Inaugurated last Monday, the photo exhibition on Ismail Qemali Bey Vlora will remain open until November 28 at the Galleria delle Colonne at the Teatro Edison in Parma.
30 photos, some of them unpublished from the family archives, and 15 articles of the Italian newspapers of the time, to tell the life of the man who was decisive for secession from the Ottoman Empire and led the first government of the Albanian state still unrecognized from the great powers. Curated by Darling Vlora, great-grandson of Qemali, and part of the initiatives of the Albanian Culture Week 2010, it is a photographic exhibition with a strong historical and educational content, which also highlights the links with Italy. The first of the unpublished photos that opens the exhibition portrays the ancient castle of Kanina, where once there was the home of the Vlora, one of the Albanian houses part of the military and political establishment of the Ottoman Empire. The Vlora left him in the 1823 to move to the center of Vlora. Darling Vlora, who is our guide, would have liked to have set up an exhibition only with articles from Italian newspapers of the time, to give her an even more historical cut, but visual memory is equally important and has opted for something in between: photos and articles with captions full of historical explanations, useful to be able to visit the exhibition even in full autonomy.
In some of them we find portraits of a young Qemali, in others it is in the company of other activists of the Albanian Risorgimento. 50 years at the service of the administration of the Ottoman Empire, Ismail Qemali has always held important roles starting from the age of 25 years when he was appointed governor of Varna (Bulgaria). However, his relationship with the Empire's strong powers has been troubled: close collaborator of Mit'hat Pascia, one of the Ottoman reformers of the time, was confined by the 1877 to the 1884. Instead, from 1900 to 1908 he left the Empire for fear of being confined again or eliminated by Sultan Abdul Hamid II, since the latter had named him that year as Governor General of Tripoli: it was common practice to eliminate opponents of prominent, naming them in peripheral provinces of the Empire.
Two years presented again in the exhibition, the first through an article in “Tribuna”, a well-known Roman newspaper, which dedicated the first page to 26 June 1900, and the second with a very curious photo, which is also shot as a postcard, with original caption in Italian. When he returned from exile in the 1908, he was welcomed by the people of Vlora with unprecedented enthusiasm: the horses of his carriage were freed and the citizens carried them on their shoulders from the port to the city center.
These are the years of the activism of Ismail Qemali, elected deputy of the Sangiaccato of Berat in the Ottoman Parliament restored with the revolution of the Young Turks, in the ranks of the Ottoman liberals of which he was also leader: they fought for an administrative, financial and judicial decentralization type Anglo-Saxon and the recognition of nationalities that make up the empire, guaranteeing them also other rights including education in the mother tongue and political representation. To his commitment as a liberal, he has always supported that of the autonomy and rights of his people, engaging in the Albanian national movement of which he has become one of the leaders. President of the Constituent Assembly who founded the Albanian state, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the provisional Albanian government that emerged from this Assembly, Qemali resigned because of an increasingly hostile environment for him by other Albanian notables and of the Great Powers that did not recognize the provisional government and after establishing the establishment of an Albanian state in the 1913, they were working on the spot through the International Control Commission for its structure. However, he did not stop working for Albania until the 24 January 1919 was extinguished in unclear circumstances at the "Brufani" hotel in Perugia, whose photo of the time is included in the exhibition.
And while Darling should leave us because of other commitments, we cannot but ask him which of the photos shown are the most important for him. The most expensive would be the one that portrays Ismail Qemali with his six children, one of whom is also Darling's grandfather, in his home garden in Istanbul in the 1896. Instead the one with the strongest historical impact would be the shot that captures him in the company of Isa Boletini, Kosovo delegate in the Constituent Assembly, arrived from Kosovo with some of his men in the midst of the first Balkan war. From the words of Vlora, and from a first research, it seems that such exhibitions have not been set up on the figure of Qemali in Albania. Instead in Italy it is the second. Ironically, the first one was also curated by Darling, moreover in the rooms of his private home in Sirtori, province of Lecco. It seems that even the historical memory of a great statesman like Ismail Qemali in Albania is reduced to a family question. It is hoped not to lose it as happened with the building of the Constituent Assembly that proclaims independence: demolished in 1925 by the Municipality of Valona, the original of the declaration of independence: lost, and the click of the day of independence, perhaps never existed: the communist regime sold for 50 years as a souvenir photo of that great event, the first anniversary of independence.
Yet Darling, as he said during the inauguration, will continue to commit himself to this show not only being offered in other Italian cities and in Albania, but better in content and quality. Who knows, maybe for the Centenary of Albanian Independence. In the meantime, if you have a car or you like traveling by train, you are passionate about history or simply intrigued by this historical figure, don't wait for the next Qemali show. You can learn a lot, especially the citizens of Albanian origin. Moreover, Parma is also a beautiful city.
"Ismail Qemali Bej Vlora - The man who proclaimed Albanian independence" Period: 22 - 28 November 2010Place: Gallery of Columns, Edison Theater - Parma Address: Largo 8 march nr. 9Contacts: www.scanderbeg.org, email@example.com
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