01/09/2010

Why albania?


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Recent History and Geography:

Albania is a small country in the Balkans, squeezed between the ex Yugoslavian republics, Serbia, Greece and the Adriatic sea.

The state became independent from Turkish rule after the first world war. Since then it tied relations to Italy and for a short period was annexed to the ridiculous and short lived Empire of Italy and Eritrea.

After the 2nd world war Enver Hoxha took power and founded the harshest collectivist regime modern Europe has known. The dictator ruled the country through terror and a paranoid fear of foreign invasions from all sides.

Following a short period of enthusiasm and a strong foreign investment in particular from Italy after the fall of the regime in 1992, the country was shaken by the failure of a national sized “Ponzi scheme” that drove the country to a short but devastating anarchic state.

This short but drammatic episode and the war in Kosovo contributed to the birth of a new upper class specialised in illegal commerce of arms and petrol either to Serbia or Kosovo.

Albania has gained fame mainly because of the massive exodus of over a quarter of its population toward Italy, and, unfortunately, also because of the organised crime and corruption.

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Ressources and the Artistic Factories:

The country however has a lot to offer, and for what concerns Po!Paris, strong know how in the handicraft sector.

One of Albania’s prides of the collectivist regime were the “Artistic factories”, run by the state for the production of traditional handicraft.

The local craftsmen were rounded up and concentrated in rationalised production units essentially devoted to export.

Main activities were silver filigree, carpets and kilims and ceramics.

Today these production units have not survived the transition to a liberal economy leaving the workers unemployed.

With the local economy litterally in pieces, the younger generation fueled the exodus from Albania. Those who remained grew in the light of the most superficial version of western style living as it is formulated in the italian television and MTV.

Some people are still there trying to continue to perpetuate their profession.

Local demand for these products is close to zero so the handicraft sector is quickly disappearing or melting in the construction industry.

Po!Paris is mobilising this know how to produce modern design.