Mystical clothing

Mystical clothing

May 31, 2021

Today, many clothing designers with different attitudes to the Russian North base their collection concepts on hand-sewn northern suits.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. There is a lot of interest in such clothes: everyone wants to buy something unique, a thing that has a story behind it. Moreover, this story can be quite unusual. As, for example, the one of the Norilsk College of Arts’ graduate Maria Tkachuk, who called her costume Portal to the Lower World.

To think over the artistic image of her thesis, the girl spent a lot of time studying the history and folklore of the Nganasans. And this is understandable. The costume is an exclusive element of northern culture.

The indigenous clothing is an exclusive element of northern culture

“All natural phenomena among this northern people are considered the result of the action of special spirits. A person’s well-to-do existence depends on them”, says Maria Tkachuk. “According to the Nganasans, there are two master spirits of the earth. One of them is the benevolent gray-haired old man Baikuo nuo – an old deity. The second owner of the land is the evil Fannida, who lives under the turf. With his mouth open, he expects dead people to come to him. He is a kind of master of the Lower World. According to the Nganasans’ beliefs, there are three of them: upper, middle and lower.

The mystical underworld interested the young craftswoman most of all. She took it as the basis of her thesis. Making versions of sketches, Maria settled on the idea of creating an allegory costume.

“The lower world is called Bodyrbomou – the Land of the Dead. The main supernatural beings of the Nganasans are Nguo, Kocha, Barusi and Dyamadi”, she gives details.

The word ‘nguo’ meaning ‘sky’ or ‘mother’, and ‘kocha’ is ‘disease’. Thus, the matter of the elements, natural phenomena and the personification of diseases began to be combined into one category of gods. Barusi is usually just a supernatural being, sometimes scary and cruel, sometimes kind and naive. Well, the dyamadis are the shamans’ assistants.

“An ordinary person, once alive in Bodyrbomou, becomes nguo for the dead. Evil deities and spirits, or barusis, are not capable of any good deeds. Illness, death – in general, everything bad comes from them”, a college graduate shares her knowledge of Nganasan folklore. “The costume that I decided to create is an artistic image of a portal connecting our middle world with the lower world. It is called the Portal to the Lower World.

The work of the northern craftswoman is rather unusual. It is a rectangular cape with sharp shoulders directed upwards, which is distinguished by the rigidity and asceticism of the cut line. When creating the costume, Maria used contrasting colors: white, black and silver interspersed with liver-red. The combination of various materials also, according to her idea, contributes to the disclosure of the image: the ‘cold’ and ‘shine’ of the leather is opposed to the ‘warmth’ of suede.

“I decorated the headdress, shoes and arm ruffles with ornamental rectangular stripes imitating a promising ‘entrance’ to the lower world”, says Maria Tkachuk. “To enhance the visual impression of the image, I applied the graphic rows of the Nganasan ornament. The ornament, made using the applique technique, is bordered on all sides by a black relief line of threads twisted with a braided strap – it imitates the embroidery with deer neck hair. Thus, I endowed the artistic image of my thesis with a special, mystical, character”.

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Text: Elena Popova, Photo: Norilsk College of Arts

May 31, 2021

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