Merlin Workshops


Pula, a typical Adriatic, Mediterranean and European town, stems from the poetics of the Argonautic myth of Jason and Medea and the search for the "golden fleece".

Pula’s three thousand years old history starts in the Antiquity with the founding of the Roman colony "Pietas Iulia".

The period of the Roman Empire gave a permanent urban identity to the town which sees the building of some of the most remarkable monuments of Roman antiquity in the northern part of the Adriatic: the Hercules’ Gate, the Amphitheatre, the Forum, the Capitol, the Temples of Augustus and Diana, the Twin Gate, the Triumphal Arch of the Sergii as well as the small and big Roman Theatres.

Legend says that it was the emperor Vespasianus who erected the amphitheatre in honour of his gorgeous beloved Antonia Cenida from Pula. Wanting to impress her, he built a magnificent elliptical amphitheatre measuring 130m and 105m in diameter, and 32m in height. These dimensions make it the 6th largest amphitheatre worldwide. At the time, it could accommodate up to 23.000 people.

The tradition of masks in Roman theatre began by simply painting the actors’ faces white. Later it developed into white linen and plaster casts painted with natural colours made of soil, ground stones or flowers. The artist's imaginative masks expressed feelings like grief, desperation, enthusiasm, laughter and happiness.

Many of the masks are also inspired by the worship of gods, especially Dionysus (Bacchus) – the god of the joy of life, fertility, wine, lust, conviviality and licentiousness. Grimacing masks inspired by animal heads represented various human moods and characters.

Along the lines of the antique theatre and the Roman history of Pula, Merlin workshops have started manufacturing souvenirs-mementos inspired by this autochthonous past. Following the example of stone masks from the small Roman theatre on display in the Archaeological Museum, they have designed a whole series of masks - original souvenirs made of natural materials (clay and plaster casts) painted with red and grey Istrian soil, as if they had just been dug out somewhere in Istria or Pula.

The Association for the promotion of creativity "Merlin" is active in research, education and the application of creativity in everyday life thus making an effort to stimulate the development of the community and improve living and interpersonal relations. The souvenir workshop "Roman Smile" saw the participation of children, unemployed women and the disabled.

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