Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Letter From Croatia III: Korcula

Photograph of Vela Luka  garbage dump by Hallie Cohen

There is a film called Waste Land about the work of the artist Vik Muniz in the Jardim Gramacho, a huge landfill outside of Rio. There’s also a respectable size garbage dump outside the village of Vela Luka on the Croatian Island of Korcula. Korcula, which is known for its thick green vegetation (and also as the birth place of Marco Polo), derives its name from the Greeks who termed it Korkyra Melaina or Black Corfu. If there is a hyper awareness of recycling in Croatia, you wouldn’t know it from the dump outside Vela Luka, which though no match for Rio, is a testament to price that has to be paid for beauty. The garbage has to go somewhere and the dump, like the centuries of conquest and conflict that create the historical memory of Croatia, is a kind of legacy. Birds fly over the dump, which some might call an eyesore, in the otherwise verdant landscape, and there's an abandoned plow at the edge of the piles of debris which looks a little like the guard tower of a prison. In New York, the Department of Sanitation now employs a resident anthropologist. The dump at Korcula takes your breath away in a different way than the magnificent mountains that lead down to quaint summer cottages perched by the sea. Whether by an anthropologist as in the case of New York, or an artist as was the case with Rio, the munificence of Korcula’s dump needs to be recognized.

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