Sula. The Continuous.

You are viewing some of the photos from my new project – “Sula. The Continuous”. Within it, I research the life in a village in the Gomel region during a spring celebration – a traditional rite of “Burying the Arrow”. The celebration tradition has remained unchanged for many generations: the village women adorn themselves with national dresses. They sing and come towards each other from the opposite sides of the village, until they join up into one circle dance, moving to the spring rye without breaking their songs. It’s as if they are weaving a traditional rushnik towel in the form of a joyful road to happiness and prosperity. They dance in circles and sing, and afterwards they bury a “Sula”, a symbol of dark destructive energy, into the ground, reforming it into kindness, well-being and success. They collect protective talismans, spikelets, fall down and roll around in the rye, absorbing health and power.

The camera allows me to capture the unique world of traditions combined with a somewhat aloof daily life of the village. Once – pagans, then – Christians, yesterday – communists, now – Orthodox Christians, yet they still prefer to adhere to a superstition of spitting thrice over the left shoulder to deceive potential threats. That’s one of the ways of marking the cultural melt shown in this series. Traditional clothing reminds of ethnographic photos by Mikhas Romanuyk. However, now, it has become a strange rift between the traditions and the modernity. The photos simultaneously show hundred-year-old traditional dresses and worn-down plastic sandals made in China. Globalization reaches these villages, however, it’s filtered through its uniqueness, becoming something new, something authentic.

I tried to imbue my photos with a feeling of synesthesia. With our eyes, we can feel the smell of rye, hear the rite songs and smell garlic and cured pork fat. We see the combination of the “ye old times”, the daily life and the humour. The “Burying the Arrow” ceremony is a rite intended to align oneself with the insurmountable movement of life substances in everything that’s bound to sprout, grow and flourish. They themselves have no memory of when and why it all started. Still, the laws of archaic rites directly ascended from the developed crafts of weaving and sowing are strictly followed by the local singers. Thousands of generations have gone by, however, the foundation built by our grand-grandmothers rises up into the sky as fibers and threads again and again, while the shuttle of memory hastily creates an ancient pattern of worshipping the earth and the sky, the herbs and the bread, the beginning and the end. The continuity is within the ability to change, to acquire something new, while maintaining the old. This is captured in the vibrant colours of the series photos.

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