Gallery: Staro Zhelezare, another street art village
Can you change the world, or at least one village, with street art? It seems that in several parts of the world, that idea is taking hold.
The idea is to use the village as our canvas and to transform it into a work of art.Staro Zhelezare blog
I recently wrote about our visit to a Gambian village, Kubuneh, which has been turned into a giant canvas for street artists in an effort to promote tourism and thus support local people. Doing so, I was reminded of another very different village I visited in Bulgaria, where something similar is happening.
On the walls of this out-of-the-way village a group of young Polish artists have painted portraits of famous people alongside those of villagers. Their aim was to show that everyone matters, regardless of fame or lack of it; and also to see if such a project can revive the fortunes of a village struggling with population decline. As in many rural areas everywhere, young people are being drawn to the cities and birth rates falling. There are fewer than 500 living here now, a fifth of the population before the collapse of communism in 1989. Could an art project help to draw tourists to the village and help boost its economy?
Well it certainly drew us; although unfortunately we didn’t have time to do more than take a few photos, and certainly not to stay long enough to spend any money. My friends and I only made a very short stop here, as we were on our way back to Plovdiv after a long day out at Koprivshtitsa. It was the first evening of a Virtual Tourist Euromeet (explanation here) and we didn’t want to be late for dinner! But maybe others will spend the time here that we would have liked to have done had we been able. We only saw a small part of the village and only a few murals, but I liked what I saw.
A selection of the murals
These photos were taken in 2019 so the portraits reflect some of the politics and news stories of that time. They include Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama. But there are many others such as Alfred Hitchcock, Princess Diana, Bob Marley, the Beatles, Mahatma Gandhi and Che Guevara.
Of course I had to wonder if there was any significance to the portrayal of Trump with a bovine, rather than human, resident. It seemed likely that this was a political statement of sorts by the artist concerned. Although as Marilyn Monroe is elsewhere pictured with two pigs, maybe not!
You can read about the project in more detail, and see very many more images, here: http://starozhelezare.blogspot.com/p/about-us.html. I’ll finish with another quote from that website:
For the outsider, the effect is a gallery of familiar personalities, depicted in their trademark postures, costumes and moods. For the insider, however, this open-air gallery has a second meaning – the faces of the villagers, their smiles and personality traits, are equally recognisable. The graffiti of Staro Zhelezare are simultaneously a representation of people of global and local importance.
I visited Bulgaria in 2019
Another excellent post Sarah, I am so sorry I could not make that meet.
If, as I suspect, this is Fergy, then I’m sorry too – you would have loved it!
I enjoyed this post as you probably might have guessed. Political wall art is subject to the viewer’s beliefs, and you observed those divided beliefs perfectly. I’m currently having an online discussion with an artist who doesn’t think much of Banksy, but we do at least agree to disagree amicably. Keep ’em coming Sarah.
Thank you Malcolm, I can imagine that this post was right up your street 😆
What an unusual form of street art! Political commentary, humor, and fine artwork. The last was the best!
Glad you enjoyed it – and yes, that last one certainly catches the eye!
May this continue to catch on all over the world – we could use more art on the street!
I agree – as long as it’s good art!
I enjoyed seeing most of the murals here but had to guess the identity of a few of the people painted in them. I don’t remember seeing lots of tourists except for our group. Also don’t remember seeing many places tourists would spend money there, did you? Who knows, maybe your blog here will encourage some people to visit should they be traveling in Bulgaria. The idea of a town being a giant canvas to draw visitors is a good one I think. Nice post!
Thanks Sylvia, and thank you too for reminding me that it would be a good one to share 🙂 I think some of the people we didn’t recognise will have been the local residents rather than anyone famous? I’m not sure if there is anywhere to spend money or not, but checking that website I realised quite how much of the village we didn’t see, so there might be. It was rather a rushed visit, wasn’t it, but worth the detour for sure!
What a fabulous idea, we love these murals. We found the Trump one very funny😆
Thanks – me too! I’m aware not everyone will be amused and I hesitated whether to include it, but I didn’t paint it, only take the photo!
I laughed out loud when I saw the last one with Trump and the cow. Ive had that same expression many a time. I rather like the sentiment behind the project and will click thru. Thanks for sharing Sarah.
I’m happy to have given you a laugh Sandy – I reacted in much the same way when I saw it 😂
Beautiful street murals, Sarah!
Thanks Teresa 😀