Alketa Xhafa Mripa was born in 1980 in Peja / Kosovo. Alketa spent her childhood in Kosovo, where she finished her primary and secondary education. She came to London in 1997, achieved her Fine Art Degree BA in Central Saint Martins, then studied History of Art at the Tate Modern, London, and many more exhibitions followed, in Florence, Berlin, London, Slovenia, etc.
Alketa is a talented artist and passionate about yoga. Her journey started in 2000 when she fell in love with philosophy, the beauty of movement, the power of breath, and the stillness of mind. That’s why she decided studying in-depth this self-healing Art at the British School Of Yoga in London. In 2009 she became a qualified yoga teacher and has been teaching ever since, while still producing her work of art. Alketa is also running a business with her partner, their dream place, the Tea House “Curled Leaf” in Mill Lane, West Hampstead.
You are an artist, yoga teacher, a mother of three children and running a business with your husband – where do you find this energy?
Sometimes I wish the day was longer. I believe that I am one very lucky girl, as I do all the things that I love. My art is who I am, and my children are everything to me as without them my life would be incomplete. The tea house is my fourth child, and I believe that yoga gives meaning and contentment to everything that I have, believe and achieve. I do indeed cherish these things every day and think that with love, you create the balance and harmony in your life.
What attracted you to London and what is your story about it?
Since I was a little girl, I knew that one day I would come to study in London, but my sisters, Ernesa and Marsida (they had been living in London since 1993), made my journey much easier and smoother. I look up to them with such a big admiration and they are my role models. I fell in love with London the first time I came and I knew that it would be my second home in the years to come. It gave me everything that I was searching for – higher education, a work ethic, meeting wonderful people from all over the world, and I found and fell in love with my man.
You are from Kosovo, a recognised country since 2008. May I ask about the Kosovo war? How did you experience it?
I am very proud of my country, finally an independent one. Luckily I didn’t experience the war of 1998/99 as I was in London, but all my family did. I remember that there was always trouble, the situation was always tense and we never knew what tomorrow could bring. Yet I do not want to put too much energy to the past – let’s pray for today. We have a wonderful youth and some great personalities in their fields so let’s hope that they will change things for good.
How did you start to learn Yoga and become a yoga teacher? What motivated you?
I was always a very sporty person and my early memory is running with my father nearly every night. He always told me that in order for one to think clearly one has to be in good shape physically. From a very young age, I was always doing some kind of sport, karate, basketball etc. When I came to London I didn’t have much time to do any sports and I was in search of something different, something that would challenge me!
“I have been a seeker, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my Soul”
One night in November 2000 I remember very clearly, as it was so cold, and I decided to go to this Yoga class near me. Little did I know that it would change my life forever. I fell in love with this discipline that awakened me physically, mentally and spiritually. After practicing for nearly six years. I wanted to study more in-depth its philosophy, anatomy, and physiology. While still having two small children I found the BSY, British School Of Yoga, and within three years I became a qualified Yoga teacher.
Since 2009 I have been teaching and still to this day, it amazes me, as there is still so much to learn. It is not just a practice, or a belief, Yoga is a way of life. I need to quote Rumi as that is what I feel and believe every time I start and finish my yoga class. “I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my Soul”
How did the idea of the Curled Leaf tea house come about?
It goes back a long way. For nearly five to six years, with my partner who is an acupuncturist and a Chinese herbalist, we were looking for a place where we would have different selections of teas and herbs, something that my partner is very passionate about, combined with our disciplines – Acupuncture (treatment room) and Yoga (studio). We searched for places and locations for some time, until we found this small place that was right, and started from the scratch.
In our space we have created a sense of community, where people come together and share their stories, a place to hang out, maybe through a cup of tea, or just staying for a little chat after the acupuncture treatment, or sitting in the armchair next to the window and enjoying watching the day go by in Mill Lane. I love the community and very happy to be part of it.
You promote healthy food and healthy exercises – how aware do you believe people are about this lifestyle?
It is much easier to be aware of healthy eating and exercise today, as there are so many messages out there. I think that healthy eating awareness should be instilled at an early age in the family, and then it just becomes a way of life.
You need to be creative in your kitchen and think of your food as a fuel, so whatever you are putting inside of you – it will become “You”
Is it expensive to live a lifestyle like this? Is it for everyone?
Yes it should be for everyone. Maybe some food can be expensive, but then again if you eat seasonally, those products shouldn’t be that expensive. What you need to do is be creative in your kitchen and think of your food as a fuel, so whatever you are putting inside of you, it will become “You”.
What can you share with our readers about Kosovo – what are the best characteristics of this country for those who don’t know?
Everyone from anywhere in the world is always welcome in Kosovo, we are a nation that is known for good hospitality. It is surrounded by dream-like mountains, such as the Canyon of Rugova, and in the Sharr mountains there are several notable rivers and lakes within its borders. I remember so well when a friend of mine came to visit from Italy, her saying when we were at the top on the mountains of Rugova, that the Heidi animation was influenced and came from here, not from Switzerland.
Kosovo is being visited more and more for different reasons, and there is so much happening here which is amazing, including the Documentary Film Festival held in Prizren Dokufest, that brings all the art lovers together. Then there is the Jazz Festival, bringing all music lovers together. More and more people are coming and some of them are staying for longer. My beautiful country has much more to offer than some might think!
Photo credit: Blerim Racaj