I was first drawn to Serbia solely because I wanted to trace my family history. However, I quickly found a people, history and landscape so vibrant and nuanced that they beckoned me closer and then pulled me in so tight I couldn’t possibly let go
Last year, I taught English in Novi Pazar on a Fulbright scholarship. Today, I live in Belgrade to work on a four-month illustration project that explores Serbian culture and identity.
When I moved to Serbia, illustration became my primary means of absorbing, synthesising, and communicating Balkan culture. Translating raw experience to image required me to parse out the layers of meaning, condense them down to their most basic forms, and express them simply and neatly onto 3.5 by 5.5-inch pages.
Contours, colours, a few lines of text: these exercises in simplified expression seemed to me to convey more than broad, sweeping generalities about how all of this was “life-changing” or “amazing.”
The fuller scope of meaning, the truer indication of daily life was to be found in the woman carrying a crate of strawberries from the market, the intricacies of serving coffee, the arthritic hands of a friend’s mother.
I hoped these bits and pieces of daily life—which I named “Snippets”—would offer a nuanced glimpse into Serbian life that I could not achieve with hyperbolic turns of phrase. Snippets served up bite-sized morsels of culture that made Serbia as a whole more palatable, less daunting to understand. I wanted American viewers feel a kinship with this community 5,500 miles away.
Today, the narrative continues with “Snippets of Serbia,” a cultural illustration project about Serbian culture, supported in part by the U.S. Embassy in Serbia. I aspire to do similar projects in other countries, finding a way to make both art and travel more accessible.
Emma Fick is a 23-year-old American, currently living and teaching in Serbia. Watch this space for more of Emma’s work. In the meantime, you can follow her on www.emmafick.com and the project’s Facebook page