(March 10, 2022) Rufina Bazlova is a Belarusian embroidery artist, currently based in the Czech republic. Our Photo Essay this month includes highlights from her recent project, VYZHYVANKA, which began in August 2020, and has been ongoing with new works consistently appearing on Bazlova’s Instagram.
She uses the visual language of Belarusian traditional embroidery, called vyshyvanka, to illustrate the resistance of Belarusian citizens in the aftermath of the widely discredited election of Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020 Changing the “S” in vyshyvanka to a “Z” Rufina Bazlova transforms it into a version of the Belarusian verb, ‘to survive’. In the past week, of course, that “Z” has come to represent Volodymyr Zelenskyy, besieged president of Ukraine, now under attack by Russia, with support from Belarus.
Rufina Bazlova contextualizes her work by telling us, “Historically, Belarusian women could neither read nor write, and embroidery and weaving were almost the only way to depict the surrounding life. This is how special geometric patterns arose that conceal many meanings and symbolism. For example, red symbolizes blood or life, and white freedom and purity. We can say that Belarusian ornaments are a kind of code of our national history, written by women, and which can be read as a text or a message.”
Physical collections of the work have also been displayed internationally.
In making her work, Bazlova makes vector drawings of designs before embroidering. A catalogue of the series, with accompanying testimony from Belarusian political prisoners and citizens, can be found at Bazlova’s website, which depicts her gallery show The History of Belerusian Vyzhyvanka – Embroidered chronicles of resistance in Belarus. Scroll down to see depictions of her embroidery featured on her website. The captions are the ones used in the gallery exhibit.
Editor’s Note: The nation of Belarus is closely involved in the current Ukraine/Russia war. It has been the site for two (unsuccessful) rounds of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, and is the subject of Western sanctions because of the repressive and criminal behaviour of its president, Alexander Lukashenko. After these events, Lukashenko’s position has weakened greatly, because of the illegal nature of his government, and a massive amount of ‘unsustainable foreign public debt’ and he has become increasingly dependent on Putin for support. Now, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarusian human rights activist and politician who ran in the 2020 Belarusian presidential election,has declared that Putin has taken control of Belarus’ government, and is using its military in the war against Ukraine. While the events depicted below happened in 2020, the conflict continues.