed for all, says Oxford jab creator – send to countries in need, instead.

Covid booster vaccine roll out to begin next week – and the winner is ….. (surprise, surprise – again) the hugely expensive and not necessarily more efficient Pfizer formula.

….. and the rest of the world

Russia’s covid-19 response slowed by population reluctant to take domestic vaccine.

Third coronavirus vaccines aren’t ‘luxury boosters’ taken from people without their first, WHO Europe boss says – the ‘rich’ countries will always find a way to justify their greed and denial of a fair share to the rest of the world.

Why it’s time for the UK to start sharing its vaccine doses.

Israel was a leader in the covid vaccination race – so why are cases spiralling there?

Immunity?

Covid infections may give more potent immunity than vaccines – but that doesn’t mean you should try to catch it.

Four factors that increase the risk of vaccinated people getting covid.

How other countries deal with the pandemic

China crushes Delta spike after weeks of strict measures.

Against all odds: how New Zealand is bending the Delta curve – but for how long?

The ever changing virus

Covid variants: we spoke to the experts designing a single vaccine to defeat them all.

Mu: everything you need to know about the new coronavirus variant of interest.

Covid – effects on children

Long-lasting symptoms rarer in children than in adults.

The care home ‘crisis’

Volunteers may be required in staffing shortfall at English care homes.

Who is dying of covid?

Scientists are comparing the profiles of those who are dying with previous waves – here’s what they know.

What will happen in the winter?

Further lock downs unlikely but some winter restrictions are possible.

‘Collateral damage’

Front-line nurses did not receive the mental health support they deserved.

Poverty in Britain

One in three working-age families with children to be hit by cut to Universal Credit. This came from a report carried out by the Joseph Rowntree Trust. Constituency Analysis (this is an Excel file) and the Technical Appendix.

Cuts to housing benefits led to over 75,000 more overcrowded households during the pandemic.

School spending in England: trends over time and future outlook – briefing or full report.

Teachers gaming pupils’ A-level grades highlights need for fundamental change.

The effect of local housing allowance reductions on overcrowding in the private rented sector in England.

Schools in poorest areas of England to be worst hit by pupil premium change.

Ending universal credit boost will hit sickest areas the hardest.

The truth will out! Perhaps not

The Government’s refusal to make messages between ministers public is (perhaps) an indication of how thorough the inquiry into the dealing with the covid pandemic (supposed to take place some time next year, i.e., 2022) will be.

Attempt to force release of Johnson’s messages on covid in care homes fails.

British Medical Association (BMA) to issue damning critique of government over Covid crisis.

Travel tests

Ministers doing bare minimum to stop covid travel test ‘rip-offs’.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?