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December 10, 2019

France - Painting with a needle at Pompidou Paris

The projects of the Sewn Signs Association from Bucharest led by the architect Ioana Corduneanu are always the pinnacle of the field. First they started documenting the Romanian Blouses and with the fabrics and threads they found at that time recreated the first blouses sewn in a traditional way for more then 50 years. They reunited all their blouses in an exhibition called Old IE, New IE (Ie veche, Ie noua) and for the year 2015 believe me it was something short of a miracle.

A year later they opened the IA Aidoma exhibition in which they recreated estranged Romanian Blouses exhibited or just collected by the biggest textile museums of the world. I saw the exhibition in my hometown, fell in love and managed to bring it to Luxembourg in 2018. Over the years some blouses went out of the exhibition and other joined it, all in all around 100 blouses were recreated using just pictures of the museum blouses. Another year and they opened IA Aievea exhibition, this time starting form small pieces of fabric they recreated entire blouses, the level of knowledge and the work put into those blouses got them the appreciation of the Google Arts and Culture Institute and they are the only association and not a museum to be featured on that Google Online Gallery.

This year I was in Sibiu, Romania where they opened a joined exhibition with MaiestrIa group from the Republic of Moldova, where I've heard about their latest project, the Matisse Blouse.

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In the early 1940's, Henri Matisse received a precious gift from the Romanian painter Theodor Pallady, a Romanian blouse. The French painter, fascinated by the complexity of the shirt and the craftsmanship of the seam, painted a series of paintings depicting women, dressed in Romanian Blouses. The most iconic painting in this series is exhibited at the Pompidou Center in Paris and is called "La blouse Roumaine". I saw it there for the first time in 2014, on a cold and rainy winter day, when I changed my thick sweater to a Romanian Blouse to take a picture.
This is the story of "La Blouse Roumaine" painting we know so far. From the painting, the ladies from Sewn Signs started the study: the distribution the ornamental fields on the sleeve indicated the blouse that inspired Matisse came from Bucovina. There are countless patterns from that region, only Ioana has digitised on her blog (semne-cusute.blogspot.ro) more than 900 sheets, but the main source of Bucovina models remains the Kolbenheyer's album.

In 1912 the Austrian Erich Kolbenheyer catalogued for the first time the stitch patterns he encountered in Bukovina, a Romanian territory that was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was fortunate it happened then, because after the First World War, when Romania regained Bucovina, we were poor, war-torn and our only concern was survival, not the collection of stitch patterns. The album has survived and these days one could find it on Google.

Then, the women involved in the project researched the fabrics and threads women had at their disposal in the 30's when the Matisse blouse was probably made. They came up with hemp and linen, hemp was mostly used for the working blouses, the every day blouses and linen was used for the celebration ones, which we call today IA. So Matisse's blouse was probably made out of linen, but not the industrial kind we find everywhere today, the rough, home made one.

So the canvas was linen, the uneven linen. What about the threads? In that time Romania was an agricultural country, the shepherds used to take their sheep in the mountains during the summer months and bring them back to the fields during winter. So wool was the main material and the Romanian women knew how to make the finest wool thread. We also know that the women from Bucovina were proud and invested a lot in their blouses. The legend goes that they used to sell two oxen for the threads they embroidered with. They bought silk and metallic wire from the Orient, the beads from the Czech Republic, which they most definitely used on Matisse's blouse, so we included them too.

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So the latest project of the Romanian Association Sews Signs was to recreate the Romanian Blouse that Matisse had painted. By the time I've joined it there were eight other women involved, Ioana, Maria, Sonia, Daniela, Ștefania, Mirela, Ștefana and Daniela and each of us recreated her unique blouse starting from the painting.
On my altiță I've embroidered blooms because in my mind they were similar to the blouse in the paining. The rivers on the sleeve I made with Eli Belinde a sign for feminine power and strength. We all had more or less the same încreț, the orange line pained by Matisse, but of course it differed from one blouse to the next. Mine was made with wool, silk, metallic thread and beads.

