Historical or Not?

(l to r) Kapidan Mark, Gjon, Ndue, Dede, Nikoll, Sander Markagjoni

Today I was schooled on my apparent misconception of the reason for the Marubi Photography Gallery in Shkodra!

Let me begin with a short background. My family, the family of Kapidan Gjon Markagjoni, was quite important in Albania throughout the centuries up until communism, when it was emaciated, murdered and practically wiped off the face of the country. However they didn’t succeed, and I am living proof of it, as well as my still living uncle Nikoll, his children, my siblings and my uncle Mark’s two daughters. Having said that, the name Markagjoni is pretty much ‘mud’ in the country, and I am putting it mildly.  They, meaning the government, would like nothing better than for me to leave Albania and all the above mentioned heirs to my grandfather to disappear quietly into the night.

Well that is not going to happen any time soon, so they continue to make it difficult for me to accomplish anything of value here and to brush the name under the rug.

Case in point; the National Museum of Photography (Marubi). This museum was established in Shkodra to showcase the genius and beauty of the Marubi photographers. All the photographs displayed in the museum are historical, whether they like to think so or not. They have on display photographs of historical figures such as Preng Bib Doda, Luigji Gurakuqi, Ernest Koliqi, etc., all historical and political figures of Albania, so to say that it is not a ‘reflection of Albanian history’ is a contradiction at best. Why do I say this?

Today I went into the museum for the second time. I was there last year and did not see ONE photograph pertaining to my family, when I know for a fact that Marubi took quite a few number of photographs as they are all available online. I was told by the receptionist that they now have on display photographs of ‘Gjon Markagjoni’. As I walked around the area I was directed to I saw ZERO photos of my grandfather or uncles. I saw photographs of their cousin, Mark Kapidani and of course Preng Bib Doda. I told the receptionist that those were not photos of my grandfather and that apparently they are under the impression that Mark Kapidani and my grandfather are either one and the same or that he’s one of his sons, when in fact he was a cousin. I had to remind her that having these photographs on display was not the same thing as having actual photos of ‘my family’.

I asked to see the director of the museum because I wanted to inquire about having access to the online photographs without the watermark so that I may print them and create my own museum here in the house. I met with a young man who spoke fairly good English and proceeded to tell him what I was looking for. Apparently, since the museum is a national one and falls under the Ministry of Culture, I have to send a written request for digital photographs. Ok, fine. Then I asked him about the absence of photographs in the museum pertaining to my family, who by the way, contributed greatly to the history of Albania, specifically the North, but that’s another story.

I was told that “this is not a museum reflecting the history of Albania but rather a collection of photography showcasing the importance of the Marubi family as photographers”, mmmmmmm let me see….a vast majority of  the photographs that are showcased are photos of influential persons in Albania’s history but this is not an Albanian historical gallery? Then the crux of the matter surfaced.

A ‘commission’ decides what photos are showcased. A commission run by the government, specifically the Ministry of Culture. So there you have it! The government once again decides whether the family of Gjon Markagjoni is put on display or not. The government once again decides whether to finally recognize the contributions that this family has given to their country or not. A government still run by communists and ex-communists. A government whose only interest is their own and not the history of Albania. A government who has yet to release any dossiers on their own people ie. deputies, ministers, president et al showing the Albanian people and the world whether they committed any crimes during communism or not. A government who would like nothing better than for me to disappear into the sunset.

Well, that’s not going to happen any time soon. I may be fighting a losing battle, but like my ancestors keep fighting I will, to keep the name alive and for what’s rightly ours!

I sent a request to the Ministry of Culture for access to the digital photographs as directed. Time will tell whether they approve it or not!

Kapidan Gjon Markagjoni and his guards c.1930’s



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