fbpx Blerta Kambo | CIRCA PRIZE 2023

Blerta Kambo

Sometime in August 2019, I made my way through London streets dragging two large suitcases. I miscalculated many things, it was late, and a man stopped me. He said “Miss, are you ok? Do you need any help?”. I thanked him and refused politely. Just as he left, I caught a glimpse of my reflection on a window store. I looked scared, like a ghost who had lost its ghostliness. I knew where it came from, a trauma from a “voluntary departure” when I was a child, returned to tell me that I wasn’t welcomed perhaps, that anytime someone would tell me I had to go back to my country, and all the hard work I had put for years to create a reputation as an artist, save money, be admitted at a film school in London, everything, was just an illusion. This is how I discovered the House, used by Albanians from Albania, to get asylum. They photographed themselves in front of the house, and would say, ‘this is my house, destroyed during the war”. They took a new identity, a new name and origin. The house stood still, unchanged, to this day. For this project, I filmed the house, and re-enacted in the end the act of being photographed in front of it, but from the perspective of the house.

The story in the voice over is true (read by an actor). This, just like many of my projects, relate to memory, archives, parallel truths and space (or architecture embedded in space) as social narrative.

In 1997 Albania was devastated by a civil war that left the country in a poorer state than communism had done for 50 years.

Many were desperate to leave the country, and they did so, via boats, at the back of a truck and through other illegal means. In 1999, the War in Kosovo happened. Albanians from Kosovo were considered war refugees and were entitled to asylum anywhere in Europe. Albanians from Albania were not eligible. Some of them were forced to find a different path to asylum, they pretended they were Albanians from Kosovo, who had fled war. The house, this house, was used by many as proof for their asylum case in the UK. My project is not a critique of people who did anything called illegal. Who decides who has the right and hasn’t to apply for asylum? What is true and what is not? To me The House represents so much hope, and just as much truth. Hope to find oneself, no matter how hard and how long it takes, no matter the nationality, to survive and love.

If I were to win, I would make a short film, narrative fiction, about another story that is related to asylum seekers crossing Albania this time, to enter the EU. I came across one of them while on a hike, by myself, and the familiarity of the eyes staring back at me, made me hope that in a different universe I knew more, and I helped him find a home. Or at least tell this story.

“At that time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowing overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it.”  – Albert Camys, “The Stranger”. This is what hope is to me.