At the Beginning

At the beginning it is just the loom, her and a friend of hers to whom she teaches everything she knows about weaving. They are packed like sardines in the house she shares with her brother-in-law. In a single room she cooks, looks after the children, dyes the threads and weaves. But as soon as she hears of a building that has been left empty in the village, she moves, despite being criticized by members of her extended family. “A family has to stay together,” they tell her. All, apart from her husband. “He has always been supportive” — she recalls – “and I am deeply grateful to him for being by my side.” When things start taking off, he comes to pick her up from work, sometimes very late at night.

Towards 2005 rugs are coming back into fashion as gifts to give to relatives in the Albanese diaspora. But the real turning point is when Nebije is invited to take part in a local crafts-fair by Zenepe Dibra, a women’s rights activist. Nebije’s business takes off. She starts to receive orders from abroad and to keep up with those she needs to hire more women. She feels that hiring more women won’t just improve her business but also the lives of the people around her. And it becomes a commitment. But first, she needs an extra loom.

She soon finds out that she can get a loan from a bank. But since Albania is still a deeply patriarchal society, women can’t ask for a loan unless a man acts as a guarantor. She believes her husband’s father can help but the bank rejects this. “Too old,” they explain. Their refusal doesn’t discourage her and she manages to convince the bank that because the old chap’s mother lived to be 100, he is not going to die any time soon. “I promise,” she says. And she gets the loan.

Text: Marta Galli
Photos: Pauline Thurn und Taxis