Coco Chanel of Dolgan origin
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Coco Chanel of Dolgan origin

August 14, 2020

The creator of the costume theater introduces the history of the Taimyr peoples to the world.

It is just impossible not to recognize the teacher of the decorative and applied arts and folk crafts department of the Norilsk College of Arts (NCA). The striking appearance, style and posture of a real lady make her stand out from the crowd. Most often, you can meet Elena Sotnikova within the walls of her native NCA, where the master creates and transfers skills to students.

According to Elena, coming to Norilsk after graduating from the Krasnoyarsk Art School named after Surikov was not a dream of her entire life. The graduate was inclined to return to Khatanga, closer to home. But fate prepared Elena for life in a city where there were no acquaintances at all, but wide opportunities for creativity opened up.

“My parents are common people,” said Elena Sotnikova. “I was brought up, like all children. But even at school, my friends noticed something unusual in me. They said: “You are not like others”. I was craving for creativity since my childhood”.

Elena embroidered the first beaded ornament at the age of five. At 20 she ended up in Norilsk, where she began her professional career at the northern branch of the Norilsk Music College, now the College of Arts, as a teacher of artistic embroidery.

After more than 30 years, modest and passionate about her work, Elena has become a figure of such a scale that her name sounds far beyond the Taimyr Peninsula. Her students are shining at thematic festivals in Russia, Europe and Asia. The main brainchild of Elena Sotnikova can be considered the Baraksan fashion theater, created at the College of Arts and representing the culture of all ethnic groups in Taimyr: the Dolgans, Nganasans, Enets, Evenks and Nenets.

Thanks to the master, the Norilsk people learned that “baraksan” in the Dolgan language means joy, delight, jubilation. Handmade costumes using fur and beads, leather and cloth, suede and rovduga (deerskin suede) evoke these feelings in the viewer. It becomes clear that these are not just costumes. Each outfit and image is a history, philosophy, worldview and a reflection of the views of the graduates who created such works.

You can admire the Baraksan models not only at holidays, exhibitions and city festivals. To touch the culture of the northern peoples, anyone can go to the Norilsk College of Arts and get acquainted with the work of young masters and their leaders.

“Over the years of our work, a circle of people has formed in the city who are interested in the culture of the Taimyr peoples”, said Elena Sotnikova. “We meet them at events and within the walls of the NCA. There are not so many centers of folk art in Norilsk as, for example, in Dudinka. But we still strive to convey the important thing that you need to know about indigenous peoples, living in our territory. This is our mission”.

Perhaps, today in Norilsk there is no such master of his craft who would have so many unspoken titles as Elena does. She is called the goddess of creativity, the fairy of the arts and crafts department, the guardian of the culture of Taimyr and even Coco Chanel of the Dolgan people.

She is a connoisseur of her origin, a guide between the modern lifestyle and the traditions that are hundreds years old. After graduating from the Norilsk College of Arts, not all graduates associate their work with creativity. Their professional path develops in different ways. But many come to college, bring their children, introduce them to Elena , show the works created under their beloved teacher’s guidance. Raised by her example and vision, they try to share this knowledge and pass it on to the new generations.

Read about other outstanding Taimyr people in our Territory genius section

August 14, 2020

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