If you were to ask me now to name the number of women I learned about in school in Kosovo, I’d probably only be able to recite the names of Elena Gjika, Shote Galica and the Qiriazi sisters. The number of women artists I learned about in school is even lower. Like most young women who attended Kosovo’s education system, discovering the work of great women artists, particularly Albanian ones, happened on our own, outside of the classroom.
That discovery, for me at least, opened me up to the possibility of what great Albanian art could look like and the wide range of stories it could tell. Discovering and experiencing the work of women like Musine Kokalari, Androniqi Zengo, and Tefta Tashko Koço made me wonder how many of our women’s stories have remained untold, holding no place alongside the great men we learn about in school. It’s a tragedy to consider how many works of art have never been created, because being born a woman in Albanian-speaking lands historically meant being illiterate, uneducated, and denied any form of personal choice.
The night before writing this blog, I was leaving a party when an acquaintance noticed my Femart totebag. After the initial confusion and my explanation, the comments that ensued were “So they [women] aren’t washing dishes anymore?” and “Or making fli?” It was one of those very ordinary moments of living here, where even the idea of a women’s arts festival is associated with cleaning and cooking. The added layer to this, of course, is the stereotype of the Albanian woman, who does nothing but clean, procreate, and make fli. I guess Kosovars are so used to seeing women in this role that anything different is not only strange, it’s amusing.
This is one of the reasons why I’m very excited to be blogging for Femart, the only festival of its kind in Kosovo. The works of art that’ll be shown across Prishtina over the next six days will take us through the Kosovar countryside to listen to women’s folk songs, into the bedroom of a young woman in Germany describing what being Albanian means to her, the chatter of an imagined beauty salon in Kosovo, the work and mysterious death of a Serbian war reporter, the stories of women who survived the Bosnian war, and many others. These are stories that we need, and stories that I’m so happy will be shown here, for free and open to all. I’ll be providing regular updates on each day of the festival, along with blogs describing each of the performances I attend.
See you at the festival,