The heroines of our project “THE POWER OF WOMAN” are women who play an important role in the culture of the Republic of Estonia, in the social and intellectual life of our society. When participating in the photo session, they tried on these ancient traditional costumes that were worn by their foremothers (with the accuracy of the specific region, or as it was said during the olden days – Governorate).
The exhibition showcases ten reconstructed examples of the traditional folk costumes of Russia and Ukraine. Following reliable proof that has reached is from centuries ago – museum exhibits, collections of enthusiasts, as well as photos and portraits – I have, to a certain extent, managed to depict the beauty and harmony of a Slavic woman in traditional folk costume. Russian and Ukrainian women who are so close thanks to their culture, history and consciousness, are shown in the exhibition through portraits where they are in authentic folk costumes.
Visual incantations are coded in the ancient clothing and the traditional costumes as such have been a sort of an incantation throughout the centuries. Without even knowing it, by following the traditions of our ancestors, we create clothing that reflects what our ancestors understood very well: the human body is sacred, but subjected to the laws of the universe. The master crafters were guided by their innate taste and perception of beauty when creating the everyday or festive and ritual clothing for all the events of a person’s life – for birth, entering adulthood, engagement and marriage, birth of the first child. The ancient traditional folk costumes are a book in which our ancestors have written about how they understood the earthly journey of a human.
Irina Barsegyan, scenographer, designer
In this project, I was enthused by the topic of Russian and Ukrainian folk costumes, because I love Russia, its riches, traditions and heart. I love Ukraine, because it is my cradle from where I have received the brightest, tastiest and most melodic of all.
When taking photos of these beautiful women during the photo session, I noticed that when the folk costumes had been put on, they literally magically transformed: their voices became quieter, they stopped talking, their gaze turned to themselves. And the portrait was already done. The only thing left to do was to turn the light towards the model and take the picture.
Observing this magic, I realized what such clothing does to a woman. It changes them, makes them younger, more mysterious, the roots of a person become more highlighted. It is a pity that such clothes are not worn anymore and this tradition has been left in the past …
Galina Parmask, photographer
Holistic regression therapist, head counsellor of the STEP program for youth
… I come home from school, walk the dog, was my hands and hurry to the table, because the tasty and special lunch is waiting for me, it has been prepared for me by my grandmother. I write and am amazed by the plentiful life I was living. My grandmother was cooking especially for me, she baked for me and helped me when I asked. The amazing taste of homemade food cooked with love. What fortune to be a beloved grandchild for a grandmother who always had time for me!
Art historian, director of the Kadriorg Art Museum
A simple question “What is your nationality?” puzzles me. Estonian from my mother’s side, Russian from my father’s side, I was born and am living in and for Estonia, but at the same time, a large part of me is connected to Russian literature, art, history and culture.
My father was from Vologda Oblast, from the land of ancient forests and endless bogs, which was an important centre during the early Middle Ages when the political and commercial ties connected it with Novgorod, Arkhangelsk and Scandinavia. Later, it became a quiet province, which did not see even the Mongol occupation or the wars of the last centuries. The people of the land of Vologda are special: laconic and peaceful, because the area was dominated by the Fenno-Ugric tribes, which is also shown in the folk art. I am connected to Vologda, specifically to “my grandmother’s town” Belozersk, with the romantic, yet somewhat fragmental ties of my personal memories. Lake Beloye, which reaches as far as the eye can see, is basking in sunbeams, the huge blue dragonflies, the delicious pastries with cranberry jam, the silver of the cupulas of the white stone churches, the archaic way of speaking of the local old ladies filled with the gentle “ooh-s”. These memories are like the pearls of a long-broken necklace that are carefully kept in a memory box, but have lost their practical use.
