More similar than different: Sofia receives 30 new electrical boxes decorated with folklore designs

30 electrical boxes downtown Sofia have been decorated with bright colors and shapes. They are part of the urban Art4Diplomacy project, which brings together works of art from Bulgaria and 30 countries that have diplomatic missions in this country. The idea belongs to talented artist Petya Ilieva, who is known all over the world for her paintings characterized by Bulgarian folklore elements.

“Countries from all continents have been included and the purpose is to show that peoples all over the world have much more similarities than differences,” Petya ilieva says. “All the people in the world have much more similarities than differences in historical and cultural terms. We can see the same shapes and motifs in Africa, Asia or America. It is also important to bring joy to people in the urban environment, so when walking the streets one can see something pleasant. On each of the collages one can see the country of origin and this way viewers could become more interested in other cultures and look for more information.”

The artist’s paintings contain elements of folklore, motifs from traditional textiles, folk costumes and carpets. In 2012 she represented Bulgaria at the UNESCO sustainability conference held in Andorra.

“I decided that the strongest and most sustainable energy preserved by Bulgarian people is contained in folk costumes and textiles. Bulgarians have always adhered to certain colors, shapes, symbols. They are part of everyday life, work and holidays. Bulgaria has 7 different folklore areas and each of my paintings recreates something specific from an area in an interesting and accessible for modern people way. This way the idea to show similarities between Bulgarian folklore and others’ was born,” Petya Ilieva recalls.

30 foreign embassies in Bulgaria were pleased to take part in the project, providing the artist with motifs and information about the cultural heritage of the various countries. The artist selected the Bulgarian motifs and decorations.

“I combined half of the collages with my paintings, which recreate something very similar. The difficult part for me was selecting the right photos of folk costumes or parts of carpets that I didn't draw, so the other half are just photos, but they are also authentic and shot by me in interesting places,” Petya Ilieva says about some of the difficulties in project realization, but also points out an interesting element common to various folklores:

“The so-called ‘katanitsa’ that we Bulgarians are proud of, and which is found in almost all traditional Bulgarian clothing and carpet designs, is actually a very ancient symbol dating back 7 thousand years ago and is found in absolutely all corners of the world,” Petya Ilieva says. “Interestingly enough, everywhere it means ‘wings’, helping a person in their successful fly through life. For almost all people this symbol brings luck and success and the Bulgarian motifs contain all the nice and bright colors.”

Works by Petya Ilieva have represented Bulgaria in more than 15 countries on 6 continents, including Antarctica. French President Emmanuel Macron also has a work by the artist in his art collection. The splendor of Bulgaria's folklore areas, shown in an outdoor exhibition near the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, impressed many European leaders who gathered at a meeting in Sofia back in May 2018.

In the period September 17 - 27, photos of Petya Ilieva's 30 collages are on display at the Sredets Gallery in the Ministry of Culture.

English: Alexander Markov

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