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Culture & People


It was not until Albania declared independence from the Ottoman Empire did radical artistic change occur. After Albanian liberation in 1912, Albanian art experienced a patriotic renaissance. Artwork that depicted the historical past reached its height in popularity. Likewise, the country’s continued cultural isolation from Western Europe led artists to focus more on national matters. Sculptures of national icons became popular throughout the country. In 1968, Sculptor Odhise Paskali (with help from fellow sculptors Andrea Mana and Janaq Paço) constructed a monument of Skanderbeg, Albania’s national hero, in honour of the 500th anniversary of his death, and it is placed in the centre of the capital city of Tirana.

After World War II, a repressive communist government took rule over Albania, and the artwork that arrived during the communist era reflects the turmoil of the time. Art was censored greatly by the Albanian government and artists were urged to create works that endorsed socialism. During the 1950s and 1960s, the dominant theme of Albanian paintings was the “proletariat”, the backbone of the socialist system. Much of the country's art focused on domestic scenes such as men working in the fields and women feeding chickens. Also, landscape scenes were highly popularised by Albanian painters. Painter Vangjush Mio is most famous for his landscape paintings.

Although Albania left communism for democracy in 1991, scholars currently label Albanian artwork under the category of "socialist realism", for its emphasis on portraying real people and situations. Although much of Albanian artwork is influenced by impressionism and expressionism, it is most realist in its depiction of everyday life. Contemporary Albanian artwork captures the struggle of everyday Albanians, however new artists are utilising different artistic styles to convey this message. For example, popular artist Alush Shima uses bright primary colours to depict Albanian life. Albanian artists continue to move art forward, while their art still remains distinctively Albanian in content.


Albania, part of the ancient Illyrian territories, a cross-road of civilisations and geopolitical interests during the barbarian onslaughts and later on a province of the Eastern and Western Empires, Rome and Byzantium, after, over centuries, having constituted and dissolved independent despotisms and principates, and after having eventually constituted the state of Skanderbeg, was forced to jump backwards to a historically remote stage of economic and social development due to the Ottoman occupation. The normal process of Albanian culture, which kept pace with European humanism, was interrupted. The first consequence of invasion was the outflow of intellectual elite to the West. Among such elite, many personalities became renowned in the humanist world, as, for example, historian Marin Barleti (1460-1513) who in 1510 published in Rome a history of Skanderbeg, which was translated almost into all European languages, or Marino Becichemi (1408-1526), Gjon Gazulli (1400-1455), Leonicus Thomeus (1456-1531), Michele Maruli (15th century), Michele Artioti (1480-1556) and many others who were distinguished in various fields of science, art and philosophy.

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