French illustrator accuses Estonia-based colleague of plagiarism

  • 2024-01-03
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Illustrator Joanna Concejo accuses Lucija Mrzljak, a Croatian illustrator and film director who has lived in Estonia for many years, of plagiarism and is exploring options for legal action, Postimees reported.

Concejo showed her own works and illustrations by Mrzljak side by side on her Facebook wall, where those who stepped out in support of her included Olga Parn, whose student Mrzljak used to be years ago.

Postimees was not able to reach Mrzljak for comment, but according to sources she has claimed that she was just inspired by Concejo's work.

Estonian publisher Harra Tee & proua Kohvi has decided to withdraw Indrek Koff's books "Ootan sind" ("Waiting for you") and "Palavikulilled" ("Flowers of Fever"), for which Mrzljak made illustrations very similar to Concejo's work, agreeing that the pieces were similar to Concejo's work to such an extent as to solicit the move.

In addition to being an accomplished film director, whose "Eeva" was shortlisted for an Oscar nomination, Mrzljak has illustrated and won awards for several books. For example, she has received the Estonian Graphic Designers Association's special prize for illustrators for her illustrations for "Palavikulilled."

Mrzljak has been living in Estonia for about eight years and is currently working at animation studio Eesti Joonisfilm. Films directed by her in tandem with Morten Tsinakov have won numerous awards.

Concejo, who lives in France but has Polish roots, told Postimees that she learned about Mrzljak's illustrations while in Italy at the end of 2022.

"A friend asked me if I knew about Mrzljak because her works were extremely similar to mine. I searched for the name on the internet and was amazed to see the scale of the so-called inspiration. I couldn't believe it," Concejo said.

Concejo added that she and her publisher have repeatedly contacted both Mrzljak and the publishers of the books illustrated by her, but there has been no public apology. Only one publisher responded to their requests and informed them of the withdrawal of books.

Concejo believes they have given Mrzljak plenty of time to offer her explanations to readers. They have told her that if she doesn't, they will publish her illustrations and works by Concejo side by side.

Since Mrzljak didn't come up with an apology or explanation, Concejo decided to post pictures of works by the two illustrators side by side, garnering strong reactions on social media, Postimees said.