South Africa > Albania #worldinterview #10

South Africa > Albania

Interviewee: Arbër Kadia

What drew you to archaeology and what path did you follow in your archaeological career?

The reasons are many and I can’t really remember the exact initial thought or attraction that drew me to it. To me all reasons are all valid ones because whatever it is that makes you go down the path of working in the heritage sector has to be strong enough to keep this fire burning.

In my youth I have been actively involved in associations, societies and organizations that had the preservation and promotion of all Albanian way of life in their core. This might have been one reason. Secondly, my education has played another key factor, due to some inspirational masters and lecturers as early as the A-Levels in Ancient History (Greek & Roman) at Eton College as an international scholar and then in University of Bristol. Being an Albanian in the UK during my formative years put in perspective the necessity of working hard to get Albania recognised. Although part of Europe, Albania was and is terra incognita, even to many professionals of the field.

Once fully immersed in the running and preservation of heritage, one comes to the realisation that this path is not easy one and that human patrimony needs to be seen as a whole and thus improved simultaneously in the disciplines that it is comprised of. Societal development has to run parallel to this.This all-encompassing approach unfortunately is very difficult in a developing country. This is maybe the reason why I decided to move from the field work to an administrative and policy oriented path.

What is the relationship between politics and archaeology in Albania?

To put it bluntly, everything in Albania is political. Corruption, nepotism and dilettantism are ever-present. This refers not only to the lack of funding which is vital to the field and its distribution to the wide sector but also to job allocations and the lacklustre administration of the territory which is heavily damaged by uncontrolled development projects.

Heritage specialists therefore find it close to impossible to stop the political machinery once it is set on carrying out certain construction projects. The distorted understanding of politics and power in this country makes for archaeology and heritage as a whole to be at its service and not to fulfil the constitutional requirement of protecting and improving the “DNA of the Nation”. All is not dire however as there are certain specialists that have managed to include legislation and management plans in certain territories. In general however it still remains an uphill struggle and much energy is employed to make politics understand the irreversible threats in question.

What difficulties do you think students face in pursuing a career in archaeology?

Jobs are hard to come by and badly paid. The future is not clear for students of archaeology and many of them move to other industries as a result.

Unless there is better regulation for the necessity to monitor, perform adequate studies, rescue excavations or preservation, it will be tough to attract and guarantee these students jobs in both state and private sector.

The state sector as stated in the previous question is more at the helm of politics and therefore are very limited in scope and execution. The private sector on the other hand, which should be more advanced at this stage is still trying hard to find its feet. Poverty being one of Albania’s main threats makes it hard for students to see a bright future for themselves in archaeology.

How do you see the role of archaeology in today’s society and in the future?

Albanian archaeology is deeply rooted in a very classical sense of the word. Academies of old still have not opened up to the world and state oriented institutions are playing catch up as we continue to deconstruct the past using tools which we all know won’t be the same for the future. The inscribed stones, ceramics and paper it is written on will resist the test of time. The amount of information produced by our era where most things are changeable at an unrelenting speed. The intellectual factor that distinguishes the 2nd millennium man is digital media. The biggest challenge is how this digital interchange will be preserved and passed down the line. The future archaeologist will have to sort out encrypted data and digital recycle bins which undoubtedly will be hard to process. We know that data needs to be multiplied and reproduced in order to survive time. Texts would be lost if it were not for the preservation by Muslim scholars or the fastidious copying of medieval manuscripts by monks.Therefore a new kind of archaeology is required, which one the discipline shall need to adapt to in order to sort out our present in years to come. Quite frankly I think it will be a lot of digitized.

About Arbër:

I am a British educated heritage expert with both field and administrative experience in architectural restoration and consultancy (byzantine churches, mosques, fortifications and roman mosaics, and many listed buildings in Albania etc), archaeological rescue excavations and an extensive experience in drawing up management plans, legislation and policies during experience as Director of Heritage at the Ministry of Culture in Albania. Currently working as a heritage consultant for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline assessing and mitigating impacts arising from construction activity into the wider landscape of heritage.

Questions from Keneiloe Molopyane in South Africa.

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