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Feature: Albanian artists return home, ending exile for exhibition

News Stories, 3 June 2004

© UNHCR/B.Fusha
Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano (centre, with blue tie) with the returning artists at the National Gallery of Arts in Tirana.

TIRANA, Albania, June 3 (UNHCR) Home is where the art is, as a group of Albanian artists can attest when they returned to their homeland for an art exhibition after years spent developing their craft abroad.

"Colours of Albania in the World" is currently showing at the National Gallery of Arts in the Albanian capital, Tirana. It brings home 23 artists who had either fled or migrated during a previous regime.

Opening the exhibition last Thursday, Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano said, "These artists have introduced to their host societies certain values of Albanian culture, such as passion, friendship and nobility."

UNHCR Representative Marion Hoffmann added, "They are putting their mark on the artistic scene of their host societies and now have an opportunity to show their work in their own country. They remind us that 20 million refugees and displaced persons around the world would also rather return home, if they could."

The exhibition, which runs until June 22, is based on this year's World Refugee Day theme, "A Place to Call Home".

Xhovalin Delia, an Albanian artist living in Florence, Italy, said, "This is a unique event which gathers for the first time in their home country distinguished Albanian artists who are working and living abroad. It is similar to the call of your own father to return to your home country."

The other artists are Adrian Paci, Flutura Preka, Besnik Haxhillari, Helidon Gjergji, Ibrahim Kodra, Omer Kaleshi, Ornela Vorpsi, Venera Kastrati, Anila Rubiku, Armando Lulaj, Bashkim Ahmeti, Bujar Marikaj, Arjan Risvani, Ilir Zefi, Bujar Luca, Astrit Vatnika, Artan Shabani, Agim Sula, Elton Milaqi, Pëllumb Puci, Valbona Musliu and Viktor Ferraj.

© UNHCR/B.Fusha
A painting by Bashkim Ahmeti.

"While Albania was barely a white spot on the world map, her artists had to either perform according to the rules of dictatorship, or work in hiding, or flee. This is a thing of the past," said UNHCR's Hoffmann. "In this exhibition we discover colours which, until 14 years ago, would have been drably oppressed within the country's own hermetically closed borders."

She added, "We are allowed to catch a glimpse of the Red and Black of Albanian passion and mystery. We are invited to Albanian hospitality, generosity and innate joy of life. The pieces excite us with the ancient Balkanic roots of honey and blood converging with the intense blue of the Mediterranean Sea."

"Colours of Albania in the World" was organised by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and jointly funded by local and international donors. In conjunction with the exhibition, study visits will be held involving refugees, migrants and students of the Academy of Fine Arts.

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Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie joined UNHCR chief António Guterres on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they met with boat people who have fled unrest in North Africa.

More than 40,000 people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have crossed the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats and descended on the small island since the beginning of the year.

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador flew to Lampedusa from Malta, which has also been a destination for people fleeing North Africa by boat.

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Afghanistan: An Uncertain Future

For over a quarter of a century, Afghanistan has been devastated by conflict and civil strife, with some 8 million people uprooted internally and in neighbouring countries. The overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 resulted in one of the largest and most successful return operations in history.

Seven years on, more than 5 million Afghan refugees have returned - increasing Afghanistan's population by an estimated 20 percent.The large majority have gone back to their areas of origin. However, some recent returnees are facing more difficulties as the country's absorption capacity reaches its limits in some areas. Last year, some Afghans returned before they were ready or able to successfully reintegrate due to the closure of refugee villages as well as the deteriorating conditions in Pakistan. In consequence, 30,000 Afghan refugees returned to further displacement in their homeland, unable to return to their villages due to conflict, lack of land, shelter materials, basic services and job opportunities. These challenges have been compounded elsewhere across the country by food insecurity and severe drought.

UNHCR and the Afghan Foreign Ministry highlighted the requirements for sustainable refugee return and reintegration at an international conference in Kabul in November 2008. The donor community welcomed the inclusion of refugee reintegration within the government's five-year national development strategy and the emphasis on land, shelter, water, sanitation, education, health care and livelihoods. It is anticipated that repatriation and reintegration will become more challenging in future.

Afghanistan: An Uncertain Future

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