Painting School in Lepina
Under the shadow of a big tree, six kids are sitting behind their canvases, in a warm and peaceful atmosphere. From August to October 2020, the backyard of Bajram and Farija Mehmeti was turned into a painting school. Four afternoons a week, kids from Lepina and surrounding villages were welcomed by the two painters to learn the basic techniques of their art. As kids experienced working with pencils, watercolors, and tempera, they also discovered more about the world of art and life as an artist. Most importantly, they got a chance to express their creativity and explore their talents.
Bajram and Farija Mehmeti are among the most famous artists from the Roma community in Kosovo. In their paintings, they depict everyday scenes of Roma life: a man working in the field, a woman baking bread, or simply a couple posing in front of its house. The siblings were born and raised in Lepina. They spend their life working there, developing their style, promoting the culture and history of Roma people.
Thanks to a crowdfunding, they managed to buy and renovate a container, now turned into a cosy and convenient art studio. Their paintings, remarkable by their realism and warm colors, can be admired there. As this new infrastructure allowed Bajram and Farija to develop their art and engage more with the community, the idea of opening painting courses grew stronger every day.
The biggest dream of Bajram and Farija, to found a painting school and share their knowledge with children, became a reality. This was made possible with the financial support of the Council of Europe. At the heart of the project lays the will of the Mehmeti to pass their knowledge and passion onto younger generations. The other core idea is to create a space for children from different communities to forge friendships and break down prejudices and stereotypes that continue shaping their perceptions.
As the Mehmeti are independent artists, GAIA became the implementing organization. Since 2016, we are working in Gracanica, just a few kilometers away from Lepina. Our Imaginatorium program is striving to encourage the creativity of kids living in the Roma Mahala. Through different projects over the years, the kids could try out various artistic practices: music with singing and instrument classes, photography, cinema workshops, dance, etc. For them to benefit from professional painting courses represented a new valuable opportunity in this spirit. The possibility to create relationships with kids from other backgrounds also resonates with the values GAIA seeks to promote in Gracanica.
15 kids from Imaginatorim thus had the chance to visit the painting school. Every week, a different group enjoyed the atmosphere, the quality material, and the advice of the Mehmeti. The ability with which they painted landscapes and still-lives was impressive. Back in Imaginatorium, we increased the number of drawing and painting sessions. Visits to Lepina for sure helped to foster the kids’ interest in these disciplines. They happily sat for a couple of hours with pencils and brushes in their hands, with no other sound but the leads on the papers breaking the silence.
The pandemic of COVID-19 of course challenged the successful completion of the project. But by keeping strict sanitary measures and limiting the number of kids, a beautiful story could start. To conclude this first experience, Bajram and Farija Mehmeti plan to organize an exhibition of the kids’ creations. Hopefully, the event will take place in Gracanica Cultural House, if the pandemic situation allows us, and we will all be able to appreciate the talent and passion of the new Lepina Painting School students. We will publish the work of the kids in our social media, too.