Teaching ethnographic diversity with weaving and lullabies
Rasma Noreikytė works in the Open-Air Museum of Lithuania (Rumšiškės, 20 km from Kaunas), one of the largest ethnographic open-air museums in Europe (about 200 ha). It represents a huge dynamic workshop area with over 40 different educational programmes. With them visitors can learn about Lithuanian traditions of the five ethnographic regions.
The artist organizes seminars “Make your own national costume” for which she invites different experts in sewing shirts, weaving on an old loom, etc. Rasma represents the northern region Samogitia the main centre of Lithuanian culture in the 19th century that traditionally tended to oppose any anti-Lithuanian restrictions.
‘Samogitian people can be described as dignified, stubborn, brave and militant, and I think all these words describe me too’, – says Rasma who works with old weaving techniques in the museum and teaches the art to others.
The Open-Air Museum of Lithuania is not participating in the program of the Kaunas 2022, but it’s popular with local communities. People particularly appreciate original programmes that offer insights into teaching children traditions and good manners. Most educational activities have their roots in the 19th-century traditions; they were carefully researched and found their reflection in the original workshops.
For example, one educator bases her interactive course on the spring tradition of greeting storks, and she links it to culinary traditions, introducing participants to the dishes and recipes used at that time.
Another popular program for children is „Infancy and childhood in the old house“. It covers the child’s christening celebrations, lullabies and games in the Lithuanian countryside. Guests also can play with old wooden toys, taste “birch porridge”, participate in the workshops ‘Put the doll to sleep’ and ‘Make a “sucker”, try on the clothes and shoes of that time and do some children’s jobs.
The bread and chocolate of the Lithuanian creativity for an Italian project
The video ‘La strada di cioccolato‘ is a Rasma’s recent work for Latitudo -Art Project (Italy). The director of the project Benedetta Carpi De Resmini invited the artist to participate in Rodari Online – Evening Readings and create a short video for one of Gianni Rodari’s tales. Latitudo – Art Projects is a smart, sustainable and inclusive cultural project, the leading partner of Kaunas Biennial.
‘I chose the novel The Chocolate Road because it struck me by its symbolism – the contrast of black and white: black is chocolate and white is biscuit, – says Rasma. – In the modern context, it has two important implications: constant disagreements between black and white people and the controversial role of food and conspicuous consumption. These and other aspects of this novel reflect on our irresponsibility in daily life like eating and spending in excess’.
To put more emphasis on these social problems, Rasma replaced biscuit with bread, which is daily food as opposed to chocolate that epitomizes rather excessive use. This helped the artist in the best way possible to represent the main idea of The Chocolate Road: it’s unclear if three Barletta’s brothers can eat again a lot of sweets and if there will be other lucky children.
Experimental collaborative projects help Rasma to learn the customs of other cultures and engage in cultural exchange. I have already written about our collaboration in the projects of Plovdiv 2019 (Bulgaria).
Another impressive project 25Milion Stitches Installation has recently been completed and presented by Rasma and her colleague Aiste at Kauno Kulturos Centras in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Upcoming: New tapestries inspired by long walks
Contrasting elements are highlights of Rasma’s arts. The case in point is the tapestry Mètis inspired by a personal love story. Contrasts help Rasma highlight similarities of human feelings and experiences.
Her works based on personal experiences but raise universal modern themes of identity, racial discrimination, social exclusion, ageing, national traditions and time. Her art expands the old traditions of weaving and enriches innovative digital art forms. The harmonious interplay of black and white is a recurring motif of Rasma’s style.
‘At the moment, I’m collaborating with my friend a photographer with whom we were taking pictures which I will transmit on to fabrics I weave, – shares her plans Rasma. – During the pandemic time we had some long walks, talking about who we are, what our roots are, how our behaviour, feelings depend on our ancestors’.
Images: Metis, Photo Credit: copyright: Gareth Bate, 2009, www.llbm.lt/en/, www.insight-oriented.com/, www.25millionstitches.com/
This post is part of the project the Month of Cultural Exchange between creative practitioners of European Capitals of Culture. More details are on my November Facebook timeline. The Cultural Exchange started with a post about a creative practitioner of Plovdiv 2019 (Bulgaria).