August 27, 2018

Romania - Sibiu, IA Aievea Exhibition

It took me so long to write about the exhibition in Sibiu which I've visited at the end of June, because I had to filter all the information and somehow enjoy it by myself before I'll start sharing it with you.

I was selfish, I know, but imagine you are passionate about something and you touch the pinnacle of that field. Don't you need a couple of days to digest it all?

That for me was IA Aievea exhibition in Sibiu. There were a couple of magical days in which I got to know all or most of the people I silently stock over social media, people passionate about the Romanian Blouses, people promoting Romanian arts and artisans.

If you are new here, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, so let me quickly explain. In Romania we have a traditional, old, authentic, folk, costume and part of that costume is the Romanian Blouse. A piece of clothing which is more than just a piece of clothing, it's an armour, an apotropaic shield, a language on its own, a heritage, that we recently rediscovered and which we thought it was lost.

You see, Romania had to endure communism for more time than I care to count, and during that time we all had to be the same, we all had to dress the same, think the same, act in the same way and mostly do whatever we were told to do. There wasn't a time in which the uniqueness of the Romanian national costume could flourish, it had to be destroyed, our identity had to be destroyed, burned, buried, hidden. Our costume was turned into a joke, the same costume for all the regions, the same symbols for men and women, the same colours, so we all look the same.

It took us more than 20 years since the communism supposedly left Romania to find what was ours all along. It was a giant effort and it's still a giant work to relearn what they wanted us to forget. One person that lead the fight was an architect from Romania and her name is Ioana Corduneanu. I remember reading her blog with a pen and paper, absorbing all she was willing to give over the Internet. She went from village to village, even to the parts of Europe which are no longer ours and rediscovered the Romanian costume, the particularities depending on the region, how it was connected to the costumes of our neighbours, the way in which it was made, reading old written books, deciphering the symbols and eventually I think it was in 2012 she gathered some like minded women and started recreating the blouses (Semne Cusute in Actiune over Facebook). The first exhibition was an amazing thing, they were relearning old techniques, people were relearning how to make their own cloth, how to naturally taint their own threads. Now looking back, the blouses were simple and somehow childish, but I have an standard from which to look back to.

Then a few years later, came the second exhibition. Now the level was the superlative. The women from Ioana Corduneanu's group (Semne Cusute) recreated blouses from ethnographic museums all over the world, bringing them home. They weren't just copying the old blouses, as there was nothing to be copied, they were deciphering photos published by museums over the Internet and imagining the whole blouse. I had the honour to bring that exhibition in Luxembourg and it is called IA Aidoma.

Then, came IA Aievea, when no one thought there was something more to be done. But there is always progress, they were recreating new blouses based on little pieces of cloth from old blouses. Imagine making a whole blouse from just a square centimetre of embroidered cloth. The work behind, the documentation, the years of learning, of trial and error. That's what I saw in Sibiu.

Of course now you can very simply start your own blouse, because now you have the means to do it. Now you have the cloth, the threads and most importantly the knowledge. There were bumps along the way, progress was never easy, but days like the ones spent in Sibiu are worth all the struggles, all the fights, all the back stabbing, all bad mouthing as we Romanians are capable of inflicting one another.

We have a saying in Romanian, "câinii latră, caravana trece" (the dogs bark, but the caravan passes) which translated means almost nothing, but for us means that when progressing towards something, there meant to be some bumps along the way, don't mind them, just keep walking.

And IA Aievea is progress. I honestly don't know what the next step is going to be, but knowing the Romanian women be sure that in two years I will be mesmerised by another exhibition.

So, if you happen to pass by Sibiu please do check this exhibition. It is in the Astra Museum in the Little Square, it is opened until October, but please go there with an open heart! And if you are passionate about Romanian traditions and particularly the Romanian blouse, stick around. I will write articles from time to time about it.


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