And so, on December 1st we reunited in Paris at the Pompidou Centre to compare our work with the original painting. The experience was one of a lifetime. Besides the authorities in the field that embraced and praised us, the visitors of the gallery considered themselves lucky to visit at the same time as us. The Matisse's paining "La Blouse Roumaine" came to life.
We were an apparition and the echoes of the event are still present on social media. People took photographs, the keepers of the gallery pointed the crowds towards room 7 at floor 5, the guides compared our work with the painting asking us to stand next to it, it was a wonderful time and I am glad I was part of it.
I was with my friends and the three days spent in Paris were great and I still long for the memories made then. But the story of the seven Matisse's blouse goes on, I am positive the women in Romania will create even more versions of the blouse and who knows maybe next year there will be 20 Romanian blouses at Pompidou.

I hope we inspired you to dream and create and go over the norms and document your own Romanian Blouse. You have all our knowledge on the Semne Cusute in acțiune group on Facebook, you have all the fabrics and threads you need on the Semne Cusute shop, you have the Blog and the Kolbenheyer album.

Paint with your own needle!












The photos belong to the people on social media and to Ioana, Ștefana, Andreea and Daniela who kindly shared them with us, please use them accordingly.

As usual we can continue the conversation on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

November 25, 2019

Belgium - Tongeren - Dacia Felix Exhibition

Recently I had the privilege of visiting an exhibition like now other, an exhibition that connects my home country, Romania with my now-living-in country Belgium/Luxembourg. Its name is "Dacia Felix" and it is organised within the Europalia Festival manifestations at the Gallo-Roman Museum in Tongeren, Belgium, an hour and a half drive from Luxembourg.

As I've written once more about Europalia when we went to visit the Brâncuși Exhibition in Brussels,  an art festival in essence, Europalia celebrates every two years a country's cultural heritage. Established in 1969 in Brussels, the festival has events in all the neighbouring countries from October to January. The festival expenses are shared between Belgium and the invited country, and in 2019-2020 that is Romania.
When in 106 AD the Romans managed to annex to their empire the new province, Dacia, they found there a well established civilisation, different from the barbaric tribes they found in Britania, for example. Barbaric in the sense the Romans used it, is any populations that lives outside the Roman Empire. So, as you can see Dacia is not a reliable and well known, cheap car, it is the Province that existed in the territory that is now Romania, before the Romans conquered it.

The emperor that managed to conquer Dacia after two very destructive wars was Trajan and upon his return to Rome he build a column and a museum, in existence today, to celebrate his victory. Because he did that we now have a lot of information about the Dacians and some of those information were used in documenting this exhibition.

I think it is a mammoth exhibition with hundreds of small objects collected from multiple museums in Romania and transported safely to Belgium. The exhibition is well documented, presenting the stages of Dacian habitation of the territory as well as the migratory stages that passed through the territory, the Celts, the Scythians, the Greeks and finally the Romans. The audio guide explanations are well thought off and there are even simplified explanations for children. All in all a round event, worth visiting.

The exhibition will be opened until April, 26th of 2020 and the price ticket is 10 euros.
As we learned in school, Decebal the Dacian king and Trajan the Roman emperor were the founding fathers of Romania. It is said that after conquering Dacia, Trajan went to Rome and partied for three days displaying the spoils of war, among other huge quantities of gold, Dacians gold. Inside the museum he build to commemorate the occasion he placed two similar busts of Decebal and his own in similar size. The historians who documented this exhibition say he did that to prove how hard was his victory and that he conquered a well established people and not some scattered tribes. 
I have a personal history with these bracelets. A total of 13 gold bracelets were recuperated by the Romanian government from several diggers that found the bracelets around the Sarmisegetusa Regia, the former capital of Dacia in the time of Decebal. After a very long and intricate investigation all the 13 bracelets were recuperated and some of them were exhibited at the National History Museum in Bucharest, Romania. In that time I was a radio journalist in Bucharest and I've followed the story about the bracelets and even went to the opening of the exhibition. They are special because they prove the Dacians were gold smiths, the previous recuperated Dacian bracelets were made of silver and had the same design. It is believed that the gold ones belonged the the rich and upper class citizens of Dacia and the silver to the poor. They are also the prove that a well established civilisation inhabited the lands before the Romans came and conquered it. 
This is a ritualistic mask and the person wearing it meant to impress his adversaries. Its intricate design bears a lot of symbols we recognise today. I recommend you see it from all angles when you go and visit the exhibition and it is a must to take an audio-guide (it is free) and listen to all the explanations.  
Another ritualistic object, it is made of silver with gold inlay and some parts as the eyes and the horns did not survived. What I found interesting on the horn (it is a goblet) is that on it you can see women drinking from it, maybe a goddess?  
Another object that has a special meaning to me. It is an object made to support the outfit of the women, similar to a brooch. It was discovered in Bulgaria, as the Dacian territory stretched over the Danube, but similar pieces were discovered in what we today call, Romania. It represents a deity and the birds on her shoulders and a symbol of unity. It is important to me, because I've used an image of the piece in my conference promoting the Romanian Blouse. You can clearly see that the blouse had the similar shape and ornaments as a contemporary IA. So to see the piece up close and take my own pictures of it, is, believe me, an grand occasion. 

