A life’s journey towards freedom & creativity: Gazmend Kapllani at TEDxThessaloniki


Translator: Peter Douskalis
Reviewer: Chryssa Takahashi Good evening. Thank you very much for coming. My job is to narrate stories
of my own and of others, and today I will try to recount and share with you some
of my personal thoughts and stories. Starting with my name. My name is Gazmed Kaplani. Does anyone here know Albanian? This is what is like to not know
foreign languages, correct? (Laughter)
(Applause) I was born in Albania in August of 1967, when the communist regime of Emver Chotza was at the height of its paranoia and religion was banned by law. Religious names were banned, therefore my parents and other parents who
gave birth to childern during this period -because thankfully life keeps up
even in a tyrannical regime- they had to create a new name. My parents therefore created
the name Gazmed, which is a compound Albanian word, the ‘Gaz’ which means joy and the ‘med’ which means spirit, therefore I am a joyful spirit. Kaplani, as you may have heard,
is a common international last name. One may trace it in Greece, or in Albania, with the Turks, Serbs, Bulgarians
and a bit further, in central Europe, with the Polish, you find it even further
with the Arabs, also with the Jewish. With a quick search
of the word’s etymology on Google, between all the others, I discovered
that ‘Kaplani’ means tiger. By the way my sign is Leo, therefore
I carry the whole jungle inside me! For those who know and read
the fine Greek literature, Kaplani will perhaps remind
them of something, Kaplani from
“Wildcat Under Glass” by Alki Zei, where the facts that are
narrated by Zei in the book, occurred in dictatorship, but of the fascist kind. Amongst others there is a segment, where the grandfather, presents a set of
humanity’s struggles to his granddaughters and he says: “However,
dictatorship is the worst.” And me, since I outlived it,
I feel this phrase under my skin and I think that it is the worst, because the dictatorship loathes personal
freedom and the freedom of creation and tries to implant in people’s mind, not the courage to create, but the courage of catastrophe
and self-destruction. To me that I have
experienced a dictatorship, it is impossible for me to
think of courage of creation, without the freedom of creation, Because the desire
of our freedom makes more creative and many times the need to create
gives us more freedom. To have the honor to find
myself in front of you all here today, I had to pass the borders that
deprived us from freedom, back 20 years ago. I passed them not far from here, and whoever crossed them in that era, found in front of them solders,
who were holding Kalashnikovs, and found themselves
in front of wire-fence. They didn’t know if the solders
would shoot them or not. Therefore the crossing of the borders
was an act of freedom. Οn the other side of the borders luckily
there were no soldiers with AK-47’s and wire-fencing, however there was
a very difficult freedom. Because freedom is difficult,
when it comes from a lack of freedom, because a lack of freedom exhausts you, you get exhausted. Secondly, you find a very different world from that which you have
built in your isolation. Thirdly, because when you enter like this, you are often incomprehensible
and undesirable. We people are strange beings and thankfully we are, because
us authors wouldn’t have jobs. We are strange beings, because
we search for freedom, but when we have it, it scares us. We want to flee or search for an authoritarian
father to relieve us from the weight of personal freedom, of the personal responsibility
towards freedom. Those who remember the movie: “The Shawshank Redemption” will remember perhaps
what the condemned do when they leave prison. Sometimes they commit suicide,
because they lose their grounding, freedom is unbearable. I say this because personally -and I do this with the heroes
that I write about in my books- when I found myself in front of this
unbearable and difficult freedom, I had not only the physical temptation
to commit suicide -thankfully- but the societal temptation
to commit suicide, and by this I mean
to close myself in a shell, confront everyone as an enemy, to play the victim. It is very convenient to play the victim, it is a very convenient position,
a great temptation, but you will never find
the courage to create, if you comfort yourself
in the victim’s position. Because creation, in my opinion,
has a necessary requirement, to tell yourself:
“I am the only one responsible for my fate and my actions.” Now, since we started on immigration, when I speak with readers, who ask, “But did immigration change you?” I think that I would be an unsuccessful
person, if I did not change. There is a book by Bertolt Brecht,
“Stories of Mr. Keuner”, where Mr. Keuner meets after
many years someone he knows and he sees him and says
“Mr. Keuner, how are you? You haven’t changed at all.” And Mr. Coiner,
writes Mr. Brecht, went pale. Because there isn’t a bigger
insult than to be told, after years and travels, that you haven’t changed at all. Only statues and tombstones
remain the same. To not change, means to not expose oneself and whoever does not expose themselves,
does not create, because they don’t take risks. Now, I have the impression that perhaps some of you want to ask me specifically about
the subject of immigration, what I think of it. I personally dream,
after so many years of immigration and after so much research, I dream of a world without migrants. I don’t want you to misunderstand me, because I like very much to travel, I like very much for people to travel, however to travel as equal citizens,
