Home Art Mirëdita, do it! The festival takes place despite tensions

Mirëdita, do it! The festival takes place despite tensions

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Amid a bomb threat and Serbian nationalist protests, Kosovars and Serbs met in Belgrade to build bridges through art.

La Mirëdita, do it! The cultural festival took place in Belgrade from May 25 to 28, amid high alert for Serbian nationalist protests and even bomb threats.

The Kosovo delegation took around seven hours to arrive in Belgrade – not to conduct political negotiations but to participate in debates and cultural and artistic activities between artists and activists from the two countries.

Unlike previous years, there were no strict police controls, although the Kosovar team arrived under the supervision of Serbian police.

Outside, small groups of demonstrators sang Serbian nationalist songs, while police interrupted the opening ceremony after sending a false bomb threat to the Cultural Decontamination Center.

“Mirëdita, do it!” Festival, Belgrade, Serbia, 2022. Photo: Antigonë Isufi/BIRN

A survivor of the Meja massacre in Kosovo, Lush Krasniqi, and a Serb born in Istog, Kosovo, Marinko Djuric, received the “Mirëdita, Dobar, dan” awards.

Krasniqi recalled Belgrade both as a cultural city and as a memory of the exhumed bodies of his two brothers and his uncle during the war in Kosovo.

“As family members who have lost loved ones, we feel the same here as in Serbia, in Bosnia and in all the countries where the war took place. Nothing more real comes out than the soul of a victim,” Krasniqi said.

Djurić said it was a human duty to push young people towards such initiatives aimed at intercultural cooperation.

“Mirëdita, do it!” Festival, Belgrade, Serbia, 2022. Photo: Antigonë Isufi/BIRN

The festival, which took place from May 25 to 28, attracted a mixed audience and was followed by a play, a film screening, a book promotion, debates and music in six different private locations.

Is cultural dialogue more effective than politics?

The Mirëdita, dobar dan festival began in 2014, three years after the start of political negotiations on a lasting peace between Kosovo and Serbia.

Although the two sides have met nine times in total, sometimes in Belgrade and sometimes in Prishtina, it is less clear how often political actors from both countries have met for dialogue.

Kushtrim Koliqi, director of Integra, said the festival had arguably done more in the way of cooperation than mediated dialogue between states.

A lot has happened in the world during these nine years, but little has changed between the relations and attitudes of politicians in Serbia and Kosovo, he said.

“Mirëdita, do it!” Festival, Belgrade, Serbia, 2022. Photo: Antigonë Isufi/BIRN

“I regret that a significant part of Serbian society is still manipulated and controlled by the system. I feel even more sorry for them because in Kosovo we held the festival three times and there were no excesses,” he said.

Fiona Jelic, of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia, said that although politicians tend to strengthen the army, societies need to look and talk to each other.

Without changing the political system in Serbia, nothing will change between the two countries, according to Krasniqi.

Hive wakes up the Belgrade cinema audience

The Kosovo film Hive (Zgjoi) in the meantime, fills the Yugoslav Cinematheque in Belgrade. Interest in the film was great, as was the applause that accompanied the end of the film.

Actress Adriana Matoshi said it was only through art that the infamous experiences of Kosovars before, during and after the war could be revealed.

“Only with art and culture can we show what we have in our hearts,” Matoshi told the film audience.

Screening of the film Hive at the Yugoslav Cinematheque in Belgrade, Serbia, 2022. Photo: Antigonë Isufi / BIRN

The film tells the story of Fahrije Hoti from Krusha e Madhe, the pain she felt for her husband who disappeared during the war in Kosovo and the challenges she faced in becoming an independent woman.

Serbian actress Branka Petric, wife of Albanian actor Bekim Fehmiu, while leaving the room, said she was saddened by the reality that Kosovar women have faced since the war.

“It was a very simple film, but very honest; both very simple and very complicated. If Bekim Fehmiu had been alive and had seen this film, he would have liked it very much,” she said, emphasizing that Kosovo now produces films that touch the world stage.

A play highlights a dirty secret in the Western Balkans

The game More rigid attracted applause from the public after presenting a neglected reality in the Western Balkans.

It reveals the experience of Hava, a sex worker who was stabbed with a stiffer knife, encountering institutions that do not care about the pain she feels from the knife.

Surrounded by moral standards, in the roles played by actors Adrian Morina and Armend Ismajli, the protagonist, played by Rebeka Qena, is not considered a human being but a whore.

The Stiffler show, Belgrade, Serbia, 2022. Photo: Antigonë Isufi/BIRN

Kushtrim Koliqi said they were trying to bring themes that are adaptable and also applicable in other Balkan countries to the stage.

“Besides the fact that these sex workers, men and women who want to provide these services, are violated by the law, they are violated by morality, and also by society,” he said.

Actor Armend Ismajli said that as a subject, the play can communicate with all societies in which this group of people exists.

“In the theater, there is only the language, the subtitle which shows that it is Albanian. But male misogyny towards women is the same everywhere, as shown in Dutch and English films etc. “, did he declare.

Book reveals horrors of Yugoslav-era prison island

The stories of 11 former Albanian political prisoners from Goli Otok prison have been published in a book that reveals the cruelty experienced by Albanians in the camp.

Distorted shadows published by Integra, presented as part of the festival, tells the story of the Kosovo Albanians imprisoned in Goli Otok.

The island in the Adriatic Sea, known as the Croatian Alcatraz, was from 1949 to 1956 an infamous camp on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

Photo: Antigonë Isufi/BIRN

“This book also serves to raise awareness of the experience of Albanians imprisoned for years in general, because the stories that are here are not isolated,” said publisher Aurela Kadriu.

Historian Olga Manojlović said that Goli Otok was an intriguing issue in political discourse and in the public dimension.

“This issue has entered various film projects and there has also been a surge of disbelief (in the camp),” she said.

Korab Krasniqi, from Kosovo Forum ZDF, considered the book a testament or an important historical document, which serves the collective memory and culture of Kosovo.

Parallels with Ukraine are contested

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, many parallels have been drawn between the wars in Kosovo and Ukraine.

But while there are similarities, there are significant differences, roundtable participants said.

Political analyst Visar Ymeri said there are similarities in some developments, such as the bombing of houses and the eviction of people.

“The NATO intervention focused on the territory, while the Russian invasion has another objective, the invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

But journalist and publicist Boris Varga said that the war in Ukraine has nothing to do with Kosovo.

“Putin seeks to provoke ethnic conflicts, as Serbia did in Kosovo. There is a serious plan on how to seize part of Ukraine – but it has nothing to do with Kosovo,” he said.

Photo: Mirëdita, dobar dan! Party on Facebook.

Founder and President of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights Serbia Sonja Biserka said that Vladimir Putin intentionally and maliciously misused the Kosovo case.

“Serbia aims for the partition of Kosovo. Putin uses this kind of argument to accuse the West of violating international law,” Biserka said.

Albanian journalist Idro Seferi, who lives and works in Serbia, said: “For many Serbs, the war started (with NATO’s intervention in Kosovo) on March 24, 1999. Serbs believe that the Albanians always been against the Serbs. » » said Seferi.

In addition to these activities, the festival inaugurated the exhibition “All Our Tears”, which shows some aspects of the wars in the former Yugoslavia – family photographs of missing people, crime scenes, mass graves and other consequences of the war .

“All our tears” exhibition, Belgrade, Serbia, 2022. Photo: Antigonë Isufi/BIRN

With all these activities, activists from both countries attempted once again to find a common language through art to establish peace in the region.

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