Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

When you paint something on the street, it is no longer your own. It becomes public property. Street art demands of artists that they 'let go', that they have the courage to relinquish ownership of their work. Rudolf Abraham takes a look at the street art scene in the Croatian capital Zagreb.

article summary —

If you walk south on Republika Njemacka, away from the Sava and the centre of Zagreb, you arrive at a large group of apartment blocks on your left — apparently just another kvart (quarter) of Novi Zagreb, but one which late last summer became the venue for the largest and most ambitious street art project anywhere in Croatia.

I visit Dugave on a bright, sunny morning in February, wading through snow from the recent cold snap, which is only just now starting to melt. I walk in a circuit among buildings, from one piece of street art to the next, in the company of Micika who lives in Dugave, and who helped organise the festival here in 2011. Later we are joined by local street artists Marijo Kolaric, who paints under the name Sretan Bor (meaning ‘happy pine’), and Vinkovci-born Miron Milic, who sometimes paints under his own name, or, somewhat more irreverently, under the pseudonym cazzo artistico.

The setting

Dugave’s large apartment blocks surround a central, grassy area, through which runs a broad ditch, formerly a tributary of the Sava. Micika indicates the window of his flat, just to the right of the enormous monochrome tepe (carpet) painted by Bosnian artist Emir Sehanovic (known as ‘Esh’), which appears to be draped down one side of the building.

The Dugave paintings followed a year after a similar project along Branimirova, the busy street running east from Zagreb’s main railway station (the Glavni kolodvor) towards the bus station. Running along one side of Branimirova is an old wall, some 450m long, which in 2010 was decorated with murals by around eighty street artists.

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Rudolf Abraham is an award-winning travel writer and photographer specialising in Croatia and Eastern Europe. He is the author of several books including Walking in Croatia, The Mountains of Montenegro, Torres del Paine and St Oswald's Way, all published by Cicerone, National Geographic Traveller Croatia, and is co-author of Istria - The Bradt Travel Guide. He has also updated the Bradt guides to Croatia and Transylvania, and his work has been published widely in magazines and online.

In 2012 his article on the 16th-century pirates of the Croatian Adriatic, the Uskoks, published in hidden europe 34, secured an award for best travel feature from the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild, of which Rudolf is a member. He is also a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. Current projects include Croatian Miscellany, an ongoing and deeply personal portrait of this southeast European country, as well as new guidebooks to Croatia's islands, Arctic Norway, the Faroes and the mountains of eastern Turkey.

He lives in London. Find out more about Rudolf's work on www.rudolfabraham.co.uk or visit his blog at rudolfabraham.wordpress.com.

This article was published in hidden europe 37.