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Wedding Feast 1999

In Spring 1999, during the Kosovo War, (1998-99), I was trying to trace an old friend, Rachel, temporarily lost to me in the southern Balkans. I had received a letter from her, dated June 12th 1995, written from Zagreb, where she was working, in which she described her meeting with her new lover, Igballe, (Igo), a Kosovo-Albanian woman, who lived in Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo, still part of Serbia at the time. Her letter discusses her concerns about joining Igo in Kosovo, which, she says, is ‘described in my guide book as, “the region’s equivalent of the occupied territories”.’ Igo was denied a passport by the Yugoslav authorities because of her activism and, therefore, could not travel. Rachel decided to join her in Prishtina later that same year. We managed to maintain occasional contact. Letters, faxes and messages all had to go via Zagreb. Communication from or to anywhere in Kosovo itself was too risky, such was the state of siege, surveillance, censorship, and policing.

News of a ‘spontaneous celebration,’ which came to be known as the ‘wedding’ of Rachel and Igballe, came in a letter, dated New Years Day, 1997, in which she described the event which took place the year before, in late Summer, at the annual Women in Black conference in Novi Sad. The last communication I received from Rachel before the start of the Kosovo war was a postcard, dated December 6th 1997, in which she refers to the first anniversary of their ‘wedding’ at Igo’s mother’s house in Prishtina:

Her [Igo’s] mother - born in Sarajevo, childhood in purdah, bearer of 9 kids, wearer of Turkish pants - continues to support and amaze me; for our ‘wedding’ anniversary she made us a quilt for the bed!’

Spring 1999 saw the start of the NATO bombing of Belgrade resulting in reprisals for the Albanian population of Kosovo by the Serbian army and paramilitaries. I decided to make ‘Wedding Feast,’ to celebrate both the event and its meaning. It was significant for lesbian and women’s emancipation but was also an important anti-nationalist statement: women from previously warring and still contested territories assembled to mark the occasion. One of the plates is a tribute to Igo and Rachel and refers to their first ‘wedding’ anniversary, the other is for Igo’s mother. The bowl is a patchwork of patterns from all over Europe, representing the guests. The goblets refer to the time differences once maintained in Sarajevo, whereby, according to Ivo Andric, the people, ‘wake, rejoice, and mourn, feast and fast, by four different calendars.’ Made in the peaceful Yorkshire spring of 1999, while waiting for news, ‘Wedding Feast’ is a toast to their survival and all their futures.

View other archive:

Genetic Cafe 2001

Alien in the Kitchen 2000
Wedding Feast 1999
Teeming & Banana Bowls 1998-2000
Collection for the Zsolnay Sisters 1998
The World Service 1997
Archive: 1987-1996


Wedding Feast