Gjakmarje In the Blood

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Gjakmarrje – In the Blood 2015-2017

I photographed the daily life of a family living in Albania involved in a blood feud. The blood feuds have their origin in the Canun, an old Northern Albanian law which is only transmitted orally and prohibited by the state. The Canun is based on honor and structures all parts of daily life in the mountain communities. It returned during the lawless times after the breakdown of the communism dictatorship.

One of their rules is: Who takes blood has to give blood. This blood can be taken from every male relative from the age of about 14 years. The only protected place is the house.

The Ndrevatajs are involved in a blood feud since 2000. At that time Nike, the family head, lived together with his wife Shkurte, his three sons and his daughter in the outskirts of Shkodra. His three brothers and three sisters lived together with their mother in the mountain village Curraj I Eperm. As the oldest son, Nike wanted to built up a new life for the whole family since there was no infrastructure anymore after the breakdown of the communism.

The blood feud started when the youngest brother of Nike killed a neighbour in Curraj I Eperm. After the murder the other family took revenge and killed two other brothers of Nike. As answer to that the youngest brother took revenge again: he killed two and wounded three further family members. Lastly the police killed him in 2005. By the time his wife was pregnant. She committed suicide in 2008. Nike and Shkurte adopted their son.

After Nike’s brother was shot down the Ndrevatajs tried to reconcile with the other family and still is trying until today. But they are not willing for a reconcillation. In their perception the Ndrevatajs still own their blood and will pay it back in blood.

Therefore the Ndrevatajs are forced to live separated. Shkurte still lives with her meanwhile five sons and one daughter in the outskirts of Shkodra. The family head, Nike, is hiding in the mountains where his mother and his sister live. Nike and his six sons are the last survivors of the extended family.

– Birte Kaufmann