Of course the exhibition has many more objects, some more interesting than the ones I've chose to show you. You can only discover them if you visit. I hope you liked reading this post as much as I liked putting it together and as usual we can continue chatting on Instagram, find me @mademoiselle.ralu

November 4, 2019

Luxembourg - Anne's Kitchen Cooking Classes at Auchan

As part of the Kachen Blog Awards (I promise I will write more about that) I had the opportunity to cook alongside Anne Faber a Luxembourgish food addict, as she describes herself. She was the first contact I had with Luxembourg when I stumbled upon her cooking book at one of the book shops in town. The only book I could actually read at that time, the only one in English.

I've read the recipe book (I know you don't read it, you follow it in creating delicious food, but have you met me?) and even tried the Bouneschlupp with her twist so for a while in my cook book shelf at home there was Nigella and Anne. I have to point out that her book, Home sweet home My Luxembourg is more than just a book with recipes. It is also a guide of Luxembourg of some sorts, so every time I would see a place from her pictures I became more familiar with my new home.

Fast forward a couple of years when Instagram made it to Luxembourg and I've started following her, and marvelled at her delicious culinary travels, gabbled up her stories, saved her pictures as future inspiration. Safe to say I knew her cooking style and wanted to take part in her cooking classes. The day came mediated by the team of Kachen Blog Awards and I was the first one to sign up.
So on a sunny Saturday evening we went to the cooking classes at Auchan in Cloche d'Or. We had to make five dishes and I have to say that I made 80% of them alone. As you already know, my husband cooks in our house.
Here he is helping Anne in mixing the dough for sausage muffins.
As the title suggest, we made finger food with a twist, Smoked Trout Pancake Rolls, Sausage Muffins, Vietnamese Summer Rolls, Truffle Hummus, Sausage Rolls and Marmalade Fizz.
Out of all I liked more the Truffle Hummus on bread and the dip of the Vietnamese Summer Rolls which are made in a similar way to the Romanian sarmale, just that on the Romanian recipe the ingredients are cooked in the cabbage roll. 





After we cooked, we got to share the food and it was delicious, we talked and got to know each other and left the workshop with a doggy bag (which I shamelessly eaten myself saving nothing for Luna) and a goody bag. It was a relaxed Saturday spent in the middle of busy Auchan Cloche d'Or.
So thank you so much for this opportunity, Kachen Blog Awards Team, Auchan Cloche d'Or and Anne's Kitchen. I actually suggest following those handles on social media as you will find more about Anne's Workshops and about the Blog Awards.
I hope you liked reading this post as much as I liked putting it together and as usual we can continue chatting on Instagram, find me @mademoiselle.ralu

October 14, 2019

Belgium - Brussels - Sublimation of Form Exhibition

For me Constantin Brâncuși was a genius, so expect a very, but very subjective post.
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The Sublimation of Form Exhibition is the flagship event of the Europalia in 2019. An art festival in essence, Europalia celebrates every two years a country's cultural heritage. Established in 1969 in Brussels, the festival has events in all the neighbouring countries from October to January. The festival expenses are shared between Belgium and the invited country, and in 2019-2020 that is Romania.

