(Photo: HRT) (Photo: HRT)

The ‘Easter egg from the heart’ is a uniquely Croatian project symbolizing peace and friendship. Began by the Koprivnica and Križevci Tourist Board some twelve years ago, this tradition, enshrined on Croatia’s list of intangible cultural heritage, sees large hand-made Easter eggs sent to cities and town squares all over Croatia and the rest of the world. These eggs are a recognizable symbol of everyday life and tradition of Croatia’s northern continental Podravina region and serve as a goodwill gesture spreading the love and joy of Easter. This year, in the weeks leading up to Easter, massive eggs depicting images typical of Croatian naive art were sent to the Polish cities of Warsaw and Krakow, as well as to Čakovec in northern Croatia and the Dalmatian island of Šolta. 

And just like the prolific artists from Koprivnica-Križevci County who inspired the widespread popularity of Croatian naive art, Šolta’s own native son, Eugen Buktenica, played a major role in representing and nurturing the unique art form throughout Dalmatia in the 20th century. 

Following in the footsteps of his famous uncle, Vicko Buktenica took up the mantle and has become a prolific artist of his own and works hard to strengthen the cooperation between the famous continental school of naive art from the Podravina region with the works being produced in Dalmatia. The ‘Easter egg from the heart’ on display on Šolta is the result of this artistic friendship and camaraderie between the two regions’ local self-governments and tourist boards.  

The official unveiling of the Easter egg on Šolta, in the town of Grohote, was attended by Krešimir Blažek from the Koprivnica and Križevci Tourist Board, Koprivnica-Križevci County Prefect Darko Koren, and Split-Dalmatia County Prefect Blaženko Boban, among others. 

Grohote Municipal mayor Nikola Cecić Karuzić explains: “Artists from the Podravina region and Šolta, namely the ‘Art Association Eugen Buktenica Djenko’, began cooperating two or three years ago.” 

“We are here because we have chosen to deepen this cooperation and ensure that we do so in the future as well,” said Cecić Karuzić. “The Easter egg is being displayed for now on the main square in Grohote, but it will move to other locations on the island because this is a special gift that must be seen by all local islanders and visitors alike. The egg will eventually be on permanent display on the square in Grohote, but it’s our intention that during the lead-up to Easter the egg will travel around to other locations on the island,” he concluded.

(Photo: HRT)

Another person who was delighted to be in attendance at the gifting of the ‘Easter egg from the heart’ to the island of Šolta was Krešimir Blažek from the Koprivnica and Križevci Tourist Board. Blažek also noted that the tradition began some twelve years ago and that similar decorated Easter eggs have graced town squares, galleries, and public spaces in some of Europe’s most famous cities, as well as ‘across the pond’ in Los Angeles and New York.

“The idea arose from our tourist board as a way to introduce visitors and tourists, not just from around Croatia but everyone with good vibes and good intentions, to this unique art style and give them the chance to get to know the naive motifs from the Posavina region depicted on the Easter eggs,” said Blažek. 

Artists from small villages in Koprivnica-Križevci County, such as Ivan Generalić and his followers, have been producing naive art since the 1930s. And so far, more than 120 large Easter eggs have been made. “Thanks to the ‘Easter eggs from the heart’ project, some eggs have traveled as far as Krakow and Warsaw,” added Blažek. “We had the great honour of unveiling one such egg in Krakow on Saturday, April 13th, and, in conjunction with that event, had the opportunity to promote our county, the regions of central Croatia and the country as a whole, to the people of Poland and invite them to discover our beautiful country.” 

Koprivnica-Križevci County Prefect Darko Koren, added that despite the heavy rain that plagued the installation of the large Easter egg on Šolta, the spirits of those in attendance had not been dampened, nor was the honour of presenting the ‘Easter egg from the heart’ to the island any less special: “Last year was our first time here and it was then that we agreed to give the island a large Easter egg. I believe this project can act as a foundation for future cooperation in a range of similar artistic ventures.” 

Božica Trnski, the municipal mayor of the small region in Koprivnica-Križevci County where the famed artist Ivan Generalić was born, has visited Šolta on several occasions and strongly believes in the special connection between these two bases of naive art.

“We are attempting to build a goodwill bridge of sorts through art,” said Trinski, adding that a declaration of mutual friendship would be signed between the two municipal councils. 

Playing a large role in this artistic love affair is none other than Šolta’s resident naive master Vicko Buktenica.

“Eugen Buktenica was my uncle. He’s at the very core of this whole story because if it weren’t for Eugen, this would never have happened,” said Vicko. “My role here is actually to help him realize his life’s dream. Eugen also visited Koprivnica-Križevci County, just like I have, but he never would have dreamt that a large Easter egg would one day come to Šolta. He always wanted to make a lasting connection between these two distinct regions. So, with this egg, this is exactly what we’ve done.”

The Prefect of Split-Dalmatia County, Blaženko Boban, was also on hand to give his impression of this unique artistic cooperation. Boban gave a spirited account of naive art and its role in joining the north and south Croatia. “This art has allowed Šolta to join a list featuring some of the world’s greatest cities,” he said. “The continental school of naive art has gifted painted Easter eggs to the Vatican, Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna, and now Šolta.”

The ‘Easter egg from the heart’ on the island of Šolta is an excellent first step in the formation of a new European Cultural Route featuring Croatian naive art and for future collaborations between the local self-governments of continental and coastal Croatia.