March 12th, 2015
Los Angeles, California
& Shkodra, Albania
Pjeter Vukaj is an Albanian artist that was born on August 3rd, 1965 in Malësi e Madhe. He has been living, working and exhibiting his artwork in Shkodra, Albania since the Nineties. He has enjoyed writing and creating art since a young age, and his work is admired by many inside and outside of Albania. He has participated in many art exhibitions throughout his career, and he hopes to continue doing so in the future.
If you are interested in Pjeter Vukaj’s work, you may contact him through the following ways:
Vanessa Villarreal became interested in Albanian Studies while studying abroad in Florence, Italy and while living in Shkodra, Albania. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Italian Studies, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in the same subject at California State University, Long Beach. Her main scholarly interests include: nineteenth and twentieth century Italian literature and culture, women’s studies, the Arbëreshë of Italy, and Albanian culture and history.
In this oral history, Pjeter Vukaj talks about his art and gives us insight as to what life is like for an artist in Albania.
Interview recorded using Audacity.
Transcribed by Vanessa Villarreal. Audited for accuracy and edited for clarity by Vanessa Villarreal. Transcript reviewed and approved by Pjeter Vukaj. Transcript 4 pages.
VILLARREAL: Hello, good afternoon! My name is Vanessa Villarreal. Thank you so much for letting me interview you for this project. I truly admire your work!
PJETER VUKAJ: Hello, and thank you very much.
VILLARREAL: Shall we begin?
PJETER VUKAJ: Sure.
VILLARREAL: Where were you born?
PJETER VUKAJ: I was born in a village called Selce in the Malësi e Madhe District. I did not always live in this region. I also lived for some time in Shkodra, which is different from where I am from because Shkodra is a city. It is where I live and work as an artist now also.
VILLARREAL: How would you describe your childhood?
PJETER VUKAJ: My childhood was always good even though my family was poor. Being poor did not make me unhappy because I came from a good family.
VILLARREAL: What do you think it is that makes you so interested in art?
PJETER VUKAJ: To be honest, I still do not know what kind of an artist I am. I enjoy writing poetry and literature and I experiment with visual arts. I like to create art with anything possible, and I really love it, even if I know that I do not do it all very well. I also have a passion for music, but I would consider myself to be more of a music critic rather than an actual artist in the music field. I also write in visual art styles that I create within the style. I like my art because I think it is different from the rest. I am unique and I try to make people happy with my unique style.
VILLARREAL: That is great! What is one of the things you like most about being an artist?
PJETER VUKAJ: I think it is important to let other people know that I did not become an artist to be famous. I do not make art to be recognized. I make art because it makes me happy and I love it. I do it to make myself happy, and I hope that other people will also have the same feeling for my art that I have. I feel that God gave me a gift, and I must spread my gift with others as others spread flowers to show their love.
VILLARREAL: You do certainly have a gift. How would you describe life for an artist in Albania?
PJETER VUKAJ: Life for an artist in Albania is good but also hard sometimes because artists are not always supported by others. Hell is the real art in my opinion. If that were not true we would not have so much talent in the world. Albania is a country with a lot of talented artists. That is something I hope people will discover one day, because many wonderful Albanian artists deserve to be recognized by the rest of the world. Today, there is a lot of talent in my country, but little recognition. I hope that will change with time.
VILLARREAL: You are right about that. You, however, have been recognized by quite a few people for your amazing work. What are some of your biggest achievements?
PJETER VUKAJ: Until now, I believe I have worked a lot and accomplished somewhat what I hoped to accomplish. I have experimented with visual art a lot. What I have done a lot of is created art on the skin of goats and on recyclable material. I have not shown everything I have done to everybody, but I think it is all very interesting. Trees are also important to me. I use the tree barks to create art. In general, I think I have a very different perspective. To me, nature is beautiful and a perfect thing to use to create art. I think I see nature in a different way, and this can be seen in my artwork. I always pay attention to small and particular things that most other people do not see at a first glance. This is important for me, because being different is what has made my art a beautiful work in my opinion. By using goat leather and wood, I have created so much of my art. I see beauty in things where most others do not. I have a style that most people do not think about or do not know exists, and this is the style that I love and will always represent me and my art.
