Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship

Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship


12 January 2024

Artist in Residence exhibition by Elena Gallina entitled 'Çiknia jonë: Our Girlhood' to launch at Rhodes House

“The love expressed between women is particular and powerful because we have had to love in order to live; love has been our survival.” - Audre Lorde

“This exhibition is made in honour of those who first inspired me” - Elena Gallina

Elena Gallina is a Rhodes Scholar who studied at Oxford 2019-2022. She is the first Artist in Residence in what the Rhodes Trust hopes will become a well-established and innovative programme. The launch is on 29 February, and free tickets can be applied for here:

For this residency Elena Gallina has focussed on the Kosovar practice of collecting and trading paper napkins. The divided city of Mitrovica is the focal point of the exhibition. The artist also travelled to Peja, Prishtina and Prizren, interviewing women ranging from aged 17 to 89 years old.  This practice goes as far back as the 60’s and is a dying tradition. Çiknia jonë explores the changes in this practise before and after war, alongside intergenerational circles of girlhood based in the divided city of Mitrovica. It is a celebration through photography and textiles of the colour and joy of women, and the significance of feminine love in difficult circumstances.

An artistically-posed image of someone dressed in black sitting behind a table which is covered in colourful fabric, a cigarette in an ashtray and a pack of cigarettes. Only the person's hands are visible and they appear to be in the middle of gesturing.
Collecting Napkins

Elena Gallina describes her practice as ‘artivism’.  In order to offset historic power imbalances between photographer and subject her methodology is co-creative in nature. Working with young female activists to select the subjects and set up interviews, the creation of portraits is a shared process. The subjects are interviewed and photographed in their natural space, arranging themselves, and are also given partial control over image selection. The resulting work bring to the fore the everyday experience of what it means to be a woman in Kosovo. Gallina highlights the significance of circles of women united by this girlhood practice.  Gallina is passionate about anti-classist art and strongly believes in the use of storytelling to shift moral consciousness.

Having grown up in Kosovo in the aftermath of the ‘99 war and worked in refugee camps in Jordan and Palestine for several years, Gallina’s photography practice is inspired by the often misunderstood quiet moments experienced by those in over-sensationalised environments. Gallina seeks out stillness, believing colour and beauty inform our truth.

After Oxford, this exhibition will be travelling to the USA and across several cities in Kosovo.

An image of a block of flats in Kosovo

About the artist

Elena Gallina is a documentary photographer and economic researcher focused on feminist development. She currently works as an Economic Theorist at the organisation Cultural Heritage Without Borders-Kosovo, where she is advising on the creation of a cultural districts’ database.   Having grown up in Kosovo in the aftermath of the ‘99 war Gallina’s artistic practise explores the disruption of power imbalances, post-war reconstruction, and women’s empowerment from within. Elena believes in using hybrid knowledge systems to change the world and has an interdisciplinary approach as both a researcher and artists. Her specialism as a photographer is co-curative portraiture, exploring the soft, sensitive side of women’s existence through colour. You can read more about Elena Gallina and see her previous work on her website, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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