In nearly a decade of covering the Czech shrovetide, or masopust, celebrations in Prague I’ve come to realize there is really a special artistry to the posters that are issued by each Prague district to announce their annual parade.
I recently spoke with Zuzana Šrůmová, one of the organizers behind Roztoky masopust, an annual carnival celebration held in a small village outside of Prague that is, in and of itself, a work of art.
Now in its 20th year, Šrůmová told me that the Rotozky masopust poster is always created around the theme of the Masopust Queen, crowned annually at this well-attended pageant. (In fact, this year’s poster was conceived by artist Zuzana Vítková, Masopust Queen 2013.)
But while the vibrant colors of the customary masquerade (maškara), as expressed in the posters, seem joyful, a darker meaning belies what Šrůmová describes as the “dark and earthy” Masopust iconography which symbolizes, among other things, a ritual pagan burial of winter.
A number of posters incorporate motifs of slaughter, butchery, and blood, giving a somewhat sinister air to a celebration that is widely enjoyed by families and children.
The posters use an array of graphic styles—from contemporary minimalist to patchwork collage—to eye-popping effect.
For Šrůmová, the poster is just one of many reasons her local celebration is considered by Czech folklorists to be “a vivid, living, [work of art] driven by the creativity of a local community.”
We’ve selected some of this year’s best from Prague and beyond (click the poster to link to details); in the slide show you’ll see posters from masopust years past that were too good not to share—particularly the ode to A Clockwork Orange!
See our previous masopust articles for more on how to celebrate the Czech Mardi Gras.