My destiny was formed by Voronezh, near which in a village of the Don Cossacks I was born; post-war Königsberg-Kaliningrad, where I lived for 25 years; Leningrad where I studied at the Institute of Culture (and, as Dovlatov has said “of Recreation”); and Tallinn where my children were born. My destiny has been full of meetings and events, phenomena and adventures. However, if we leave only one emotional feature, that would be the blooming cherry trees around the village wells, my grandmother’s Ukrainian songs and my mother’s cheerful chastushkas, my father’s German language that he learned as a child in concentration camps and my grandchild’s Danish language.
My mother comes from the ancient Polish-Lithuanian family of counts, she was countess Jadwiga Waclawna Perszalska. Her immediate family tree branch has over ten coats of arms. My father, Veretenin Vladimirovich Fjodorov was a seaman, collector and came from a family of clergymen.
… In my childhood, we came together with a large family for Christian holidays and sang Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish and Estonian songs. Our folk culture traditions are passed on in our family from generation to generation.
Director of the Russian Theatre
If I try to create a visual image of what I could call “my Ukraine”, one memory pops up. We lived in South Ukraine with our family, but also used to visit my mother’s family in the Rivne Oblast back when we had the “big homeland”. When my mother started school, half of the surnames of the pupils in the teacher’s class journal was Velingurski. As we know, later it all changed.
But even in my childhood, almost each building in the Tessovo village in the Ostrog Region had our relatives living there.
Once I fell ill on the way. We arrived in the evening and I was put to sleep in a room with one window and clean white walls. I slept deeply all through the night and when I opened my eyes, the sun had already risen and made the entire room golden. And behind the open window, there was a wide wheat field so yellow, in the middle of it a small red island and a tree. One of my many brothers put a jar with field flowers on the table. But I wanted the ones that were there, far in the field. He convinced me that these were just poppies. However, I asked him to run and bring me some. How they stood in the jar on the table and how did they look, I do not remember. I only remember him running, up to his waist in the golden sea of wheat …
Project manager for Tallinn city tourism projects
… According to our family legend, our maternal great-great-grandfather was an artist who painted icons. And according to the very same legend, he even made paintings at the Novoafonskaya monastery in Abkhazia. Our family still has the icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, protector of all travellers, which was painted by my great-great-grandfather.
… I was 10 or 12 years old. We travelled to visit my aunt Polya to the Petropavlovka station near Grozny. And the thing I remember is not so much the trip itself, but the soft and high down feather mattress. I literally sank into it and slept so well, it has never happened again since …
Founder of the Charity Union Little Stork, which helps children with special needs, activist, active mother of a special child
… A person can work wonders with their hands. This truth comes from my childhood. You wake up in the morning and hear familiar sounds: grandmother kneading the dough. Something is coming! You can stay in bed and guess … The huge wooden trough with flour kept in the side building has been on the table since the evening. Now my grandmother is busying around, the baking tins clattering together and grandmother distributing the dough into loaves. Flour, water and grandmother’s hands… What else could one wish! Each oven has its own pie flavour, although the flour and water are the same across the village. Is it really so that the thoughts, words or feelings of the woman of the house make a bread unique? You press your nose against the still warm piece of bread and you need nothing else. Flour on hands – peace on earth!
Journalist, TV show host
… I have rarely met people with such warm and open hearts as the people of the place where I was born – Magadan Oblast with its tough climate and permafrost. To have people be friendly to you, they did not have to be your relatives. The people of the north are so rich in soul that they cannot be compared to anyone else. And this is worth more than any silver or gold. This is the simple truth that I brought along from my childhood in the north.
Journalist, host in Radio 4
It is very important to remember your roots, the ones who have created us. There are moments that are connected to our parents, grandmothers-grandfathers and even more distant relatives that will remain with us forever. Oftentimes it is the support that we need continue on in life and stand on our feet.
I have many memories of my childhood that I spent in an old Estonian farmhouse near Rakvere. This is the place where I went to get honey with my grandmother from the beehives in the garden for the first time in my life. This is where, in a field filled with daisies, I had my first talk with my mother about me being already big and starting school soon. This is where my father used the scythe to make hay during his vacation, like a real farmer… I keep these warm and sunny pieces of memories with me and thank the Lord that I exist.