SOUVENIR OF MY HOMELAND
EXHIBITIONS / PROJECTS
TEXTS AND REVIEWS
5’ 37’’ video which records an interview with Braho at his study at the factory.
The project also consist of several preliminary sketches Braho did prior to making the mold and first 100 first small Rihanna souvenirs.
“Star Negative” proposes to explore the relationship between the local and the global in post-socialist Albania as they are manifested in the work and experience of Bashkim Braho, an Albanian artisan who lives and works in Tirana. This project is inuenced by the ethnographic turn to contemporary art, which prioritizes a hands on, participatory involvement in the phenomena that are being contemplated.
For “Star Negative” Dani have taken an active role in researching and documenting the social, historical and economic factors that have led to
the transformation of Braho’s work as well as how global forces are
appropriated at the local level in response to local needs and desires.
Bashkim Braho (born in 1958) first began to work at a state-owned ceramics factory in 1973, when Albania was still a state socialist country, and continues to work in the same factory today, which has been privatized. Indeed, Braho is the author of the negative molds of souvenirs
which tend to represent various aspects of Albania’s historical, cultural and national identity. During socialism, when travel to and from Albania was highly restricted, these souvenirs were in high demand and were exported by the Albanian state to various countries, such as Germany, the USSR and even Japan. After the collapse of the state socialist regime, however, when Albania’s borders were opened to all sorts of visitors,
these souvenirs came to be marketed primarily locally, in kiosks and shops all over Albania. But it was not only tourists who bought them as tokens of their limited, touristic experience in Albania. Albanian nationals, too, purchased them as an extension of their national and cultural identity. In recent years, Braho has experienced a sharp decline in sales of “typical” souvenirs, and in 2013 decided to appropriate the gure of a
global star, namely Rihanna, a phenomenon that Endri Dani encountered by chance, while visiting Braho’s studio for another art project. On the one hand, the appropriation of Rihanna is a move of personal signi-cance for the artisan, who appreciates the singer’s voice, music and looks.On the other, it is a response to a perceived local taste for celebrities of
global renown and it is thus a marketing strategy which Braho hopes will
invigorate his practice. The “transition” from the production of gurines infused with an aura of cultural or national identity, to the production of gurines that represent global superstars is not only an example of the globalization of culture and its eects on peripheral countries like Albania, but also the resourceful ways in which people’s employ global to reach their desired ends.