VILLARREAL: Do you think is difficult to be in an artist in Albania?
PJETER VUKAJ: Being an artist and making art is not easy in any country. But being an artist in Albania is more difficult because our economy is very weak. We live in a beautiful country, but it is still a very poor country. It is also still a place that feels isolated, because not many people know about Albania and its beauty. Perhaps we will have a transition soon, like the transition we recently saw with our dictatorship. I truly hope this change will happen because Albania has much talent, but it is not seen as a cultural country by others. It is seen more as a political place, in my opinion. Some artists here in Albania do not have a great life, because they are poor and without support. This is sad but I hope it will change.
VILLARREAL: I hope for the same. Is there a specific piece of work you are most proud of?
PJETER VUKAJ: I am proud of all of my artwork. There is not one particular piece of artwork that I can say I am most proud of. This is because I made all of my art with the same love and the same passion. What others seem to appreciate a lot is the visual art I have done on the skin of goats. I am also recognized for some of the things I have published as a writer. I wrote something called “Monumeti i Lypesit”. I have many books in manuscript. The one I consider most interesting is called “Nimfa Urbane” which includes over 4,000 verses. I have illustrated some of the people I write about in my artwork, with the goatskin. In the beginning, I represented more of a reality, but then I began to use my dreams as inspiration. My dreams influenced me and allowed me to be more creative in all of my art. I think some of the things I have written such as the things I mentioned before will live very long because I wrote it with creativity and passion. My protagonists are beautiful characters. My work “Nimfa” is divided in two parts. In the first part, everything is very mythical. Then there is “Metamorfoza e Nimfes”, which is the other part. This book is special to me because in it I have said many things. It was written at an important time, which is the time when the internet began to be popular and more people spoke about sexuality freely. Both of these things erupted in our country at the same time in my country, a country that is poor but has been able to keep up with the times in one way or another.
VILLARREAL: You seem to be talented in so many ways! How much time do you spend on working as an artist?
PJETER VUKAJ: When I make a piece of art, I do not think about the amount of time it will take me to complete it. I never remember the amount of hours I spent on making something because that is not the point of art to me. For me, what is important is always being inspired and always feeling spiritual. Without these two things, it would be difficult for me to begin and complete my artwork.
VILLARREAL: You make a good point. What does your family think about your artwork?
PJETER VUKAJ: I feel that I am admired by my family, even if some think that art is not very important and that it should always be sold instantly such as food. But, I am proud to come from a family that is quite and artistic and talented. One of these talented relatives is my niece, Elsa Nilaj. She is a stylist and is now studying in an academy abroad in India. I am proud of her. In 2009, she won a small prize in Malësi e Madhe and just recently she won a big prize in India. She is an artist, like me, and I admire her work as she admires mine. It is a great thing to have relatives that understand what being an artist is like.
VILLARREAL: I agree. What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
PJETER VUKAJ: I would like to tell people that would like to become artists that I congratulate them. I would also advise them to only listen to their hearts, and to not be influenced by what others want them to become. An artist must stay true to himself, because without your own unique style, you become like everybody else.
VILLARREAL: That is true. Did you ever go to art school?
PJETER VUKAJ: I never went to school for art but I did attend university. I read a lot of literature and attended a lot of lectures but it all felt forced to me. I felt like somebody that was being forced to eat, as a man in the army is forced to eat. In my opinion, for real art, a school is not needed. School should not teach you how to become an artist, because you should only listen to your own ideas. Schools are simply for teaching art, but not necessarily for creating artists. Artists are usually born artists, not taught.
VILLARREAL: Interesting thought! What do you think about Albania?
PJETER VUKAJ: I have spoken about what I think about my country of Albania in a poem which I published on my Facebook page. There are also several artists that have published my poem in the journal Nacional. The poem is called “E dua ferrin tim*”. I still love Albania very much even if it is how it is. The abuse by politicians and others makes me unhappy, but I know there are also great things to say about my country. I speak about Albanian topics in all of my books using allegories. The reader has to really pay attention to understand what I am trying to say.
VILLARREAL: I noticed that besides representing Albania in your artwork, you also represent women. Are you married?