The Brâncuși Exhibition is the main event of the festival and it is hosted by Bozar - Centre of Fine Arts in the heart of Brussels. It is the first time a solo exhibition will be part of the festival in Brussels as the last Brâncuși retrospective was organised in Paris, 25 years ago.
I hate to start with a critic and normally I do not notice these things, but as offended I am when someone misspells my name, I would have liked to at least at the beginning of the exhibition see Brâncuși written correctly. You have to understand that although a migrant, Brâncuși was Romanian and this is how we write his name, especially in an exhibition organised in part by our country.
I have to admit as a Romanian you feel a bit proud when you see these posters all over Brussels and although I had two attempts to visit the exhibition since it opened, I went to see it with my friends last Sunday. 
The ticket is a bit on the expensive side, 17 euros, but thinking of the massive effort this exhibition must have taken, I would say the price is reasonable. Also the catalogue of the exhibition is 40 euros and compared to others in the museum shop is a bit unattractive.
From the little I've read about Brâncuși, I know he was the master of perfection. His works of art are exhibited on pedestals he created and the art piece and the support form a whole image, he took photos of his sculptures from all angles to see which ones could best showcase the art and his workshop in Paris is left unchanged to present exactly that, he shaped his own imagine, by controlling all the photos of him that made it to the press and by taking something we today call selfies in order to be sure his image was the exact right one. That is why when you see a sculpture by Brâncuși, you don't see just the shaped material, you see a whole concept. So I advise you in Brussels to go around the sculptures and see them from all the angles, you will be surprised that the art pieces are exquisite all around. 
The Brussels exhibition is thought by its curator, Doïna Lemny, from Pompidou Centre, Paris as a parallel between Brâncuși and other artists that lived and created during his lifetime. A way of including Brâncuși in his own time, of understanding him and his art in report to art currents. Along Brâncuși's sculptures there are exhibited pictures of similar entitled works of art created at almost the same time by different artists. To understand this I strongly suggest that you buy the exhibition catalogue, or read very carefully all the labels of the art or get a free audio guide.
Known as The Wisdom of the world, (we call her Cumințenia Pămantului) was part of the biggest public collect of founds done by a government to buy a piece of art own by private collectors. In 2016 the Romanian Government tried to raise 6 million euros from the population that together with their own founds would buy the sculpture. The campaign was unsuccessful and I saw the sculpture in Brussels belonging to the Romașcu family, the descendants of Gheorghe Romșcu who bought the sculpture from Brâncuși in 1911.
The Kiss (Sărutul) is a sculpture I really wanted to see up close. The sculpture in Brussels was one of the first carved by Brâncuși as little by little the forms of the two characters intertwine and their arms and facial features are only suggested by the artist. This art piece along with others were part of a trial intended by the Romanian artist to the United States of America. As the story goes, Brâncuși send by post many of his sculptures in 1913 to be exhibited in USA, but the customs workers opened the crates and considered the abstract sculptures as kitchen utensils and hospital equipment and not art works exempted by custom fees. To free his art, Brâncuși had to pay the equivalent of 2500 dollars in today's money and he sewed the American state. The trial was eventually won by the Romanian sculptor in 1928 and the judge declared the sculptures as modern art and thus exempted from custom fees. Brâncuși vs USA shaped the art of that time and is even today given as example. 
Mademoiselle Pogany, another famous sculpture I was fortunate to see up close in Luxembourg in 2013 in marble, is exhibited in bronze in Brussels. This is one of the five sculptures baring the same name. 
Danaïde sculpture linked with the Greek Mythology, was first carved in limestone and was very different from the piece exhibited in Brussels. Brâncuși rethinks the shape of the sculpture after the Pogany series giving it the distinctive eyes and also a hair bun similar to the first Pogany sculpture. It is sculpted or shaped in bronze and exhibited on a limestone base.

The Sublimation of Form exhibition has many more art works by Brâncuși, but I only focused my article on those four that really impressed me. You can of course see the Măiastra or Bird in Space, Prometheus, Prayer and some early works, you will find difficult to imagine they belong to Brâncuși.

