(Ed. Note: Soon after posting Karen Malpede’s essay on her Global Connections project, Another Life on the Road, she received word that her collaborators in Kosovo were in crisis. What follows is more information from Karen regarding the political pressures on the National Theatre of Kosovo, and a letter from their Artistic Director, Jeton Neziraj.)
After writing my essay Another Life on the Road, I was alerted that that my collaborator Jeton Neziraj’s job at Artistic Director of the National Theater of Kosovo is set to be terminated, and with it the artistic freedom of the theater he has created will be curtailed. Jeton is a cosmopolitan artist above and beyond petty nationalistic politics and he is attempting to create a truly free theater in Kosovo. In my experience, he has done so. I am enormously disheartened to learn that he and the theater are being threatened. I am copying below Jeton’s email and the letter I have written in response.
Dear theatre friends,
The National Theatre of Kosovo is being seriously threatened by politics. Even before, this theatre had been the target of manipulations and political control; nonetheless, the latest developments are disturbing and make this theatre’s perspective dim. The National Theatre of Kosovo is an independent public institution, financed by public funds through The Ministry of Culture.
Recently, the newly appointed Minister of Culture has committed a series of violations of law and power abuses, intimidating the independence of this theatre by making some politically arbitrary decisions. He has dismissed The Board of The National Theatre of Kosovo, even though that board has a legitimate mandate. This decision was made after the board had positively evaluated my three years’ work as the Artistic Director in this Theatre. The Minister has also manipulated with the new board that he himself appointed. As a result, a totally unprofessional person – until recently, he was working in The Kosovo Prime Minister’s Office – has been appointed for the position of Artistic Director of The National Theatre of Kosovo.
This political interference weights down my efforts and those of the previous Board to aesthetically and conceptually reform this theatre, to open paths for cooperation with artists and international theatre companies, to liberate this theatre from schematic national plays, to alleviate it from primitive nationalistic mentality which continues to use the theatre as a medium for promotion of racism and induction of nationalism. Our concept, during the past three years, has brought more audience, about 150% more in comparison to previous years.
I would like to take the opportunity to invite You to react in order to exert pressure on those scandalous political actions, which have arrogated the creative and functional independence of The National Theatre of Kosovo.
I would kindly ask You to send Your reactions to those e-mails:
memli.Krasniqi@ks-gov.net / Minister of Culture
firstname.lastname@example.org / Minister of Foreign Affairs
email@example.com / Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo
firstname.lastname@example.org / The Kosovo Prime Minister’s Office
email@example.com / Koha Ditore Newspaper
firstname.lastname@example.org / Zeri Newspaper
email@example.com / Newspaper Express
firstname.lastname@example.org / Jeton Neziraj
+377 44 186 393
To whom it may concern,
I recently had the great pleasure of working at the National Theater of Kosovo under the artistic direction of Jeton Neziraj, a major artist and a fantastic friend of artists world-wide. I was in Kosovo on a grant from Theatre Communications Group and the Mellon Foundation. The experience at the National Theater was first-rate by any standard. All our artistic needs were accommodated. We worked with wonderful actors whom Jeton had assembled. We worked under conditions of utmost respect for artists and for artistic freedom. In fact, I was surprised and enormously impressed by the leadership of the National Theater. I found it free of partisan politics, open to the ideas of world-class artists and able to attract wide audiences. I am enormously disheartened to learn that this freedom might be threatened, that politics might over-come true freedom of expression. It feels to me very important that Kosovo set a standard for freedom of expression and first-rate artistic accomplishment. It feels very important that Kovoso honor the freedom it, with the help of my country, fought for and won.
It is soon my privilege to welcome Jeton Neziraj to theUnited States as part of a 9/11 Performance Project. In the U.S., he will take his place alongside American artists who represent the highest standards of free expression and I know that he will receive the recognition his fine work deserves.
I hope his leadership of the National Theater will continue and that in his own country his visionary policies and his ability to attract world-class artists will continue to be honored.
I hope that the National Theater continues to be a beacon of freedom and free expression.
Prof. Karen Malpede