April 17, 2018

The tales behind IA Aidoma Exhibition in Luxembourg

I love saying that every Romanian Blouse tells a story and it is true, but imagine what a whole exhibition of 40 Romanian Blouses has to tell!

I wanted to write this post independent of the emotions, the struggle to bring the exhibition here. That is why this post comes a day before we pack the exhibition. If you are interested, I am talking about the Exhibition called IA Aidoma, it was exhibited between March 5th and April 17th at the Court of Justice of the European Union. The exhibition is composed of 40 Romanian Blouses, which are copies of old blouses that are own by all the major textile and ethnographic museums around the world.

First tale is one of friendship. On short, ever since I started documenting the Romanian Blouses, I wanted to organise an exhibition in Luxembourg. Because at that time there were no new blouses to be exhibited and the private collections were only at the beginning, my idea was to have sort of a pop up event, showing to the audience the Romanian Blouses which made it to Luxembourg. Interested in migration and expats, I wanted to show that although Romanian women packed everything in the hopes of starting a new life, they made a little bit of space for their Romanian Blouses inherited from their grandmothers or even bought from a rural fair somewhere.

That was then, but last year I had the opportunity to visit the IA Aidoma exhibition in my hometown, Iasi, the capital of Moldova. I was blown away and thought at that time that the exhibition was perfect for my purpose, which was exhibiting it in Luxembourg. That was in March. In April, one of my best friends in Luxembourg, told me that there is a lady teaching other women how to make their own Romanian Blouses in a cosy coffee place in city centre. I contacted her, but it took me a month and a half to actually go to one of the meetings. We started talking and she instantly became my friend. She was making at that time a blouse destined for IA Aidoma Exhibition and it was a sign. We had to unite our forces to bring the exhibition here.

Fast forward one year and Ștefania saw her Romanian Blouse exhibited not only in Luxembourg, but also in Spain and in a couple of big towns in Romania. She is my friend now, we talk almost daily and we plan a lot of interesting things together.

The second tale is of history. Two of the blouses exhibited in Luxembourg were blouses of historical Romanian figures. One belonged to Princess Ileana of Romania, the youngest daughter of Queen Mary of Romania. Her blouse is now exhibited in Ohio, where she ended up after she was forced to migrate when communists took over Romania. The other one belonged to Elisabeta Rizea, a fighter against communist regime and a partisan from Fagarasi Mountains. On one of the visits when we stood in front of that blouse, one of the visitors told me that she was from Elisabeta Rizea's village, and described her very vividly. What a chance and an honour at the same time to guide that tour at that particular time!

Third one is a tale of migration. I was so wrapped up in tales of migration, that I completely forgot at one point that migration is a continuous process. It did not start now and most definitely it will not stop now. At some point Romania was considered an El Dorado and people from all over Europe, especially this region went there to get rich, but people also migrated at the cause of war, when parts of Romania were taken from the whole and became parts of other countries. This exhibition opened my eyes in a lot of ways and one was about migration.

Forth tale is about identity. I've searched for so long it seems for a round complete identity and could not find one. Living in Luxembourg forces you to fit into a box, but I could not find mine. Searching for an identity I started documenting the Romanian Blouses and learning little by little their tales. I am still not part of a box yet, but my identity got a big boost after organising this exhibition. I've learned so much about who I am mostly, that now I stopped searching for a fix notion of identity and started building my future.

Fifth tale is of imagination. Every time I would guide one of our tours I would ask people what they saw on a particular blouse, or what they thought the symbols embroidered represent, what the blouse as a whole transmits. The answers blown my mind every time. I was so used to the blouses at one point that I forgot to use my imagination to recreate the universe where the women who made the originals would live. I was so focused on the result, that I forgot about enjoying that the exhibition was here, that I could touch it and learn from it.

Sixth tale is of humbleness. Imagine the peasant woman making the original blouses on a small cottage in a remote village somewhere, sometimes lacking utilities and light. Imagine her having to leave all that universe and start from scratch in America for example. Today we are overwhelmed by that change, imagine how she must have felt! You think at one point she started saying she was american? You think that at one point she forgot where she came from? You think that at one point she taught her kids another language than her own? I don't think so. I think she kept her values, and I think she passed them on to her children. And those children were aware that their mother's blouse was a treasure and that is why they are now in museums. That is why they made it to us:

I said my thanks so many times that now they lost their value, but to you the one reading this, please know that I am grateful!
I hope you loved reading this post as much as I loved putting it together! Also, if you fancy keeping in contact with me, drop a line at on Facebook.

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