Prishtina
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New Flag

A new country, but where is the flag?

Finally, a visit to the National Gallery - with its giant mikado in front of the entrance - with Petrit Selimi (28), the restless entrepreneur of Prishtina culture and politics. Petrit runs a consultancy firm with veteran Shkelzen Maliqi (60), and we both agree a great mind like his should receive a life stipend to simply write and not to be obliged to do research and advice for the likes of Ramush Haradinaj and telecom company Telenor, like they are doing now. Petrit is preparing a Beastie Boys concert to create another kind of public energy when independence will be here. (The night before, March 26, Petrits cafe Strip Depot was buzzing with excitement after Martti Ahtisaari, former Finnish prime minister and chief Kosovo negotiator for the UN, presented his report: independence is the only option.)

He expects most of the Serbs to leave the country after all. Maybe not the politicians, who might realize it could be more attractive to be a minister in independent Kosova than a nobody in Serbia, but especially the young generations, who will go to study in Belgrade or Nis and move on from there. What I hadn´┐Ż??t realized before: most of the younger generation will not be able to speak the other language within a couple of years. And Petrit is very pessimistic about the capacity of the present political leaders to create a responsible and transparant government. With the possible exception of Haradinaj: now on trial in The Hague, he is supported by a wide number of billboards in the Prishtina streets, Me Ramush - we are with you, Ramush. Was he a killer or a freedom fighter? Petrit prefers the latter: whatever crimes he may have committed (and several key witnesses have been killed this last year), there is no proof as yet that he was personally involved in the mass killings he is accused of, and in any case, Petrit regards them as a different category from the military operation planned and executed by army and state apparatus in Belgrade.

The flag exhibition has already been removed from the National Gallery, but upstairs in an office we find the collection of designs, mediocre prints on sheets of paper. We flip through them. The project anticipated independence and Ahtisaari's call for a new national, inclusive flag and emblem. So the timing was good, but the response pretty disappointing. It looks like no one of the participating designers had the courage and imagination to move away from the conventional codes. The double-headed Albanian eagle is everywhere, the colors red and black dominate. And where they don't, we see either the map of Kosova or some medieval emblems from the Ilyrian times. Or a design with larger and smaller circles (perhaps symbolizing the different communities), a strange mix of the Cuban and American flags, and some hopefully adding the yellow stars of the European Union. Petrit is hoping for someone to dig into the medieval heraldics, from the time that monarchies ruled here. In any case, nothing like the new artificial Bosnian flag. 'In the end,' he says, 'we will have to be able to wave it proudly on occasions like the Champions League or the Eurovision Songefestival.'

The whole collection of designs is on show at www.kosovaart.com/fla1.htm

slideshow image for New Flag



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