Even Walls Have Ears is a multi-dimensional project dedicated to sharing the untold stories of Albanian’s dictatorship 1944-1991 through story-telling, photography, film and conceptual art. The project was launched May 2018 with a series of six light installations by activist conceptual artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa. From sunset to sunrise, statements of survivors had wanted to say publicly were projected on to buildings for all to read, as part of the UN’s Remembrance to Heal and Prevent Campaign in Albania. The making of the conceptual art work was filmed in a documentary Even Walls Have Ears, and launched in Tirana October, 2019. The project is continued to be run by Albanian -American journalist Kristale Ivezaj Rama, who maintains the website in English and Albanian, growing social media platforms while working on a collection of memoirs with the help of post-graduate students, volunteers, and the Authority for Access to Ex-Secret Service Files. So far, more than 50 survivors have participated, in 15 cities, and 6 countries, and photographed by a notable photographer in their respective city.
During the Albanian dictatorship, thousands were executed and perished due to disease and malnutrition, at least 50,000 people were sent to political prisons, and internment camps. In 1991, more than 800,000 Albanians left the country, settling mostly in Greece, Italy, USA, either permanently or as temporary workers. Today, Albania’s diaspora is larger than country’s population of 2.8 million. The experiences and memories of many Albanians are atrocious and traumatic, the aim for Even Walls Have Ears is to ensure that their stories live on and are told on the narrators own terms, treated with sensitivity and care, as well as to reconnect elders with younger generations who experience cultural disconnect and have a lack of information due to language loss.
The project upholds a rigorous informed consent process, and special attention is paid to narrators security and psychological well-being in recounting their traumatic stories. All narrators have provided permission, and have complete freedom to access and edit their testimony or revoke It all together, at any point. Each narrator has enthusiastically shared photographs of themselves in their youth to aid in the story-telling process, and have had a portrait taken to combat the expectation that they remain silent, and hide in secret. “These Walls Have Ears” was a common reply made by citizens terrified of the retribution in a police state, our goal is to redefine the phrase in a free world, giving the platforms to survivors and to provide a platform for healing, and to demonstrate the courage and power of each individual.
Kristale Ivezaj Rama as a first-generation Albanian American and descendant of a persecuted family during the country’s 47-year totalitarian communist dictatorship, Kristale Ivezaj Rama is passionate about remembrance and story-telling as a way to inspire dialogue and promote greater empathy and understanding of the silenced and neglected Albanian veteran experiences, making the narrator the active agent of change. She is the co-founder of Even Walls Have Ears, a multi-dimensional platform that encourages Albania’s diasporic communities to learn more about their history through those most visibly and directly affected, survivors of the regime’s concentration camps, and political prisoners, as well as a provide a window into the small country’s suffering to the wider world. With elders rapidly passing away, their stories are lost, and many of Albania’s bicultural younger generations are disconnected from this time as the country struggles to make sense and reconcile with its past.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Kristale has a bachelor’s in Print Journalism and International Studies from Wayne State University, and a masters in Diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. She is the founder the Balkan Artists’ Guild (BAG), a nomadic contemporary art platform based in London, working in collaboration with artists, architects, curators, and international art organizations to enable people to talk about difficult subjects through art. Currently, she is working on an online bilingual platform, and a book, Even Walls Have Ears, with a group of 10 notable contemporary photographers and photojournalists, using portraiture and writing as a way to preserve first-hand testimony to address the effects of the dictatorship, and draw attention to not only the past, but also what more we can do for remembrance and memorialisation of survivors of this time.
Alketa Xhafa Mripa is a London-based conceptual artist and activist whose art is concerned with issues such as history, memory and gender relations, through mixed media installation, painting, and photography. Exhibited widely, her work can be seen in Museum of Chaville in Paris, along with museums in Florence, Belgrade, Pristina, Lisbon, Berlin, and London. A bold messenger for activist art, Alketa is a passionate advocate of human rights. Empowering women living in oppressive societies, she shares with the world a deep emotional response to the reality in which she exists.
After spending her childhood in Kosovo where she completed her primary and secondary education, Alketa came to London in 1997 to study Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, before going on to study History of Art at the Tate Modern, London. Since then she has displayed her multi-faceted work in exhibitions across Europe including Berlin, London, Italy, Portugal, and her native Kosovo, where she gained wider recognition for her art installation „Thinking of You‟. Alketa has spoken on “Ending Poverty” through Art at the UNDP in Kosovo, TED X Prishtina, TED X Tirana, and will be a 2018 UN Women UK representative. She will be speaking at the HeForShe conference in March 2018. She is a highly sought-after speaker among universities across Europe.