Edra and I had met up again for one last photoshoot before I leave Albania on Sunday and per usual it was a fun romp around the centre of Tirana. This time Edra’s wardrobe had two very fun pieces, a sheep’s hair vest and a striking red coat which felt straight out of the movie Paris Je T’aime.
Two years ago in Berlin, I was lucky enough to meet Azzura, a wonderful new friend from the Tuscany region of Italy. We had kept in touch over this period and knew that we would reconnect somewhere in the world, and thankfully it was her home country!
Without an itinerary or plan, I had packed my bag and hopped a plane from Tirana to Pisa for a weekend of fun and new friends. My first day I was taken out to Livorno (on the coast) and was introduced to Daniele, a brilliant and very charming friend of Azzura; after a night out on the town, we had known that a photo shoot was in the cards!
The next day was taken up by some adventures with Olga in Florence, but my last afternoon we made the shoot happen. Daniele had never modelled before, but you definitely could not tell by his H&M style and good looks. Our time was short, but it’s the quality that counts, and I definitely count Daniele as a friend that I will have for a long time!
If you want to follow more of Daniele’s life, you can check him out on Instagram @lumoru_90.
I love Instagram, it is such a wonderful tool for connecting creatives, and Edra is I’ve of those people that I was so fortunate to meet and collaborate with.
Edra is an accounting student and developing creative currently working on an online lifestyle magazine/blog based out of Tirana. I came across Edra’s work through the copious use of Albanian themed hashtags, right away I noticed her fantastic style and eye for engaging content and I knew that I wanted to shoot with her.
The first stop was a construction barrier that I spotted on one of my first days in Tirana, it was covered with a large canvas covered in tropical plants and animals and I was desperate to do a shoot with it as our backdrop.
We proceeded to walk around the centre of Tirana, stopping at many locations that many people wouldn’t think twice about, but Edra was game for anything and that fun energy resulted in some fabric photographs!
You can follow more of Edra’s work on her Instagram @edra.bala
My friend Kibela had told me so many stories about Ani, which had me very excited when we finally met after a few days of me arriving in Tirana. Right away I could feel the love and kind energy that she put out into the world. Ani’s look reminded me of a classic French model, so classic yet unique. Kibela had stated right away that the both of us MUST do a photo shoot, and a couple of weeks later it finally happened.
I had just come off of another wonderful photo shoot that afternoon and was definitely feeling tired, but we decided to give it a go anyways and the results speak for themselves. Ani approached the shoot like a seasoned professional, but with zero prevention and a willingness to try anything. Even though our shoot lasted less than two hours I am so happy with the number of quality images that we were able to capture together!
If you would like to see more of Ani, you can follow her on Instagram @anima8891
If I were asked what one of the most amazing experiences of my life was, I would quickly reply with my time at the Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS) in Austria.
I’m the autumn of 2017, myself and 49 other Young Cultural Innovators from around the world were all brought together to attend a 5-day intensive social innovation intensive at the Schloss Leopoldskron. It was a brilliant experience which lit a fire in my belly to push even harder to create positive social change in the world.
Fast forward 5 months, I’m in Tirana, Albania at the invitation of my friend Kibela (whom I had met at Salzburg), and she tells me that Peter, Shelagh, and Susanne from the SGS were coming to town and hosting a social innovation workshop in partnership with the Albanian-American Development Foundation… I could not believe it.
The night before, several of us alumni and organizers from the SGS got together for drinks and could not believe that all of us from around the world are all together in Albania!
The following day was filled with shaking conversation and a brilliant workshop (no surprise) hosted by Peter and Shelagh. We ended our day with rekindled passion in our personal missions, and several bottles of wine at Tëduktu, overall an amazing success.
You can learn more about the Salzburg Global Seminar at their website.
“Why Albania?!” Many people back home have asked since I arrived here 2 weeks ago. I can blame it on one thing, getting schlossed with Kibela Nasufi every night in the basement bierstube (German beer house) last October while attending the Salzburg Global Seminar.
Kibela and I had become great friends after just a few days, and she offered for me to come visit her in Tirana (capital city of Albania) – little did she know that I’m the kind of person who will take people up on their invitations 😉.
