Tirana’s vibrant street art and murals

6 Mins read

From politically charged murals to whimsical abstract creations, the streets of Tirana have become an ever-evolving canvas that reflects the city’s dynamic spirit and its people’s desire for self-expression.

Tirana, the vibrant capital of Albania, has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past few decades.

Once known for its bleak communist-era architecture, the city now boasts a lively and colourful atmosphere, thanks in no small part to its thriving street art scene. 

Albania is a former communist state which in the time of communism had every modern motif banned, except the art of propaganda that was under the service of the party.

Tirana’s journey into the world of street art can be traced back to the early 2000s when the city began shedding its communist past and opened up to new ideas and influences. 

As Albania embraced democracy, a wave of creativity swept through the streets, providing artists with an outlet to express themselves freely.

This newfound freedom catalysed a burgeoning street art movement that would go on to shape the city’s visual landscape.

One of the most striking aspects of Tirana’s street art is its ability to serve as a platform for political expression.

In a country with a complex political history, street artists have embraced their roles as voices of the people, using their work to comment on social and political issues.

Murals depicting political figures, protests, and symbolic imagery can be found throughout the city, offering a visual commentary on Albania’s past and present.

National Museum of History mural mosaic The Albanians
National Museum of History mural mosaic The Albanians [Junsheng Xu]

For instance, the iconic ‘Mask of the Dictator’ mural, located in the Blloku area, is a powerful representation of Albania’s struggle for freedom.

Created by artist Ergin Zaloshnja, the mural features the face of Enver Hoxha, the country’s former communist leader, wearing a gas mask.

This poignant mural serves as a reminder of the suffocating political atmosphere during the communist era at that period.

While politics undoubtedly plays a significant role in Tirana’s street art scene, the city’s walls are also adorned with a diverse array of artistic styles and themes. 

Blloku is the most famous and expensive area in Tirana. It became very attractive after the fall of communism in Albania because during communism it used to be the area where only the communist elites lived.

This colourful district, once a symbol of exclusivity and repression during the communist era, is now a hotspot for street art.

Take a stroll through the streets of Blloku to witness the creativity that transforms ordinary walls into stunning works of art.

Murals in this block featuring surreal landscapes, fantastical creatures, and abstract compositions create a lively and uplifting atmosphere, transforming the district into an open-air art gallery.

It has attracted many tourists to stop and watch, including myself, appreciating the beauty of street art and murals. Walking on the streets here, one can feel the joy and comfort brought by the entire neighbourhood.

Tirana’s street art movement is not confined to a select group of artists; it actively involves the community.

Collaborative projects between local artists, residents, and businesses have become increasingly common, fostering a sense of unity and shared ownership of public spaces.

Arber Kola, a graffiti artist turned muralist, emphasizes the importance of community engagement in his work. “I involve local residents in the creative process. Their stories, experiences, and dreams become part of the mural, creating a sense of ownership,” he told us.

Arber’s latest project, a collaboration with neighbourhood children, transformed a drab wall into a vibrant celebration of youthful imagination.

After the fall of communism, Edi Rama, the current Prime Minister of Albania and the former mayor of Tirana, an artist and a painter, decided to revive the city by splashing it with colours.

He wanted to enliven the grey, depressing, concrete communist monsters. He may be the world’s only painter turned politician. 

Edi Rama did with a grey and sad place when he won the elections for the mayor of Tirana in 2000. He unleashed his imagination and designed the most extraordinary combinations of shapes and colours ever possible.

Next, defying the EU discouragement to his wild idea, he insisted on creating and painting Tirana and making it a totally unique place in Europe. 

The ‘Colorful Revolution‘ project, initiated by the municipality, invited artists to contribute to the beautification of the city.

As a result, once-dull buildings became vibrant canvases, showcasing a kaleidoscope of colors and themes. This collaborative approach not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of the city but also fosters a sense of pride and connection among its residents.

Rama said,“I would like Tirana to become the most colorful city in the world—a living museum.”

Tirana’s local government has played a pivotal role in nurturing the street art scene. Mayor Erion Veliaj has been a vocal supporter of public art initiatives, recognizing the positive impact they have on the city’s image and community spirit.

By sticking to the policies of Edi Rama in his time as mayor, Erion Veliaj has begun to fill Tirana with mural gradually. 

