Archaeologists urge Albania to protect underwater heritage

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This July, 2017 photo released from the RPM Nautical Foundation, shows a diver exploring Ionian sea bed near Karaburun peninsula, Albania. (AP)
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This July, 2017 photo released from the RPM Nautical Foundation, shows artefacts of a shipwreck strewn over the Ionian sea bed, near Karaburun peninsula, Albania. (AP)
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This June 29, 2018 photo released from the RPM Nautical Foundation, an image taken with high tech sonar and remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) shows a shipwreck lying on the Ionian sea bed in near Karaburun peninsula, Albania. (AP)
Updated 04 July 2018
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Archaeologists urge Albania to protect underwater heritage

TIRANA: Researchers are urging Albanian authorities to build a museum to display hundreds of Roman and Greek artifacts and ancient shipwrecks that are sitting under the country’s barely explored coastline.
Archaeologists at the Albanian Underwater Archaeology conference warned Tuesday that the wealth of underwater artifacts in the country’s southwestern seabed, near its border with Greece, could easily fall prey to looters or treasure hunters.
James Goold, chairman of the Florida-based RPM Nautical Foundation, said the objects — dating from the 8th century B.C. through to World War II — would be a great tourist attraction if properly displayed.
Goold’s RPM has mapped out the Ionian seabed from the Greek border all along to the Vlora Bay, finding at least 22 shipwrecks from the ancient times to World War II and hundreds of ancient amphorae. Those long, narrow terracotta vessels carried olive oil and wine along trade routes between North Africa and the Roman Empire, where Albania, then Illyria, was a crossroad.
“The time has come to build a museum for Albanian and foreign tourists,” said Albanian archaeologist Neritan Ceka.
Some amphorae may have already been looted — they are not infrequently seen decorating restaurants along the Albanian coastline.
Albania is trying to protect and capitalize on its rich underwater heritage, long neglected by its former communist regime, but preservation still receives scarce funding from the government in one of Europe’s poorest nations.
The arrival of RPM’s Hercules research vessel 11 years ago was “a real revolution,” Ceka said, praising its professional divers, high-tech sonar and remotely operated underwater vehicle.
RPM and a joint Albanian-Italian expedition are the only scientific underwater efforts in Albania so far, both with the government’s approval.
Now RPM believes it’s time for the not-for-profit Institute of Nautical Archaeology research organization, which is based in Texas, US, to explore the possibilities of excavating shipwrecks, a financially expensive and scientifically delicate process.
“There’s a special environment in Albania, because the coast has been so protected for so many years,” said INA’s David Ruff, a former commander of a nuclear-powered submarine.
Ruff said “one of the real gems of Albania is the Butrint site” — a UNESCO-protected ancient Greek and Roman site in southernmost Albania close to the Greek border.
He said INA’s Virazon II research vessel will stay for a month in Albanian waters “to understand the coast of Albania and if we can run a large-scale excavation here.”


‘Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses’ tells heart-wrenching story of Syria’s lost artists

Updated 15 November 2018
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‘Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses’ tells heart-wrenching story of Syria’s lost artists

  • The 93-minute film follows six Syrian artists as they narrate their stories of displacement

BEIRUT: Filmmaker Nigol Bezjian premiered his latest movie “Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses” with an intimate screening in Beirut on Wednesday night.
The 93-minute film — which features dialogue in Arabic, Armenian, German and English with English-language subtitles — follows six Syrian artists as they narrate their stories of displacement.
Bezjian, an Armenian born in Aleppo, Syria, spoke to Arab News about the experience of making the powerful film and said it was inspired by one of his previous works, “Thank You, Ladies and Gentlemen.”
“The movie is about Syrian refugees in the camps of Lebanon and it stayed with me,” he said about his previous film. “But I wanted to make a film about people in our region who had to depart their homeland, from the time of the end of World War I until today.”
That sparked the idea for his latest venture.
Bezjian chose six characters and honed in on their past experiences in what turned out to be an insightful peek through the keyhole into the lives of those who have been affected by the strife in Syria.
“The characters in the film are artists who work in different disciplines of art,” he explained.

“The film is something of a documentary, as the characters’ stories are all real, yet the concept that ties them all together was created by me,” the filmmaker continued.
Making an appearance are filmmaker Vartan Meguerditchian, actor Ayham Majid Agha, musician Abo Gabi, dancer Yara Al-Hasbani, painter Diala Brisly and photographer Ammar Abd Rabbo.
The film explores the inner feelings and reflections of people who had to leave their homes and be transported to a new environment, facing many challenges along the way.
Despite the sometimes heart-wrenching subject matter, Bezjian noted that the main challenges he faced while producing the film were budget and timeframe.
“The movie took two-and-a-half years (to make), so the main challenge was not to give up and keep the same spirit and momentum throughout this time,” he said.

At the screening, an eager crowd listened as the filmmaker gave his introductory speech.

“There are a lot of faces I don’t recognize, and that’s a good thing,” Nigol said. 

The movie is filled with tense moments, artistic shots and captivating characters, that succeeded to show the reality of artists’ lives in environments marked by conflict and refuge.