Posts Tagged ‘black and white’
Albania is unique in that it is the only country in the world to have declared itself an Atheist state, ‘The Religion of Albania is Albanian-ism!’ was the slogan. All churches, mosques, were closed, turned into sports halls or storage warehouses, all religious worship declared illegal. In the 1960s, there was a concerted campaign to destroy ALL religious buildings and it was largely successful.
The buildings that survived (this picture being one of 8 churches that survived from the original 40 plus in Berat) did so as they were deemed to have historical and cultural significance rather than religious importance.
This picture is of the badly damaged interior walls of a Bektashi temple (Bektashism being a form of Sufi-ism), the exterior of this tiny temple bearing very few indications of being a place of worship and was indeed a store house for 40 years until the ban on religion ended in the early 90s.
So what fills a void, when you ban the worship of an unfathomable metaphysical presence? The oversized ego of equally unfathomable but rather more physically present Communist leader, in Albania’s case, Enver Hoxha. Apparently, on the death of Stalin, Hoxha gathered his citizens in Tirana’s central square, made them all kneel in respect and reverence and swear an oath of ‘eternal fidelity’ to their ‘beloved father’ Stalin. Presumably, the irony wasn’t lost on him…
As far as monuments of vanity go, this building, Hoxha’s Pyramid as it is called, is fairly modest. If you’ve ever had to scoop your jaw off the pavement as you take in the size and scale of Ceausescu’s Palace in Bucharest, you’ll know what I mean. Although, having said that, Enver Hoxha did have his name scrawled into a mountain range so wasn’t so modest after all.
I found the words of Shelley’s poem ‘Ozymandias’ (one of the few that I know off by heart) going round in my head as I stood in front of this building.
‘”My name is Ozymandias,King of Kings, Look on my works, ye might and despair”
Nothing besides remains, around the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away’
Instead of lone and level sands, it’s ripped up paving stones and graffitied walls, Hoxha’s Pyramid left in ruins – physically and symbolically.
In the National History Museum, the wing which housed Albanian post-war Communist era exhibits has been closed, with no foreseeable plans to reopen.
It seems to me that you can no more eradicate a country’s religious and cultural heritage as you can its ideological past, however uncomfortable either might be in the current zeitgeist. You’re simply replacing one ruinous and bloody battlefield with another.
These pictures were my thoughts on this topic.
Funny thing I discovered the other week. If you lie in a dark room and press the palms of your hands into your eye sockets (not too hard, mind, if you’re trying this at home) the interior world of your eye starts to transmogrify into elements of the exterior world around.
So for example, the landscape of the iris, with its myriad of networked capillaries starts to resemble the cracked earth of Bolivian salt flats or the arid clay of a drought ridden river bed. The soft tissue around the pupil becomes a breathing anemone or spongy, multicoloured moss. The star spangled tingling cause by minor blood loss to the brain begins to look like constellations in the night sky.
(honestly, the more I write this, the more bonkers I think I sound – there were no drugs involved I can assure you)
Anyway, it got me thinking about how nature reflects back elements of ourselves in unexpected places as well as reflecting other seemingly unrelated things. I found myself exploring this notion a little bit whilst in Malawi. How elephant skin magnifies the patterns in our own skin but also resembles the texture of ancient tree bark. How the branches of a leafless tree can look like a map of our own spaghetti arteries and veins.
How a monolithic baobab face planted itself in the ground somehow somewhere down the ages and continues to grow upside down for ever more – roots becoming branches, branches becoming roots.
Well you get the picture…
And if you don’t, I’ll post a couple more pictures that may or may not make me make sense…
By the way, Edinburgh folk, some of my Morocco pics are on display in the Circus Cafe on St Mary’s Street (just off the Royal Mile). If you don’t know the cafe, it’s a cool new art cafe, does fantastic lunches, owned by the same people who have Empires, further down the street. Definitely worth hanging out there for an afternoon, should be opening in the evenings soon as well.
I had the mezze and it was dee-lish.