PJETER VUKAJ: I am not married. I do appreciate and love women very much, as I do nature. If I did not like women, I would not use them in my art. Women are important to me in my art, and I enjoy using them as inspiration.
VILLARREAL: Who else inspires you? Do you have any favorite artists?
VILLARREAL: For my last question, I would just like to ask you, what does art mean to you?
PJETER VUKAJ: To me, art is the most perfect way to reveal the beauty and the truth of all things on this earth.
VILLARREAL: Thank you very much for your time. You are an amazing artist and I hope you will continue to make art for many years to come.
PJETER VUKAJ: Thank you.
END OF INTERVIEW
*E DUA FERRIN TIM
poeme Pjeter Vukaj (1997- )
Une,e dua ferrin tim
Qe e kemi pagezuar Atdhe
Nganjehere me ngjane si jetim
Qe qan dhe nga urija s`fle
Nganjehere me duket i sterkequr
Nganjehere i plagosur,nganjehere i vetplagosur…
Nganjehere i shtrembet,nganjehere i ndrequr…
Jemi ne ferrin e persosur…
Kete vend te bukur e gjithe begati
Sa shume e prishem,e kthyem ne ferr
ne vend t`i shtojme me shume stoli….
I shtojme dhembje e vetem tmerr
Ketu ne vend te luleve,lulzon krimi
Ketu s`dihet kur njeriu vdes
Ketu te ze mbremja,e e s`te ze agimi
Ketu te thote vdekja mirmendgjes…
Te jetosh mire ketu ne ferr
Duhet ditur per te zgjedhur…
Ta gjesh rrugen edhe ne terr
Duhet genjyer,duhet vjedhur….
Te merresh me politike,
Te cirresh me turmen bashke….
Te shperndahesh pike pike
Se perndryshe mbetesh jashte…
Te jesh teper dredharak
Te kesh shume lara e shume ngjyra
Se per ndryshe s`ke ven aspak
Nese s`ke edhe shume fytyra…
Ky ferri im nuk eshte shtet
Eshte vetem atdhe
Edhe nese vret e pret
Po pate para i qete fke
Ketu ku kriste pushka kot
Tash fshehur shperthen dinamiti
Ky ferr here me zot e here pa zot
Kete ferr te errte rrallekush e ndriti….
Behemi shpeshhere kope njerucesh…
Iu perjargemi dhe iu lepihemi princave te ferrit
Bejme shtet me drejtesi si lidhce kepucesh
Qe paraja i terheq si pelen per frerit….
Bejme shkolla e universitete
Punesojme pedagokote e seksere
S`punojne per dije,por per vete….
E gezofshim dijen e mjere…
Pedagokotet rinine e prishen
Qe kerkojne zarfe e jo mesim
Per nje pese e bukura iu zhvishen
Edhe keshtu prape te dua o ferri im…
Se c`do te behen neser as une s`e di?
Se shkollen e moren me rryshfet
Do te behen minje zyrash rryshfetxhi…
S`do te jene per ne por per vrimen e vet….
Do te behen poliikane
Se politika ngope cdo derr
Po Atedhene kujte ia lame?
Mos valle prape do te mbetemi ferr…?
Do te bejme shume parti ne liste…
Me trurin e tyre te mbetur djerr
Disa do te behen analiste….
~Te pavarur~te partive ne ferr
Disa te tjere do te behen kryeferrtare
Te tjeret servile si minje vrimash…
Neper sheshe do te vehen ne gare
Me postra kotesish,muresh e makinash…
Idhujt e tyre do te jene tutoret e trafikantet
Se ata kane shume para,jane te pasur…
Se ata i duan te bukurat,elegantet…
Se te miret jane te mjere,te varfer….
Keshtu jane vipat ne kete vend
Sado qe ndryshe duan te jene disa…
Disa i kemi edhe ne Kuvend
Disa te tjere ne detyra te medha….
Se prape ka njerz me perkushtim
Por nuk jane idhuj te askuje
Qe duan ta ndricojne ferrin tim
E me kot bejne vrima ne uje…
Ne ferrin tim ka shume njerz te mire…
Qe duan drejtesine,i duan ligjet…
Ta shohin si Europa kane deshire…
Per keshtu,na i mbydhin shtigjet….
