The Burrnesha Archive

The Burrnesha Archive is a project that investigates the memory of a vanishing cultural tradition in Northern Albania. The Burrnesha are women who have sworn a life-long oath of chastity and in doing so “become” men in terms of appearance, rights and social acceptance within Albanian culture. Few Burrnesha remain today as the traditional reasons for taking this oath have become increasingly obsolete in contemporary Albania. Details on the Burrnesha that existed and those that are still alive can only be found in traces, hidden or erased during an extreme Communist regime between 1945-1991.

The Burrnesha Archive is a record of three surviving Burrnesha I interviewed in March 2016. It takes the form of a 200-page novel that acts as an archive of both these three individuals’ collective memories, and also their implicit connection to the complicated recent history of Albania. These memories are narrated through text and photography using the outward appearance of a recognizable novel structure. Yet this “photo-textual” novel reveals itself to the reader a chaotic and highly fragmented narrative that explores the intricate, interconnected and unstable nature of trying to communicate memory.

Awarded the Frøken Marie Månssons Travel Grant, Copenhagen 2016. Extract can be read below. 

In Development: Currently directing documentary film on Burrnesha with Chloe White & Helen Jack.