Valbona Zherka graduated from the Prishtina Academy of Fine Arts in 1977 and continued with her studies in Belgrade. She works with tapestry and is inspired by popular culture, traditional techniques, social issues, women’s rights, and the right to self-determination. Yet it has not been easy for her as a woman artist. Although her work was shown in the 1970s and 1980s—in Sarajevo, Maribor, Belgrade, Zagreb, Prishtina, and at the “Creative Women of Yugoslavia” exhibition, where she was the only woman from Kosovo—she was still often marginalized and her work omitted from the art canon. When, in the early 1990s, she applied for a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts, her portfolio, along with a number of her tapestry works, were lost in the process.
The departure point for a small retrospective of her works at Autostrada Biennale are two tapestry pieces, installed at the Albanian League Museum: Resistance and Resistance Towers, both from 1978. They have been restored, and a missing part of the tryptic has been created for the occasion, entitled Hope, installed at the hammam. The artist states: “I am preoccupied with life in the midst of which I live, a past full of events that just waits to be turned into a work of art.” And sometimes artworks have to wait—Zherka is often busy as a teacher, project manager, coordinator of occupational therapy, social worker, and editor.
“As long as there is a journey, there is hope,” she states. Her woven cluster in Migration (installed at the hammam) of overlapping roads and migration paths offered an orientation map for the whole biennale, with a metaphor of hope in a journey, which is never completed, two ends of the roads meeting between diasporic and local life.
Valbona Zherka (1955) was born in Prishtina and lives in Prishtina.