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Ukiyo-e Between POP ART and (Trans)Cultural Appropriation: On the Work of Muhamed Kafedžić – Muha by Srdjan Tunić

The paper about my work by Srdjan Tunic was published in magazine Kultura (Culture) no# 147.  Kultura is a magazine regularly published by the Centre for Study of Cultural Development in Belgrade, Serbia. The paper is a part of theme issue “Context in arts and media” edited by Angelina Milosavljević Ault, PhD and Maja Stanković, PhD.


This essay is based on a curatorial research of Muhamed Kafedžić – Muha’s artworks and our collaboration since 2012 till 2015. The work juxtaposes, on one hand, the paintings of the Sarajevo-based artist and, on the other hand, questions the meaning and applicability of cultural appropriation theories on his work. The goal is to present a complex procedure of appropriation of processes and styles in art history, in Kafedžić’s example a hybrid of Japanese ukiyo-e woodcuts (17th to 19th centuries) and USA Pop art painting (20th century), predominantly by Roy Lichtenstein. By contextualizating the artworks in question and using an innovative approach, the original templates are transformed, with a set of new meanings and readings. With great knowledge and respect of the original artworks and authors, Muha’s research is deep and visible in his appropriation method. In the context of Bosna and Herzegovina, my intention is to emphasize how Muha’s artwork has an element of dislocation, outside-ness, regarding both the place and national tradition, which, consequentially, develops into a trans-cultural perspective, using Japanese (pop) art as a trans-national networking point. Among the referenced artworks are series such as “100 Views of Ukiyo-e, Volume I: Masters”, showing homage to ukiyo-e masters from 17th till 19th century with a variety of subject-matter (theater, mythology, erotica, samurai, courtesans, landscapes, animals), playing with a context of Bosnia and Herzegovina as in “History re-painting” and “36 Odd Views of Sarajevo”, “100 Great Waves” as an homage to and street art/mural reinterpretation of Hokusai’s famous painting “Great Wave off Kanagawa”, as well as “Utamaro Lichtenstein” which playfully and directly references both Lichtenstein and Hokusai, demonstrating the core two influences of Muha’s work.

Srdjan Tunic
Art historian, freelance curator

Full paper available in Serbian language at Srdjan Tunic´s website.