Kosovo is old. Older than Christ. Inhabited by ancient tribes, the region became part of the Byzantine empire, was the heart of the medieval Serbian state, fell under Ottoman rule for over 500 years, and belonged to Yugoslavia during most of the 20th century. It was also the birthplace of the Albanian national awakening.
And Kosovo is young. It is barely a decade ago that Kosovo announced its independence, establishing itself as one of the youngest countries in the world. After a long history of foreign rule, annexation and affiliation, which culminated in a bloodstained century with three major wars – the last and maybe most traumatic not even 20 years ago – Kosovo today faces a challenge that goes beyond the mere survival of its people: The challenge to define its identity and to mature as a country.
It was this motif of birth and growth, of a land becoming a nation, and the ongoing quest for identity against the backdrop of history which drew me to Kosovo. I travelled from the capital Pristina to the mountains of Rugova; photographed Prizren´s bridges and the river that divides Mitrovica; I walked through Gjakova´s old Bazaar and the empty alleys of Janjeve.
My journey was not a quest for answers to political questions; neither did I aim for a historical reappraisal. What I was looking for were symptoms of a state of mind – revelations of a sensation, uttered in the mundane scenes of everyday life. At the same time, my quest for Kosovo´s identity became an expedition to my very own core, an exploration of the self and my existence as a son of the world. Land of the black birds is an attempt to feel Kosovo´s heart beating through the lens of my camera, to taste its temperament and find a spirit which transcends individuality. It is the exploration of an emotional topography, my personal vision of Kosovo, and ultimately an attempt to recognise my own position in this world.