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Uga Buga: Do not deny what you donít understand

Desislava Tomova

Uga Buga is an informal organization. It was founded in 2006 after an idea of Yagama and Rozalia Mitrova. Its artistic activities include multimedia based on recycled art made of natural materials, site-specific art (art tailored to a specific site), event decoration, fire dancing shows.

Uga Buga was conceived as an open community that welcomes new participants. Currently, its members are Rozalia Mitrova, Yagama, Ilina Peryanova, Lora Runevska, Vanya Kolchakova, Nadezhda Staneva, Martin Stoev, Elena Pampulova, Yana Hadzhikostova, Nadezhda Georgieva. Depending on the location of its projects, the art formation operates all around the world, and its participants often lead a nomadic life.

Yagama is an artist by profession. She has a BA in Painting and Cultural Anthropology from Hunter College of the City University of New York. Her experience includes painting and ceramics. Video Jockeying is a new kind of art in Bulgaria. Beside Yagama, there are only a few practitioners in the country.

The art employs several approaches to mixing videos live, shaped by the artistís or anotherís vision. It combines photographs and very short video clips, overlaying them by various effects. "A good VJ transforms the material she uses in such a way that she creates a wholly new, authorial product. Therefore we canít talk about breaching copyrights," Yagama explains.

Uga Buga has already run a lot of projects, including the vision of the charity jazz concert for children with impairments in Bulgaria Hall at the end of last year, a collaboration with Juno Reactor, decorations for the Artmospheric 2007, 2008 and Earthdance 2007 festivals, etc. The project that became the cornerstone of their artistic road was the creation of

two samodivas and a talasam

(the equivalents of dryads and goblins in Bulgarian mythology) from natural materials for a particular festival, which brought along incredible complications, adventures and efforts. "We went through hell and high water trying to carry out a project called Talasamets. The only event that took place at that festival was our participation. Later on, people accused us of witchery and destroyed our works which were over four meters tall each, planted half a meter into the ground, with enormous cross-shaped stands," Yagama recalls eagerly.

And people tend to remember each of Uga Bugaís works. This is what gives them the impulse to carry on. Each encounter with their creations draws spontaneous reactions. The mission of their art is to promote harmony with the people around and with ourselves. There is a spiritual element to it Ė the road to self-awareness. "What we lack here in Bulgaria is openness which would encourage people. If you donít understand something, you donít have to deny it," Rozie comments.

Uga Buga had a very extreme experience in Morocco.

They were forced to suspend their work because of the heat. The group was caught in a sand storm which threatened to tear down their five sculptures (representing the elements Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Spirit) made of wood and various garbage on the beach (plastic bags, plastics, cordage...).

Younger people seem to accept their works more readily, as do people with an affinity for extraordinary things. Their most recent project is a plant labyrinth in the middle of Geo Milev Park in Sofia. The labyrinth has been designed bearing in mind the local inhabitants, particularly the children. Many of the plants used are medicinal. It has been constructed after a very

ancient scheme of a Cretan labyrinth

with three circles. Labyrinths are highly symbolic spaces allowing us to get lost while we look for ourselves. This particular one is related to the myth of the Minotaur. It is not their first, only the first constant one. And it is still at the embryo stage. Right now, it has been fenced in to keep vandals out and allow the plants to take root. The art group also plans to erect sculptures there. The official inauguration of the labyrinth is to take place in the spring.

Once it has been planted on its complete area of 530 square meters, the labyrinth is going to grow over many years. Its height is going to reach 60 to 180 cm, the thickness of the hedgerow, 1 m, and the width of the paths, 2 m. Several plant species have been used, some typical for Bulgaria and renowned for their healing properties: rosemary, lavender, hawthorn, morello, etc. At the entrance of the labyrinth, an information panel is going to greet the visitors with details about the plant species and their application and about labyrinths in general. The labyrinth will be accessible to prams and wheelchairs. Its maintenance will involve modern organic (nature-friendly) methods.

Published on 07. 03. 2009 „. in Newspaper 'Novinar'