(daughter — in Mari language)
My project is about the loss of connection with the culture and language of the Mari people. I was born in Yoshkar-Ola in the Republic of Mari El. My nationality is Mari. When I was 14 years old in the census I listed myself as Russian. At the age of 25 I changed my place of residence, moving to St. Petersburg.
My parents were born in the 60s in small villages in the Republic of Mari El. At that time there was a division into Mari and Russian: villages and schools. In spite of the fact that they were of Mari nationality, by the will of fate they both graduated from schools without studying the national language and culture.
My story mirrored theirs. I went to the first grade in the school near my home, where the Mari language was spoken. I still remember how there I learned to count to 1 to 10 and the names of some animals. Then there was a move to a new apartment and a change of school. It was a difficult period and age — I began to be shy about my appearance, nationality and wanted to be Russian only. As for my parents, they were shy to speak their native language when they moved from the village to the city and switched to Russian even with the Mari.
The project was filmed in the village where my mother grew up. The last permanent resident of the village was my grandmother. My mother kept my grandmother’s dresses and towels, which she sewed herself. My grandmother’s house has been empty since January 2014, the year she passed away. A few more decades and there would be nothing left of the houses in the village. The cliff that overlooked the forest landscape is overgrown with forests. The well where they used to take drinking water has rotted away, the water in it has died out and has become unfit for drinking.
While working on the project, I discovered many new things about my national culture and customs. For example, that in addition to the Orthodox faith the modern inhabitants of the republic have ancestral beliefs, the ancient Mari paganism — chimari. A vivid memory from my childhood is a ritual in a sacred grove, which I was also present. At that time a goose was sacrificed. At the present time there are about 300 such groves, one of them is located near my mother’s village.
There are about 40 gods in the Mari pagan pantheon. According to Mari mythology, every person after birth had his patron goddess Shochin Awa. She was represented in the image of a woman who invisibly follows her ward, protecting him from all sorts of adversity. I made the goddess Shochin Awa from polymer clay for the project.
With the birth of my child, there was the desire of my parents to preserve and transmit ethnic traditions, so that the cultural memory develops in the next generation. And only now, working on the project, I immerse myself in history and culture, I realize the uniqueness and uniqueness of my ethnic roots. Together with my son we learn words from the alphabet my father gave him. We read tales about the Mari heroes Chotkar and Chumbylat and the silver-toothed beauty Pampalche. We visit villages and cemeteries associated with our ancestors.