The Burrnesha Archive

Isla Badenoch
Graphic Communication Design

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 to “become” men, taking on the appearance of a man, entitled to the same rights as a man and socially accepted in Albanian culture as a man. However, the existence of the Burrnesha only survives in traces, erased during an extreme Communist regime between 1945-1991. Since the fall of Communism, few Burrnesha remain as the oath is no longer relevant in today's context.

The Burrnesha Archive, is a record of three Burrnesha interviewed in Northern Albania in 2016. It is a 200-page novel that acts as an archive for three individuals’ collective memories and their inevitable connection to the complicated recent history of Albania. These memories are narrated through a combination of text and photographs that appear as a conventional fictional novel. The factual novel is a chaotic and highly fragmented narrative that explores the unstable nature of trying to communicate the memory of a vanishing culture during a period of extreme censorship.

The project was awarded the KADK Frøken Marie Månssons Travel Grant 2016.

Below are images from the research trips to Albania and an extract from the final novel. See my website for more information.

The Burrnesha Archive - An Extract