What a powerful painting, of which a fragment is shown on the left. “Heatwave” as I would like to call it, although Bashkim Alushi, the magnificent painter he is, keeps it simple and sticks to the basics by just calling it Landscape. Why this gorgeous painting of his attracted my attention, I can’t tell for sure - the most obvious reason (I wrote this text this summer) might be this unbearable heat that leaves me breathless most of the time. The burning colours, the fire in the leaves of these trees and that purplish red and orange, ignite you just like a heatwave, straight into your head by burning your sight.
Another reason might also be the connection that I have with this painter. Yes, of course he doesn’t know me, but I know him and his family. I know them all, because I have had the luck to have met them. His wife was my literature teacher in high school, and let me tell you something about her. She carved in me, with her fierce look and witty smile, the love for writing. She taught me how to write an essay. I remember that she once told me: “If you can’t write an essay, then you aren’t worthy of critical thinking, and if you can’t think critically then you can’t think at all.” What she said hit me like a heatwave, just like this painting, and I was determined to prove with burning passion that I was indeed a critical thinker. Well, let’s just say, that she succeeded in waking up one of my passions, writing. But I still haven’t mentioned the real reason why I am connected, in a strange way, to this painting.
In high school I was known for having a strong will. I was in a constant fight; I had health issues, family issues, money issues, and so on and so on. My motivation in those days was exactly as this poem, written by Joseph O. Legaspi:
So, I vow to be brave.
Clear a path through jungles of shame and doubt and fear
I’m done with silence. I proclaim.
Although this poem is written with a completely different topic in mind, I find it positively inspiring, and self-identifying. When I started high school, I came from a small village, and I wanted a clean slate. I will admit it; I was ashamed of where I came from, so I wanted to become someone better. I had so many doubts within myself, whether I could handle my teenage years or not. I was filled with fears and insecurities. I didn’t like my appearance but I was sure of myself, because if I wasn’t, then there was nothing to keep it together. I had to be confident. I had to defeat the prejudices surrounding me and I had to be proud about that. But to achieve all that I needed a role model.
When I met her in high school, I felt just like I feel now when I am looking at this painting. I felt warmth and admiration. Her name was Irma Alushaj, and yes she was connected with this amazing Albanian painter, and with Tatiana too, the literature teacher who inspired me to write. Irma was beautiful, feminine, smart, the straight A-student of our class. She was the whole package, and she became my role model, my inspiration to be. In my heart, I aspired to exceed her, at least in my studies.
Once she saw me drawing and lovingly said with her sweet voice “Oh, my uncle is a painter. You like to draw? I know how to draw too, but I am not as good as you.” My heart skipped a beat. Of course she knew how to draw, couldn’t she be more perfect, talented and witty?! And she was so good at drawing too. Now she is a very talented engineer, but when she told me she wasn’t as good as me, I was flabbergasted and felt a little happy, that she could look up to me.
We became friends, I sat on the same front bench with her and her best friend, for almost two years. I was just her classmate, and a casual friend, I, who wanted a place in society, who wanted to be someone, who wanted to detach myself from my roots. This painting represents the family that inspired me in different ways. These colorful trees are them. Their shine is just like a heatwave, powerful enough to change someone’s life. One taught me to strive for greatness and be confident about it, one taught me how to write and read with a critical mind, and the last one inspires me with his breathtaking paintings.
I only wish that one day I become an inspiration for someone, enough for them to remember me for a lifetime, and hit them like a heatwave to keep alive the fire of their passions.
(Painting: fragment of 'Landscape', by Bashkim Alushi, Albania)
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