Untold Stories

Re-Pimp My Pump

Some weeks ago, I was talking to my Mom and she happily announced: “We’ve got our water pump, too!” Indeed, a new and freshly “pimped” pump popped up at the Krešimir Square, in her neighborhood.

Even better, the artwork represents Marija Jurić Zagorka, one of the most remarkable historical personalities of Zagreb. A few days later, I found out the pimped pumps are being - well, repimped.

This water pump impersonates the famous writer and journalist Marija Jurić Zagorka

When Pimp My Pump first appeared more than a decade ago, it was a thrilling example of meaningful street art. In a nutshell, the street art collective literally brought back the old water pumps,  forgotten to the point of invisibility, to life by giving them an artistic makeover and turning them into urban iconography.  The pumps used to be an important part of the city’s life a century ago- a literal source of life. However, they had been neglected for a while until they got pimped!

The original Marge Simpson at the Velesajam fair. The tree in the back sure highlights her hairstyle :)

You can find the new Marge with the rest of her family at Bundek Lake. The first one to welcome you to this recreational zone is Homer Simpson.

The PmP collective showed incredible dedication to their mission by locating and painting dozens of water pumps all over the town. PmP has become such an iconic part of the urban identity of Zagreb, that soon after the first few pumps got pimped, there were opening events whenever another pump went through its makeover.

Years have passed and some of the artwork has, naturally, faded.  Today, even those in charge of the city’s brand have recognised its appeal. That’s why another makeover is taking place right now, this time with the support of the local tourism board. You can now download a map, or stop by the Visitors Center at the main square to get your hard copy and start your search.

Back in 2014, I “crashed” the opening party for the Black Queen pump at Britanac Square after one of my dark tours. The Black Queen isn’t there anymore, but it’s worth checking out two newly decorated pumps at the square. Photo by Pimp my Pump

Jeanine Ritzel from the USA has been exploring Zagreb ever since she moved here two years ago. The two of us share the enthusiasm of discovering each corner of the city and all of the imaginative scavenger hunts Zagreb has to offer, such as Zagreb Solar System, Little Zagreb, Zagreb Before Zagreb, and Pimp My Pump. This is what she told me about PmP and the accompanying map:

"I have really enjoyed the PmP quest. I'm finding myself in neighborhoods I never would have expected to be in and finding out a lot about Croatian culture as well. Had never heard of Haustor, Mr. Fulir, Alan Ford, Psihomodo Pop... before. The journey and the cultural enrichment have been a blast!"

“If Zagreb had a sound inscription, it would be the echo of Haustor’s music” - a part of the official description of this water pump.  The rest of the description evokes the following song

The video of Moja prva ljubav/ My First Love by Haustor with scenes of the Upper Town. I have a family friend who was named Luka/Lucas because the song was playing at the time he was born (the song says My city got a Luka tonight - luka meaning harbour in this context)

When I heard Jeanine’s words, I felt just like when my Mom called me to tell me about the new pump in her neighborhood. I realized once again how uplifting and multidimensional this project has been. Most of us who live here in Zagreb appreciate the PmP project as it saved some of the old water pumps from extinction.

Why don’t you give them a go, too? Try and find the newly decorated water pumps. It’s a cool challenge that will take you off the beaten path. Even if it’s a hot day, you will be served with the coolest water from the coolest pipes as a reward when you find each location.

 Press the handle hard for the water to start running. And watch your shoes, the pressure is strong and you might just get all wet!

The maps give you a short exploration of the art choices for each pump. You will learn a lot about Zagreb’s urban culture: what kind of music was out there, which movies did we watch? But also about local culture as many of the characters painted are completely unknown outside of Croatia, yet for us living here, they make such a recognizable part of the town’s identity. If you find a pump that represents a music band, you will probably be tempted to google the band and find out more about it. The pumps reflect a part of the city’s life and authenticity that you don’t really get to hear about through other channels. Connected into a tourism product, they are a visitor’s quickest link to the urban soul of Zagreb.

Image credit: Iva Silla     

Author: Iva Silla