MMF / Zagreb, Croatia / Mama
I was very pleased to have the opportunity to visit Mama Zagreb, which gave me a taste of grassroots organizing and alternative culture in Croatia.
Mama was founded with the goal of incubating and sustaining “micro-communities” around hacking, free software, and digital arts, social theory and activism, and independent culture. It was started by activist technologists who wanted to expand the vision of a free and open Internet into a larger vision for autonomous and open physical spaces. Mama is one of the first spaces in Zagreb of its kind.
In its early days, Mama sustained itself as an Internet cafe. The space now has 6 full time employees and in the past it has received funding from Open Society Foundation as well as public funding. A large portion of funding has been through the EU.
The space is alcohol free and has an open-access policy so as to “not just pay lip service to open culture.” In the winter, homeless people can come in to drink coffee and play chess. There is a DJ booth with turntables and CDJs for youth to practice DJing, and the EGOBOO.bits record label and publishing company was started out of Mama.
Mama’s projection room seats 55 people for screenings, poetry events, and political conversations on environment, gender, and minority affairs. They host about 15 public events per month and recently hosted the Human Rights Film Festival.
Mama served as a hub during the first Zagreb Pride in 2001, and had to fend off reprisals from skinheads. Today Mama hosts a group for parents and allies of LGBTQ youth.
The Mama space has an extensive library of books on technology, philosophy, media arts, and LGBTQ activism. Many of the books cannot be found anywhere else in Croatia.
Mama has hosted major conferences on critical theory featuring writers including Slavoj Žižek and Tarek Ali. Mama coordinated the Croatian translations of Michael Hardt and Antoni Negri’s Empire and Multitude.
Mama is active in many social justice campaigns. They have been active in promoting of the “right to the city” campaign against gentrification of downtown Zagreb, and a campaign against privatization of the state highway system. They protested the sale of public land on the Adriatic coast for a golf course, which triggered a public referendum on the issue in Dubrovnik.
"You need this long breath to incubate ideas," Petar Milat, the director of of Mama tells me, "At some point your efforts will be fruitful. This is especially possible in a small country like Croatia."