Made in Croatia

Brilliant Caricatures of Dalmatian Life: Tisja Kljakovic Braic Interview

By 20 April 2020

April 20, 2020 - How to capture the uniqueness and brilliance of the wonderful phenomenon that is life in Dalmatia? Meet Split artist Tisja Kljakovic Braic, author of the brilliant book of caricatures of Dalmatian life, ONI.

Dalmatia is unique. I love it to death and it frustrates the hell out of me. And it took me a full 15 years of living here to find the way to come to terms with my frustrations, which I can now summarise in a single sentence of advice for newcomers. Accept this sentence of advice from the beginning and live by it, and your life will be infinitely better. Refuse to accept it, and you will probably either quit Dalmatia in frustration or end up accepting it and living by it in several years.  The sentence is a simple one:

Do not try and change Dalmatia, but expect Dalmatia to change you. 

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There are SO many things which are special and unique to Dalmatia and the habits of Dalmatian people. As a foreigner, when I highlight some of them, I am often accused of referred to outdated stereotypes. And so I was VERY happy to receive a truly wonderful Christmas present from my wife last year - ONI by Tisja Kljakovic Braic. I was laughing for much of the rest of the day. 

Tisja kindly found the time for a quick interview about the book, Dalmatia and her plans. 

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I will confess I have never laughed so much because of a Christmas present, EVER, after my wife gave me a copy of your book ONI. The sarma picture in particular. Tell us a little about the book, and why you decided to write/illustrate it?

They were created long ago in my paintings on wood. On them, Oni fly around in the blue sky and do everything they do in the songs. At one point, they came out in the form of drawings and started living real life. Many people call these drawings a caricature even though I never drew caricatures. On the contrary.

And so I posted my first drawing on Facebook, and I was glad that I could make people laugh. Soon, the drawings multiplied and I published a book called Oni that ended up becoming a great success.

What made them so popular is actually that they are so ordinary. Everyone recognised themselves in them. Oni doesn't have a filter.

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There are SO many observations of life in Dalmatia. When did you first start noting them and how long did it take to come up with the collection for the book?

I never thought about life in Dalmatia, given the fact that I live my life here. What is in my blood just naturally comes out. I thought that because this is all about typical Dalmatian things, the book would not be interesting beyond Dalmatia, but the opposite happened. Both Serbs and Slovenes bought the rights to the book.

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Your illustrating style is unique and very distinctive. Tell us about it, and did you have any particular role models in your head as you did the illustrations.  

It was always my dream for me to be able to draw everything in three moves and I finally succeeded. In the drawing, you can see the way they look at each other. I think by now, you can probably even hear them. The way they look, their height differences, however much I try to fight it... that's my husband and I.

However, they all bear characteristics of our parents, everything that once got on our nerves and everything that we'll eventually turn into ourselves.

The book ''Oni'' became kind of a marriage manual.

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Can you give us five of your favourite illustrations from the book (please send the images) and tell us in a sentence each why they are special to you? 

My favourite image is actually not funny. It has a poem in it, like my pictures do. I think a secret marriage hides within that picture.

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How would you describe the following to a first-time visitor in Dalmatia in a paragraph?

a - a young Dalmatian male

b - a young Dalmatian female

c - a Dalmatian nona

d - a Dalmatian dida

I'll respond like this to this question - Fellini's Amarcord.

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What is the thing that frustrates you the most about 



That's like asking me what annoys me about myself, there's a lot and I won't say or admit anything.

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What is the thing you love most about 



What do I love about myself? It's not good to talk about those things, it isn't nice to brag. I'd just say that I wouldn't even change my neighbourhood, let alone my city.

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What's next in the creative world of Tisja Kljakovic Braic? 

Everything I've done, I've done without a plan and without a programme and it hasn't occurred to me to plan anything ever. There's also a book that I wrote about my childhood called ''The kid taken by the Devil'' which I wrote for myself as a memoir. In November at the Croatian National Theatre in Split, the premiere of a show based on that book should take place.

Everything I do is what makes me happy at that moment in time, and I don't think about anything longer than that moment.

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Thanks Tisja, and thank you for the many laughs. If you want to add a little humour to your day you can follow the official Tisja Kljakovic Braic Art Facebook page.

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