Ketu kriminele e hajdute…
Te veshur bukur e me shije
Te bukuren e trembin e bejne prostitute…
Dhe themi se kemi dite lirije…
Politikanet s`me kane ngrohur as vakur
Si minje ne vrima te vogla e te medha
Here e kane djegur,here e kane perflakur…
Europa Ferr tjeter jo s`ka….
Dje ferr i mbydhur,sot ferr pa porta
Dje ferr i kuq,sot ferr i zi
S`ka kohe me ne te merret bota
Se jemi ne fajtoret e tij
Votat shiten si patate
Politika fluturon me presh
Kete fat o ferri im pate…
Disa te lumtur,disa shkojne per lesh…
Fryhen shpesh perrenjte
Asgje s`ua ndale priten
Grinden te medhenjte
Vec te vegjlit vriten…
Ky pra eshte ferri i perkryer
Qe shpeshhere u la me gjak
Si nje shtepi pa dritare e dyer
Me trare te kalbur e cati aspak…
Me shume vila pa njerz,e me minj trafiqesh
Qe e duan veten teper shume…
Hartues kotesish e ligjesh
Ca kartona te lagur ne shkume…
Sa shume durojme me forcen e gurit
Here ferr te kuq e here ferr te zi
Se keshtu i kemi ngjyrat e flamurit…
Por s`u bashkuam njehere rreth tij…
Ca boshe me pushtet si ne xhungel
Ne ferrin ku jetojme ne…
Me shpirt te kalbur si nje cungel
Ne jemi xhungla me e re…
Ne kete xhungellferr lulzojne bandat…
Levizin pash me pash lirisht
Vetem te vegjelve iu vehen prangat
Se jemi si ne xhungel,si njerzit me bisht…
Barkemedhenj te kollarisur shohim shume derra
Qe asgje s` bene ne ferrin tone…
E mbodhen parti,hithra,ferra…
A do ta kemi keshtu pergjithmone?
A do te ndryshojne valle ky ferri yne?
Koha do te jene deshmitare….
S` dihet se c`fare ere fryne?
Se kohes jo s`i dihet fare…
Ky ferri im vendi i nenave qe qajne…
Per bijte qe i braktisin dhe iu vriten kot
Disa me njeri tjetrin hesapet lajne….
Ketu edhe deti shtohet me lot…
Ky Atedheu si femije i uritur jetim…
Keshtu s`desha te shoh asnjehere….
Edhe keshtu te dua o ferri im
O Parajsa ime e mjere….
Ky ferri im do te permendet si perrallat….
Te huajt do ta shohin me lakmi e percmim
Aferpames qe s`shihni deri te qepallat…
Mos ma ktheni ne ferr atdheun tim…
Kam shumcka nga Atedheu
Sepse me dhembin plaget e tij
Edhe kur kockat t`mi kalbe dheu
Lule mbi varr do te celi perseri…
Se si do te behet me ferrin se di?
Ze i heshtur i ferrit gjithmone do te jeme
T`mos ta mbjedhin thithra,ferra e parti…
Ta mbjedhim njerz,lule e peme….
Dhe themi qe jeni shtet
Per njerzit sa pak kush kujdeset…
Keta kryeminje per vrimen e vet
Garojne kush e kush t`i mbushe me shume qeset…
Kishim te forte e diktatore
Sado qe shkelqente ajka
Vete vrasim,vete i bejme deshmore
Se ketu ka me shume shkelqim bajga,,,
Kjo bajga jone poliike
Me zyrtar te vegjel si krimba
Vetem dhembje di te shpike…
Dhe minj,zyra si vrima…
Per vete jane mire,jane te lumtur
Ne kuvende e auditore grindavecesh
I zgjedhim kush di te lehe bukur…
Se lehin bukur si qen kotecesh…
Te mencurit dikur kishin thene..
Mos i mbani ata qenet
Qe lehin kot ne rrene…
E ne i cojme ne kuvend…….
S`du ta shoh Atdheun te uritur si femije jetim
Keshtu s`desha ta shoh asnjehere
Edhe keshtu prape te dua o ferri im…
O parajsa ime e mjere……