Romanian Superheroes on Paper
I’ve been reading comic books for the better part of my life, and that’s saying something. I’ve dabbled in underground classics and mainstream releases but I have never seen to this day work done by a pupil. I was pleasantly surprised. A comic book is nothing more than a combination between words and images, and if it is carefully crafted it can result in efficient storytelling and can have a way greater impact than the “official” mediums. For me, talent needs fertile ground and in this case talent is a seed. Only by nurturing it and allowing it to blossom can you truly reap its rewards and rejoice. Assuring a fertile ground in Romania, however, is easier said than done. There are numerous obstacles that are in the way of the young in achieving something other than academic success or career stability. There are moments in your life when, honestly, you can’t put your foot in front of the other without tripping on negative feedback or plain jealousy. Yet, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately there are people who are still interested in the shaping of young minds through art and freedom of thinking. From coal to diamonds. Project KultiX is one of those cases where kids are allowed to express their artistic side and at the same time have creative control over their choices. In this particular case, to choose historical figures from Romanian lore and let them loose in a comic strip. This medium has a lot of promise and I for one have seen its potential.
Enter Sorin Striblea and Alexandra Hirlavu, two ambitious people in Brasov, Romania, who have brought upon themselves the task to organize and coordinate project KultiX. What is this project? It is a simple concept but with very big goals, one of them being to popularize Romanian culture, both on a local and international level. It all started with an idea, which soon expanded and eventually became an annual event. ”We want to make Romanian culture accessible for youths around the world. In the initial phase, the pupils choose historical figures, preferably local and not very well known and make a story in comic book form. In the international phase, the comics are translated in English, German and Japanese and then they are promoted outside our borders. Because we lack resources, we are still at the beginning” says Sorin, the one who contacted the institutional partners and exhibited the student’s works. It is true that obstacles abound for this project but the main one is the lack of resources. It is understandable however that the shortage of means can be a result of the project being non-profit. Alexandra, the project’s artistic coordinator, thinks that initiatives such as Kultix are overshadowed for a long time due to lack of cooperation and lack of time outside of work: “The duty of professors is to respect a constraining schedule that nobody has the courage or the will to change, so everything that you do, you do in the shadow of the schedule or after hours.” In the end though, both of them agree that all these setbacks are wiped out by the pupil’s works themselves.
Of course, you may ask yourselves: “Sure, I get the purpose but what is the message? Why can this stand out?” The answer is pretty simple and straightforward, but nevertheless true. We have talented people and we want the whole world to know it by celebrating our past. And that past is filled with other talented and valuable people. The comic book art form was chosen as a means of delivering this message because of its accessibility and popularity in other countries, hence the name “Kultix-comix, kul-cool”. Thinking about comics involuntarily makes you think about superheroes but instead try to picture an artist fighting evil with his art. It has the same “bang” as the regular comics but can make people appreciate the real heroes in our communities. When all is said and done, the point of this project is not only to carve a respectable place for ourselves in the world but to inspire other children into following their vocation and to instill a sense of national identity. Kids and teenagers from grades 5 to 12 can participate and this can be considered a plus because kids have an imagination which is more raw, an observation Sorin also noted: “The participants are from the 5th to 12th grade and you can see the difference. The younger in age, the more creative they are. As they grow, they tend to lose their imagination.”
An important step has been made with project Kultix, one that surely will be followed by others. The event is annual and currently local in Brasov at Okian Library. The works of the participants can be found hanged in the library and with time all the comic strips will become digitized and hopefully many others will get to see local cultural richness. Thankfully, the exhibition grows each year due to new art and new ideas constantly being added. It all comes down to wanting to make a change, however small it may be and through this initiative, we may be on the right track.