I have never found myself looming and thinking about how relevant postcards can be on the branding and perception of a city until the idea of this research came up.
The idea was to go into different shops and look for postcards. As it happens in our beautiful city, there were only two commercial bookshops that had any sort of postcards, and interestingly enough they were the same identical ones. Postcards commissioned by the ministry of something, created by two people in 2019. They were relatively generic, except that there was an abundance of the “Newborn” monument, which in itself is not very beautiful, but it is considered to have an exceptionally special meaning to Kosovars and their state. Other than Newborn, there were also a lot of monuments and buildings which are rather new and only a few of the old ones were presented. For our research, we were looking at the postcards presented to us one by one, taking pictures of the back and front of each of them. The manager of the store approached us and told us that we cannot take pictures of them unless we buy them. 50 cents for a postcard. We told him that we have no intention of buying them and that we are taking the pictures only for a research project. He was refusing to undestand our intentions and he kept insisting that we can not take pictures at the postcards. I continually kept pressuring him to tell us why he is not allowing us to take pictures but again, he gave no reasoning whatsoever. So, my stubborn monotone approaches were not exactly working and in a very infuriating moment we decided to leave the bookstore. As we were going out this whole idea of not being able to take pictures seemed like a potential threat for developing this essay.
Apparently, the guy was thinking that we were taking pictures of the postcards so we can use those same pictures to profit from them. I guess he thought we were going to print those pictures and turn them into postcards. Instead we decided to put some of them below.
The idea of producing postcards started clinging in the back of our protestive heads. We were amazed by the idea of how this essay was already taking the form of an action and it developed like that throughout the lines. So here it is… Basically a personal story paving the way to the ideas of the artworks that are presented here – thought to be postcards. In postcards that are produced from every city in the world, there are specific things shown on them bluntly, meaning that you have the power to create a hand – tailored image of the city by picking monuments, places or sceneries that you think are acceptable to show for “outsiders” to view – you create the image yourself. As an attempt to defy a polished view and carved imagology of Prishtina (the city were we live), this is the first attempt we came up with.
Stray dogs are a big part of the cityscape of Prishtina, as they live their parallel life amongst us. Each time they see a car passing by they go on to bite the wheels of them, even though this never works, as the cars of Prishtina are still abundant and their tires are all safe. Still, they deserve to be saluted for their perseverance – we thought.
We moved on and kept going into other stores in the center of Prishtina and everywhere there were just the same postcards – over and over again. Clearly, the postcard business has been monopolized. We made a small discovery that the “Vllaznim – Bashkimi” square (now called “Adem Jashari”) and the WWII Partisans Memorial were both missing in contemporary postcards. What exactly are these monuments? And especially why are they missing?
In 1947, Prishtina became Kosova’s capital city and with that title came many responsibilities for being a modern city, so many old constructions were demolished in favor of modern buildings. In 1961, the “Trekëndëshi” monument in “Vllaznim – Bashkimi” square was built. It is a monument commemorating unity and solidarity for three ehtnic groups living in Kosova – Montenegrins, Albanians and Serbs. There is not much accessible information about the history of the monument or the square. The most confusing piece of information regarding it is the fact that there is no official document showcasing the change of its name from “Vllaznim – Bashkimi” which stands for Brotherhood and Unity to “Adem Jashari”. Most sources of information say that the change of the name happened in 2010, although the validity of that information should be doubted.
The “Trekëndëshi” monument, like most monuments built during the existence of Yugoslavia, is one enveloped in an unwritten past and a moral dilemma concerning present patriotic views and feelings. When “Vllaznim – Bashkimi” was built, it was considered a monument commemorating unity and brotherhood. Maybe its contested nature of what it represents is seen as problematic, hence not fit to be put in the postcards!
If you go out to take a walk in Prishina’s streets you can notice a clash of monuments, ideologies, architecture, cleanliness. New monuments and squares should be shown alongside old ones, old buildings should be shown alongside new buildings. The dichotomy of a city should be shown, valued and talked about. Although that is how the Prishtina postcards attempt to be, there is a prevalent discrepancy on how much space is given to the new monuments like “Newborn” and the “Mother Theresa” square, and how much space is given to old monuments like the WWII Memorial and the “Vllaznim – Bashkimi” square.
This prompted us to question the image that is trying to be portrayed of Kosovo and the reasoning behind it.
The Velania park where the Partisans Martyrs Cemetery is located, is surrounded by residential
neighborhoods, some being apartment complexes built these past few years, some being houses built during the 90s. The park has a total of five “monuments”. There is the Partisan Martyrs Cemetery Monument, the grave memorial complex of President Ibrahim Rugova, the graves of about 26 KLA martyrs of the 1999 war and two other graveyard areas with the bodies of soldiers and “prominent” figures of Prishtina whose bodies were relocated or buried for the first time from 2013 to 2019. While on the places/memorials close to the monument people go and pay their respects to the dead and generally try to keep the places clean. I have not been able to find information or experience any official commemorative events held there. In contrast from the fact that from the 60s up until the late 90s it was used as a place for commemorative/remembrance events.
Currently, the monument is not used for anything more than smoking weed, drinking or going on quick dates. It is not only that these monuments are not shown as part of our history as contested as it is, maybe for the pain or terror they bring to someone, but they are also leftover to time to rust its metals. Occasionally you get local kids going there just to play during the day but that is pretty rare.
Both of the monuments were built within the concept of brotherhood and unity, Tito’s philosophy for promoting solidarity among the different nations of the federation he presided over. Like many monuments of the Yugoslav era, Trekëndëshi, and the Partisan Martyrs Cemetery monument are both seen as symbols of Serbian repression. Both of the situations relating to the monuments being absurd and falling into a very vicious cycle that any country that has had a war, contested history and has not been autonomous for a long time should not fall to.
Era and Shpat
p.s. During these weeks, for Sagittarius and Libra the stars are on your side, just keep going like this but don’t be swayed by the criticism of others…says the horoscope I found accidentally in one of the papers dated 1999 at the Rilindja archive at the National Library, one of our research sights. I will appropriate this advice for our week, this week of producing this paper.
Whatever we are writing is strongly debatable and we are debating quite a lot. For example, I really wanted to write the horoscope for this edition, because which newspaper could live without intriguing astrology? Despite that it has become a banal thing in the way it developed in this consumerist world, the idea of horoscopes in its origins is really interesting for me. And we all know the magic of how language (and stars) can influence people’s ways of living. (Shpat comment to this: «Some world dominating prospects here!») Apart from conspiracy and daily psychological help, I started to reflect on what content horoscopes in the context of Kosovo could be, but if you write the words horoscope and Kosovo in the google research bar you will definitely end up reading about the tensions about Kosovo and Serbia, which I do not think has anything to do with horoscope.
The ongoing impossibility to find information made me give up and I decided to help designing postcards instead. And how about developing a new kind of astrology or tarot out of that? Pick your card and I will read your future from the combination of monuments. But I must say, the Rilindjahoroscope for the week was on point.
Elisa and Caro
By Era Qena, Shpat Shkodra and Elisa Pezza