Generations of Artistry: Presenting Pogradec

Generations of Artistry: Presenting Pogradec

Jun 23, 2022

Llazi Icka at work in his workshop

If you have been to Pogradec, you know what a beautiful place it is. It is no surprise that this lakeside town is home to many artists—and not only many artists, many families of artists whose craft and connection to the place go back generations. Our local guide, Engjellushe Icka, introduces us to two families with a multigenerational tradition in the arts. One of them is her own family.....

Icka family : Wood working is a tradition that goes back at least four generations in my family. As I mentioned in my earlier article, „A Walk in the Old City,“ the Icka Family house is a designated monument of cultural heritage, built by my great-grandfather Mihal in 1911 after he returned from Romania. He brought back excellent skills as a woodworker, carpenter and builder with a broad knowledge of foreign languages. With his older son Spiro (my grandfather), he opened a workshop. They imported machinery from France, and ran a successful business producing high quality wooden furniture for the markets of Pogradec, Korca, Tirana, Durres and Elbasan. The Icka wooden furniture and facilities business ended with the beginning of Communism in Albania. Every private enterprise was closed, and supplies were confiscated by the state. My great-grandfather’s machines were of such high quality, they were still in use at the state wood factory in Pogradec till the 1993, when they were stolen.

Spiro Icka

The next generation of woodworkers was my father Llazi. He learned from his father and grandfather. He taught wood-working in secondary school and is remembered as a highly organised, skilled and thoughtful teacher. And my dad brought the wood-processing tradition of his family to a higher level. The woodcarving skills he he developed further to the woodcarving art. In 2018 his works were selected to participate in the famous exhibition Homo Faber, among the Best Artisans of Europe

Pirro Icka in the family workshop

My brother, Pirro Icka is the 4th generation of artists; being a PhD and lecturer at Agriculture Faculty in Korca University does not distract him from his craft. His beautiful traditional and modern works continue and grow the family tradition. Feel free to visit his art-studio in Pogradec:

Google map adress:

Enxhel Gegprifti, a contemporary Pogradec painter and artist

Just down the street, you can visit the studio of Enxhel Gegprifti. He is a talented painter and the grandson of Todi Mato (1930-1996) who was one of the famous sculptors and painters in Pogradec in the 1970s-80s. One of the streets in Pogradec keeps his name. He graduated as a sculptor in Arts University of Tirana, and his catalogue includes still life, landscape and modern art which are inherited by his grandson.

Todi Mato, Enxhel's grandfather, painting by lake Ohrid. Landscape paintings were considered "acceptable" by the Communist regime."

During a recent visit to Enxhel’s art studio, Enxhel told us about a collection of over 100 modern, abstract works his grandfather painted in the 1980s. He never signed them, and hid them as soon as they were complete, because modern, abstract art was illegal during the communist regime—and could mean jail time for him if they were discovered. Enxhel is planning an exhibition of these forbidden paintings in the near future, in Pogradec.

The forbidden abstract art of Todi Mato. He did not sign his name to this series of paintings, and hid them as soon as they were finished.

Enxhel himeself is following in the artistic footsteps of his grandfather. He loves to paint the magnificent landscape of Pogradec region and also creating more abstract installations. He offers classes in painting for children who love art. „Time imposes changes even in art; a spiritual parallelism accompanies me in every step of my creativity and I will always be productive in this artistic journey together with my grandfather“.

This painting, by Enxhel Gegprifti, is much more beautiful in real life.

Enxhel teaches art to local children in his gallery in Pogradec

You can check out his gallery via instagram here, and stop by in person if you are in the neighborhood!