One of the first people I was introduced to was Vivienne (Vivi), Kibela’s best friend and all-around wonderful person. For weeks we had talked about taking photos one day, but busy schedules stopped us, until one hungover afternoon…
Where I am staying in the centre of Tirana we are quite close to a beautiful lake that Kibela always said that she would take me to, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to check that experience off the list. We had our coffees, our muffins, and once we had fully awoken, I pulled out my camera and beauty and fun unfolded from there.
You can follow Vivi on Instagram @vivienne_pitarka and Kibela @kibelanasufi
Before my first week in Tirana has come to a close, my “manager” Kibela had organized a photo shoot with a very talented model based in Albania; it was my first photo shoot in the city and I was very excited, to say the least.
Kibela and I met up with Cindy at the Tirana pyramid, though the sun was so intense that we were only able to get a few photographs before needing to find the shade of many beautiful buildings. The buildings that we found, though beautiful, also happened to be too “important” to take photos in front of, at least that’s what the security guard was yelling at us as we were chased away several times.
Our next stop was a plaza which had perfect lighting, but also came with its own balcony section as dozens of onlookers gathered to see what was going on – apparently, we were quite the attraction.
We ended the long day at a fantastic restaurant called Tëduktu, where after a delicious meal proceeded to take one last series of photos. We were very inspired by the cacti, green neon lights, and intimidating literature.
If you would like to see more of Cindy, you can follow her on Instagram @cindykokomeci, and Kibela @kibelanasufi.
This article was featured in this month’s Northword Magazine.
Navigating turbulent seas in search of fish; warring with neighbouring families and villages; displaying your wealth and power through totem poles and potlatches. These are just a few elements of everyday life for the pre-contact Haida people, and now the inspiration for a Haida Gwaii strategy board game.
Nang K’uulas, or Patrick Shannon, developed the first version of his Haida Gwaii game during while staying on T’aanuu, a Haida village site in Gwaii Haanas, as part of the Haida Gwaii Watchmen program. Watchmen spend months at a time in the park, where there is little connection to the outside world other than the people who come to visit.
“Being immersed in a place that your family once lived and being surrounded by the energy of all those that came before, truly rooted me for the first time in my life,” says Shannon.
Without the distractions of internet, TV, or cell service, Shannon spent much of his time delving into the cabin’s library, learning more about the history, stories, and the many villages that once dotted every shoreline of Haida Gwaii. This newly-gained knowledge inspired Shannon’s creative side. “By sunset, in my sketchbook, I had the beginnings of a board game.”
With little to work with by way of materials, Shannon gathered up what he could find around the cabin to develop a first edition. A single pencil, an empty cereal box, a repurposed deck of cards, a stack of leftover pamphlets from 2013’s legacy pole raising, and rocks were used for the original game pieces. “On several occasions, I had to barter with visitors for more supplies,” says Shannon. “It made me feel very old school Haida.”
Once construction was complete, Shannon began beta testing with his fellow Watchman Nick Gladstone. “I knew that if he got bored, then I better make the game better,” says Shannon. Through these early trials, the game evolved into a fully-fledged Haida Gwaii strategy game. The game, called by its working title, “The Village People,” is built around the traditional practices and ways of life of the Haida people, and uses a board directly inspired by Haida Gwaii’s geography and waterways. Players begin the game as a Haida family in a time before contact, and start with a randomly selected village. The goal of the game is to become the most respected family by trading, expanding your villages, building longhouses and totem poles, gathering resources, warring, and potlatching.
It’s been two years since Shannon sketched out the original prototype at T’aanuu, and in that time it has been played over 25 times. “Each time the game has been played, it’s evolved,” says Shannon. “Input from other players, unexpected scenarios, and donated game pieces have shaped it into something that is just so cool to play, and it gets better each time.”
As the game evolved, Shannon has explored its potential as a teaching tool for schools and the general public alike. With hopes to one day develop the game in partnership with Haida Gwaii language authorities, the game could be a beginner’s gateway to the Haida language. “I would also like to provide information on historic villages, highlighting the clans and history of each place,” he says.
“The Village People” will continue to be tested until the mechanics are fully worked out, and then Shannon is planning to self-finance and produce a limited run of copies to go to schools, and be made available for purchase.
“I just want to complete it and see how the response is from the community,” says Shannon. “Making sure that it’s respectful and supported would be vital if I were to ever go larger with it, but the potential is there.”