It is dark outside and a lot colder than our first visit. It is February. We arrive for our second residency in Mrkopalj. Besides the colder weather, everything seems the same. There is still no snow and there are still no tourists. Helena, the woman responsible for the hostel is waiting for us outside, just like the last time. She gives us the keys, wishes us a pleasant night and before we know, we are all alone again in this complete empty hostel. I look outside the window from my room, to the pine trees that surrounds Mrkopalj. I hear the continual sawing sounds from the wood factory on the background, while I wonder who and what could appear from the dark forest. This is not the beginning of a thriller story. It is a report of our artistic work process.
After a night with a lot of wondering and less sleep, ‘mama’ welcomes us with a delicious vegan breakfast at Tilia’s. Like the good old days. When Tajči arrives we start our workweek right away. We share thoughts and ideas, almost as if we had never been apart.
Even though everything seems and feels the same at first sight, something is quite different. During our first residency we were visitors who came to explore Mrkopalj. We were blank pages searching for stories, ideas and possibilities. We wanted to discover everything, from the people till the surroundings. We even climbed up the ski slope, and walked all the way around, just to see how Mrkopalj looked like from above and to find out if we could use the ski slope for a scene. Spoiler alert: no.
This residency we are not blank pages anymore. We are looking for more depth. We want to generate more material. Fortunately this time we know were to search and in which corners we want to dig a bit deeper.
Lieke brought three large printed photographs, which we took during our last visit. One photo shows Snowwhite and the seven dwarfs in a window frame. The second photo is of an old orange car. The third photo is of a beautiful flowery garden with colorful laundry. Together with our local friend Josip we walk through the streets, just to see were the photos were taken and to hear the stories behind the images.
Where I live it is not only rude, it is even impossible to enter a house without an appointment. Most doors in the Netherlands are even locked. But here in Mrkopalj it is quite normal to just enter houses. People welcome us in their house with open arms and strong liquor. After are our fourth visit we got a little tipsy from all the hospitality. Even though most people don’t speak English, with Josip on our side, we have the most wonderful conversations. The older man from the photo of the laundry tells us a story about his grandfather. His grandfather worked in America. He wanted to come back to Mrkopalj, but died on the boat back. They threw him into the sea. Since that moment on his mother never ate fish again.
We are not only collecting material. We can already give this time something back. We give a workshop at the drama class at the local elementary school and practice our own written Mrkopalj song with them. We go to the choir and the tamburaci rehearsal to exchange music for the performances. We come closer to the town and to the people. We make friends.
At the end of the week the wood factory agreed as a location for the performances in April. We have clear plans and ideas to work further on back home, so we can come back in April to build further and rehearse.
On our last day we do a hike with a small group of people from Mrkopalj. We climb over rocks. We walk through the snow and listen together to the silence on the top of a mountain. It sounds like a perfect end of an interesting week.
Written by: Saskia de Haas