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Independence celebrations around the world

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence this year, national and local authorities have drawn up plans for activities both within the country and outside. In an exclusive interview, Deputy Culture Minister Suzana Turku talked to Kate Holman.

 

“Culture is directly linked to Albania's image abroad,” said former orchestra conductor - now government minister Suzana Turku. “For the state centenary, every ministry has taken on the task of identifying the impact of the last 100 years in Albania, in all fields of life, especially focusing on achievements.”

 

A special commission has been set up, chaired by the Prime Minister and made up of ministers, scientists and academics from various disciplines, including culture and heritage. “This shows the importance attached to this work,” added Ms Turku. “Action is underway in all ministries to implement the programme of activities.”

 

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports is working with its Foreign Affairs counterpart to promote events abroad, featuring tourism, culture, exhibitions of paintings and icons, concerts, films, TV broadcasts and festivals. Later in the year, for example, Albanian culture weeks will take place in Russia and China.Suzana Turku

 

In February and March, the National Theatre of opera and ballet in Tirana staged the work Lulja e Kujtimit (‘Flower of Remembrance’). Set in the early years of the 20th century, the opera by Kristo Konos was first performed in 1961. “We want to select the most important works that have left a trace in Albanian culture,” explained Ms Turku.

 

She believes members of the Albanian diaspora have a vital role to play in independence celebrations. “We have strong connections, and we are very conscious of the need to involve them,” she insisted. “We have Albanian artists performing in important institutions abroad and they are included in all our activities.” Communities are also organising their own centenary events, especially in European countries with large Albanian populations.

 

The government has an award scheme for writers living outside Albania, pointed out Ms Turku, and two Munich-based architects, Visar Obrija and Kai Roman Kiklas, came top in the international competition to design a new national monument. A Directorate for the diaspora has been set up to promote direct contact with communities abroad, she noted.

 

By coincidence, in May 2012, Albania takes over the chair of the Council of Europe. This is yet further proof of the country’s strengthening profile in the world, argued Ms Turku. “Since the 1990s, when I was a conductor in the opera house, I have seen a radical change in Albania’s image abroad,” she affirmed. “Of course we still have a lot to do. But this year 2012 will show the world that we have a country with strong foundations. Albania has long traditions and legendary heroes. But it is also a modern state with excellent development and growth and with a new, contemporary mentality.

 

“I am very optimistic that we have a bright future. This year will serve not only to improve Albania’s image abroad, but to educate our younger generation, who will play a big part and bring a new perspective,” concluded Ms Turku. “By now, Albania is a country valued and respected by those who know about us.”

 

 

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