to travel as tourists, to travel curiously, even adventurous. Because when you travel like the Greeks
did at the beginning of the 20th century, or as the Afghans did at the beginning
of the 21st century, or as others do, you are by definition in a weak position and the weak people in this world, may have others feeling sorry for them,
but no one respects them. How many things do you lose, when
you live in a country as an immigrant. You lose so many things and
many times you lose the best things. At the same time though, I do not believe
a world without migrants is feasible, because that means the world would be
free of tyranny and poverty and the world would be free from the
desires of people to improve their fate. The bottom line is,
the history of humanity is a history of migration and impurities. So, when someone asks me:
“would you take this journey again?” I would answer: “A thousand times YES!” Το me it was a very productive journey. When you take this journey, you enrich your identity, One gets to obtain different insights and not just one single insight, cultural or not. This way you understand that
the largest virtue of humankind does not have to do with
genes or skin color. It has to do with the ability
to learn and to change. It has to do with the courage to create. You learn that the secret of creation is so simple and so difficult. To not be bored to live. You learn that others,
deep inside, are a mirror, where our nightmares and virtues
are projected in large scope. When you feel good with yourself, you feel good with others. When you feel creative, you build a creative
relationship with others. When you feel like a
failure and unsatisfied, you will see contact with others
as a historical accident and you will make yourself
and others miserable. Now, authorship itself
is a form of migration, in terms of travel. Because those who write,
know that you know where to start, but you don’t know
if you will ever conclude, it is a risk. Either you start to end
up at some destination and you end up being in uncharted waters. You become a hostage of the
heroes that you created. Also, to me, one becomes an author rather than to be born an author. The English have a saying
about authors that says: “The writer who waits
for the inspiration to come, is not a writer, he is a waiter.” Talent is a spark, the rest is very hard work, creation doesn’t exist without hard work. What happens though
when you write in a language that is not your native language, as it has happened for me, that 24 years ago, no, 21 years ago
I didn’t know a single word in Greek. A lot happens, and for this I have
written my second book, but I would like to dwell
on two instances, it happens when it doesn’t come to you, when you lack inspiration, talent,
when you are not creative, you accuse the foreign language of being
the reason you cannot write. It becomes your scapegoat. On the other hand though, because
it is a language you weren’t born with, you obtained it, with a lot of trouble,
zeal and passion, the relationship with it
is always open, unending. It is a relationship that never ends, it never becomes routine. You search for it
and it searches for you continuously and it has a reward, meaning that not only does it raise
your adrenaline to write, but you also don’t become arrogant, as many times a native risks becoming, who believes that the language
rightfully belongs to them. You don’t become arrogant
and you don’t become a know-it-all. Because you know, know-it-alls
are incapable of creation, know-it-alls know only
how to give directions. So… As I told you, 21 years ago
I didn’t know a word of Greek and there are some books,
which I read a lot, of which I took the unknown words, and among these books there
is one that I especially love, It is the book by Yiorgos Theotokas,
“The Free Spirit” and if there were ever a book
that I would put on the top of the list, of the books that gave
me the courage to create in an unknown country
and in an unknown language to me, I would put that one
on the top of the list and I would like for you to humor me
for a couple more seconds so I can read you a segment from the book. I’m not used to reading segments,
but I think I will read this one: “We need to tell the young people,
with every opportunity, in the world of spirituality,
nothing good ever happened and cannot happen without freedom. We need youth with strong backs,
that take life seriously, that feel happy with toilsome work, in abrasive battles, dangerous travels, that love challenges, because
they have the strength to be wasted. The challenging and disruptive
era that we live in goes well with these types of people, it offers them an exhaustive walk
of beautiful action.” I had 18 minutes to say all this,
there are still two remaining, though, I have finished, So what should I say…
I’ll tell you an anecdote. Do you remember there was…
(Laughter) a racist anecdote in the
beginning of the 90’s that goes: “Why does an
Albanian go at the theatre?” You know why, to steal the show. (Laughter)
(Applause) Thank you very much. Those who create therefore,
that is what they try to do, to creatively steal the show. Good luck going forward. (Applause)

1 thought on “A life’s journey towards freedom & creativity: Gazmend Kapllani at TEDxThessaloniki

  • το 1967, επί δικτατορίας, αφού είχαν απαγορευτεί τα θρησκευτικα ονόματα, οι γονείς του έπρεπε να ΔΗΜΙΟΥΡΓΗΣΟΥΝ ενα καινούργιο όνομα! και αυτό ήταν Gazmend. Αυτό το όνομα κύριε Gazmend, υπήρχε πριν γεννηθούν καν οι δικοί σας γονείς. Με λίγο google search  δεν ειναι δυσκολο να διαπιστωθεί αυτό. Υπάρχουν και άλλα που είναι στο 'περίπου' της αλήθειας, αυτοί που καταλαβαινουν και εχουν ψάξει λίγο, ξέρουν….

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