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Masking traditions festival, Daugavpils,
19-22 february 2004

      Where, as not in a festival of masks, it is possible «to show ourselfs, and to look at people»? Sure, you should show «Not-Us», and to look at «Not-People», otherwise the sense of the disguise can be lost. And, apparently, it appears very easy, but no, you can not to run away from yourself and to hide under a mask.


      This year the festival was divided: a part of ensembles has left to Ilukste, and I can only guess, what they did there. In Daugavpils excepting «Not-Us» - the group Ilyinskaya pyatnica, were also a lot of «Not-Peoples»: Skandinieki from Riga, Krivule from Vilnius (Lithuania), Svatra from Daugavpils, Zdravica from Ventspils, Mezha from Tver (Russia) and others.

Ilyinskaya pyatnica

      I think, that it is not necessary to introduce Skandinieki - they are a group, who is on the front line of Latvian folklore movement from it's beginning until now. Krivule I saw for the first time, however, it is one of oldest Lithuanian ensembles. The vital experience maked them wise and one can see it in any thing they are doing. Hard-working Zdravica continues to assert their positions of life and by the persistence even causes some respect. As has told one known ethnomusicologist: «Their way is not a choice, it is a destiny...» The only one new group for the Baltic space was Mezha from Tver, and about them I wish to tell more detailed.

      In 2001 the ensemble Uzorochye of the Tver Musorgsky musical college, which worked at folk-choral branch, has decided to rename and assumed a name Mezha. Mezha is the name of river in a southwest of the Tver area, in places, where participants of the group write down their folklore material. But the word «mezha» means also «a boundary, a side, a border», thus, it has a symbolical sense too. Folk-choral branch of the Tver musical college was transformed into folklore-ethnographical one and the change of the name was a closing stage of this difficult process. According to the leader of the ensemble Irina Nekrasova, Mezha means a border between tradition and modern mass culture too, and, simultaneously, a thin side between the past, the present and, we hope, the future.


      Not so frequently presently accomplishes to make a video of a process of manufacturing of a mummer's costume, and less often - of his acting. Such staff is priceless, any textual description can not replace it. One can describe as much as possible a star sky, a war or even a death. But one who did not seen it, anyway will not understand. Disguise is a text, reached us from apart. To understand it's sense, it is necessary to know the language of this text: the lexicon, the grammar, the syntax and, of course, the semantics.

The Death in the railway station.

      Mummers there are on a border, mezha, separating This World from Other World, and if you are still alive, and you see a true character of a ceremonial disguise, most likely you will have strong sensations. If you don't have them, it means that either you are already dead or the character is counterfeit.
      At the last three festivals I seen two foreign ensembles, which on my sight managed to come to the point of a ceremonial disguise. It is surprising, that from the both I heard practically same words. Leaders of the Lithuanian Taduja from Kelme city (participant of the festival in 2002) and Russian Mezha from the city of Tver consider, that «on festivals they are compelled to make curties in public, to invent scenic forms of masking, consequences of which are rather disputable».

      On experience of the last years, a procession of the first day, before the official opening of the festival, is the most alive festival's activity. It is understandable: before the «begin» the «protocol» is more free. Unfortunately, this year I did not came yet at the time of the procession and I can tell about it only from of eye-witnesses accounts.
      The procession was very active: mummers talk with everybody, danced, asked some food, catched girls etc. The local people reacted differently, basically - very benevolent, but some tried to hide in nearest shops (anyway, it did not help).


      One of the best episodes was procession visit in the town council. The bear and his accompanying have got confused in corridors of municipality. They came in all doors, inducing horror on officials, «studying» papers on tables, or trying to capture a telephone.


A Stack of hay from Vydsmuizha - the II place.

      When mummers leave, dances begin, and this traditional situation involuntarily arose on all four festivals in Daugavpils, where I has been. If at the sixth festival dances will be not included in the time-table of activities, its will begin unoficially. Dances is an element of the traditional culture, which gets accustomed instantly in a modern city, it is necessary only to introduce it there. The figures of folk dances are so simple, that are accessible to any man, which though slightly has realized, that he has a body capable to move in the space. Simultaneously its are so complex, that contain nearly all variants of human relation.

A crane of Ceiruleits from Livani - II place at review of separate masks.

      The festival this time has managed without a large stage. On my sight it was not bad, because a platform, a theatrical stage is an alien space for a folklore ensemble.

A deceased of Olūteni from Astashovo - I place at review of separate masks.

      Ethnographical ensembles took part in the review of 2002. Why they did not participate any more? They are unique support and hope of us. They know the «language» we only try to learn. We should carry them on hands and catch everyone their word. Instead of it they are included in competitions together with cities' folklore ensembles.

      Article: Sergey Alyonkin, 4 March 2004
      Photos: Yelena Yekimova

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