Nowadays, tourists are drawn to the city’s unique blend of history, culture, and contemporary art. Street art tours have become a popular attraction, allowing visitors to explore the hidden gems of Tirana’s urban landscape while gaining insight into the stories behind each mural.

Javier, a tourist from Ireland said: “I came to Tirana to explore its rich history, but the street art scene pleasantly surprised me. It adds a vibrant and contemporary layer to the city, providing a unique perspective on Tirana’s culture and creativity.”

“It’s like walking through an open-air gallery! The art gives you a deeper connection to the city and its people.” Javier added

As I strolled through the vibrant streets of Tirana, the heart of Albania’s capital, my attention was captivated by a colossal mural near Skanderbeg Square. 

The mural, a masterful creation that spans the whole wall of a building, depicts a mother’s hand extended protectively in front of a young girl. The symbolism is profound, resonating with the universal concept of maternal love and safeguarding the innocence of childhood. 

I learned that this mural is named Mother’s Care. The creator was Case Maclaim, an outstanding artist from Germany. He creates art around the world, creating influential and profound murals for many cities, and has over 100,000 followers on different social media.

Mural Mother's Care
Mural “Mother’s Care” in Tirana [Junsheng Xu]

I navigated the bustling streets, and I engaged in conversations with locals to unravel the deeper significance of this remarkable piece. Anisa, a mother of two, comes from Albania, spoke emotionally about the mural’s resonance with her own experiences. “As a mother, seeing ‘Mother’s Care’ evokes a profound sense of connection and responsibility.”

“It’s a visual representation of the innate desire we all share to shield our loved ones from harm and provide a safe haven for their growth.”

As I continued my exploration of Skanderbeg Square, I observed the mural acting as a meeting point for locals and tourists alike, sparking conversations and reflections on the universal theme of maternal love. “Mother’s Care” has undeniably become more than just a piece of art; it has transformed into a cultural landmark.

In a city where art and culture intertwine seamlessly, “Mother’s Care” has become a symbol of collective responsibility, emphasizing the importance of creating an environment where children can flourish.

Tirana’s murals that highlight positive values such as empathy, respect, and compassion contribute to creating a more supportive and nurturing community environment for children.

These murals can serve as powerful tools for raising awareness, fostering community engagement, and promoting a sense of responsibility toward the well-being of children. 

Art could even be a catalyst for change. Murals have the potential to catalyze change by inspiring conversations, influencing attitudes, and encouraging proactive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of minors.

People will mostly notice women images of different ages in these art pieces, their beauty, nobelty, delicacy and their innocence. A well deserved tribute to any woman in Albania and around the world. 

As I meandered through the alleyways, each mural told a unique story, echoing the resilience and unity of its people. Every brushstroke seemed to convey a shared narrative—a collective voice that transcended language barriers.

Murals depicting the strength of women, the dreams of children, and the pulse of the city resonated deeply, inviting reflection on the interconnectedness of art and community.

Sometimes the best spot to have a better look at this form of art is a balcony, so keep that in mind whenever you are staying in a high building or in a rooftop. Have a look outside, for you might find a beautiful surprise.

“When I notice a new painting on a wall or utility box in my neighbourhood, I cannot figure out if I’ve been walking past it for two years or if it popped up overnight. But I am always pleasantly surprised,” said Robin Suerig Holleran, a freelance writer and editor from United States,

“I highly recommend that rather than keeping your eyes pointed down toward the sidewalk or at your mobile phone, start looking around and appreciating the art that dot the city. And there is also, as always, a story behind most of what you see.” Robin said

Watching these murals created, is a special pleasure, as you are able to live the same moment with the artist, immersed in his creation. 

Despite the positive impact of street art on Tirana’s cultural landscape, challenges persist. 

Some traditionalists view street art as vandalism, leading to occasional clashes between artists and authorities. Balancing the need for self-expression with the preservation of historical landmarks and public spaces remains an ongoing challenge.

Looking ahead, the future of Tirana’s street art scene holds promise and potential. As Tirana evolves, its streets will continue to be a vibrant canvas where creativity flourishes.

Through the lens of street art and murals, Tirana invites everyone to explore its past, celebrate its present, and envision a colourful future.

Featured image by Junsheng Xu

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