Creeping Prickly Pear. Origin Mesoamerica. Photograph Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, 2022 #1/3

Joelle McTigue
0.66 ETH


At the shore of Herceg Novi, Forte Mare vaults out of the sea and into the sky. While there are no official records, it is taught that King Stjepan Tvrtko I of Bosnia placed the fortress' first stone in 1382. Under its imposing stone face, the creeping prickly pear cascades down the wall within a leap of the promenade.

In the 16th century, Christian missionaries returned to Europe from Mesoamerica with the creeping prickly pear as a curiosity, where it was then spread throughout the Mediterranean by sailors. When Ottoman travel writer Evliya Çeleb visited Herceg Novi in 1664, the plant had naturalized. He described the city in his travelogues Seyâhatnâme as "a very solid and fortified city, so it is impossible to show or describe it!? It is surrounded by sharp cliffs and moats of hellish depth. It is a very high and beautiful city!" The bay's unique microclimates are ideal for the creeping prickly pear, leading to its current listing as a national invasive species.

Over centuries, mariners returned to the Mediterranean with seeds and plantlings. In The Mediterranean Botanicals Collection: Bay of Kotor, I examine how the pursuit of empires, trade, legacy, medicine, religion, and aesthetics forged the coastal landscape of the UNESCO protected site.

The bay's naval fleet peaked at 300 ships to protect its prominent salt trade in the Middle Ages. But, its mariner history potentially traces back to the Balkan Bronze Age. Over millennia, great European empires (Roman, Ottoman, Venetian, Napoleon, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian) owned a piece of the Bay of Kotor for strategic and merchant gain.

Present-day, the Bay of Kotor strives for architectural revitalization and preservation while maintaining its wild beauty and traditions. Venice, Italy, continues to finance the restoration of Kotor's Venetian structures. Retired naval facilities around the bay have converted into five-star resorts and marinas welcoming some of the world's largest yachts. At sunset on July 22nd, sailors arrive for the custom known as fašinada, throwing rocks in the sea near Our Lady of the Rocks, a sailor-formed island near Pearst.

The Mediterranean Botanicals Collection: Bay of Kotor collection are manually-manipulated botanical photographs I took within Montenegro's Bay of Kotor. The work emulates stained glass to celebrate these roots of identity and nature through the contemporary window of technology.

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Joelle McTigue