{Croatia} Vatra – Fire

September 22, 2011


I already briefly mentioned our tour of Zagreb’s Ethnographical Museum in my write up about the CECA conference, but I wanted to say a bit more about their special exhibition ‘Vatra’, Croatian for ‘fire’, which originated from a long-standing collaboration with the Fränkische Schweiz Museum in Germany.

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The exhibition explores “the importance of functions which fire has in the life of man…through historical perspectives, accentuating its economic, communicative, social and symbolic meaning” in six sections:

  • ‘Earth and Fire’ looks at how fire is represented in its ecological and evolutional context, including aspects such as wildfires the role of the Sun.
  • ‘Fire and Evereyday Life’ looks at the different ways of obtaining fire, and how it developed from open hearths and wooden torches, to electric stoves and modern lighting.
  • ‘Fire as Help in Work’ looks at the importance of fire in arts and crafts and the work industry.
  • ‘Fire and Spirituality’ looks at what meaning fire had in different world religions, as well as in life cycle and calendar customs.
  • ‘Fire and Right’ looks at how fire was used as punishment or to persecute people or ideas, e.g. the burning or heretics, witches or books.
  • And ‘Fire and Sport and Entertainment’ looks at how fire is used in celebrations such as torch fires in ceremonial sport events, or the fireworks that herald the new year in many places round the world.

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Keeping in with the theme of the exhibition, the design is consistently kept in black and red, and the text panels are all in English as well as Croatian, with the colours for one being reversed. Unfortunately, as far as legibility goes, the red on black is often hard to read, especially the smaller it gets in some places. I was also caught somewhere between feeling slightly horrified of bemused at the row of metal metal hooks, used to suspend pots above a fire place, hung freely at the entrance to the exhibition. In the UK, health and safety would have a field day!

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But other than those few minor criticisms, I felt that it was a well made exhibition, and I appreciated that I was able to read the interpretation (through sadly the hands on interactive was in Croatian only) despite the slight barrier. Dedicating an exhibition entirely to one theme explored in this way from all possible angles is a great idea – they even have an audio sound effect of a crackling fire playing in the gallery! And fire is something that has fascinated people and captured their interest for centuries. If you get the chance to visit Vatra, I hope that it too fascinates you and captures your interest.

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