A few words of advice

Do not visit the exhibition on Sundays or during the weekend. Despite the steep ticket price, the exhibition is packed and you will not enjoy it as it should be. Of course coming from Luxembourg it is a bit difficult to visit it on week days, but I have to hope it is less crowded then. 

Buy the tickets from the ticket office on the opposite side of the road from the exhibition location, don't make the same mistake we have, of reaching the middle point of the exhibition without a ticket and having to get back our coats from the dressing room, exit the building, cross the street and purchase the tickets.

The entrance of the Brâncuși exhibition is in front of the name sign from the first picture of this article and not at the end of the hallway. Poorly organised, if you reach the People's Palace shaped of Carpați cigarettes boxes you are on the wrong way and have to go back. You will better understand once you visit the exhibition.

As a personal note, I would have liked that the explanations of the art-works or pictures were written in Romanian alongside Dutch, French and English. It may be me learning about linguistic landscape, but I totally think that Romanian should be present. 

Finally, after seeing the exhibition in Brussels and all the work that must have gone into putting it together, I consider myself fortunate to have seen the 2013 Brâncuși exhibition in Luxembourg. Organised by a small Romanian association, the Luxembourg event, was more intimate, better structured and showcased different art-works. It is great that the Brussels exhibition exists, it is different, but to my opinion, something missed. 

But do go and see it for yourself, it is a great accomplishment for the organisers and for Romania as a country, a different way of showing who we were and maybe still are.

As always if you enjoyed my article as much as I've enjoyed writing it, you can find me and get the conversation going on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

September 27, 2019

4 lessons to 40

Yes boys and girls, I am forty this year. I know I don't look it, but I am. If you've been here a while you already know me, the one writing these lines, little by little you have read my views on life in the past 10 years of blogging, of moving, of changing, of living, so these should not be much of a surprise to you. Still, here are my 4 lessons to 40:

1. Money isn't everything

Yes it is OK to have money to live a decent life, but money should not be a purpose in life. Think about how many experiences you missed while you were gathering money to buy the dream house, think how many things are left undiscovered while you watched your bank account grow, while you slave to gather more money, think about your family, how often you have free fun? I have friends who see things on the opposite spectrum, some have even considered me a hippie, a dreamer. I cherish their views on life, but I have mine. I am fine with sharing a sandwich on a bench at the Belvedere with my husband and Luna, I do not need Michelin Star restaurants with fancy food, I do not need 1000 euros a night rooms at hotels, I am OK with travelling low cost or by car and I gather experiences, I gather happy memories and not money.

2. There is a gap between you and your parents and that is OK

For a long time it bothered me that my parents did not understand what I did, my choices. For them by now I should have bought my own large house, I would have populated it with 2 kids, I would have a steady job at an office so they could be happy knowing I am secure, somewhere. They lived in different times and experienced different worlds than the one I live in. Do not feel the pressure OR if you are a parent reading this, do not force your child to live the life you dream for him or you dreamt for yourself, but somehow missed it. At some point in life there is a switch and you start to know what is best and not your parents.

3. You are an unique and beautiful individual

Run away from comparisons, stop competing for God knows what! As long as on this earth there isn't another women of forty years, married, who studied journalism and communication, who worked in radio and TV, who lived in Iasi, Bucharest, Dublin and Luxembourg and has a dog, I have no one to compare myself with. Your friends come from different backgrounds, they have different views on life, is it worth comparing with them? Your coworkers are as different from you as it is the Sun from the Moon, you are comparing what exactly? Stop running the rat race and just live. You are an unique and beautiful individual with your own path.

4. Life in not over at thirty, it is not over at forty, not even at fifty, it is not over when you miss an exam, it is not over when you have a breakup, it is not over when you have kids, when you are fired, when you loose someone, it is over when it's over. So enjoy life as it is. Is there more to say here?

And one last thing, DO NOT JUDGE, ACCEPT. Your coworker has different, opposite ideas? Believe me, that is a good thing. The parents of your kid's friend see things different? It is ok. Your friends have changed? Not your problem, find new friends if they start to bother you. Do not judge others, you will only loose time and you will only fill your brain with wrong ideas. Accept.

And guys, I don't feel a day older than 18 even though I am twice that age. Age is just a numberdon't let that number define YOU!