JADEIVE series – Self Proclaimed Goddess

The Jadeive series is inspired by Baltic and Slavic mythologies and loosely based on my fascination with a tribe of Yatvingians, an old European nation that used to live in the southeastern part of the Baltic area, currently part of northeast of Poland where I was born and grew up surrounded by magnificent nature of the oldest European forest and the beauty of the region known as the Country of Thousands Lakes.

Jadeive, a self proclaimed goddess is the name created for the series, a mix of Polish (Slavic language) “JA” meaning “SELF” and Lithuanian “DEIVE” meaning “GODDESS”, etymologically derived from Sanskrit: devi – the feminine form, and deva – the masculine form, meaning “heavenly, divine, anything of excellence”.

The series relates to the rituals performed around the tradition of the Slavic summer solstice festival during which pagans celebrated the goddess of fertility and water. It was the time when women would connect with each other through different festive activities. Both Slavic and Baltic mythologies contain a pantheon of female deities that were worshiped on those territories before the arrival of Christianity. The summer solstice was known as Kupala Night: the night of the goddess of water, “kupala” meaning “to bath”. Once the Christian missionaries extended their influence over the area they discarded the old Slavic and Baltic beliefs which often also meant violent persecutions of those who didn’t convert to a new faith. The pagan beliefs were strong and deeply rooted in the culture of the region so as to impose the new order the Christian church was supported by the Knights Templar, a Christian military order that used force to convert to Christianity those who didn’t want to do it peacefully. Templars kept fighting the Baltic tribes until the entire nation of Yatvingians was killed off and with them died the last European worshipers of pagan religion that treated male and female gods as equally powerful and important. The Christian missionaries didn’t manage to get rid of all the celebrations that were part of old religion instead they assimilated them changing the Kupala Night to a celebration of male Christian saint, these days widely known as Saint John’s Eve or Saint John’s Night referring to Saint John the Baptist.

My interest in the pagan mythology comes from the realization that the ancient tribes seemed to revere the feminine power in form of the nature deities on equal terms with those masculine ones. This balance between feminine and masculine isn’t something that was carried on throughout the European culture. With the arrival of Christianity and the monotheistic religion of God with his son Jesus the European imagination concentrated around masculine power in form of the God, his son, the apostles, and the saints. That in turn translated into patriarchal structures of the European societies where most of the influential political and economic functions remain in the power of white men. How would our civilisation develop if we kept on worshiping the feminine deities? Would we be able to create a more equal world that is not driven by greed and wars?

During the summer of 2016, I was a part of female performance workshop at Rosekill, upstate New York. While preparing a performance piece based on the pagan beliefs I decided to document the community of female performance artists during that week. Taking photographs of women artists each deeply within her creative powers I felt that they were the closest representation of those ancient goddesses. Women who were outspoken, strong, engaged in their creative practice of performance art that is often so closely linked to the current issues with its commentaries on the inequalities between the sexes. Therefore the narrative of Jadeive series explores the manifestations of the feminine using dreamy aesthetic that blurs the reality and mythology. I processed the photographs of women taken in everyday situations or during their performance work to create the realm of the ancient pagan goddesses with gradients of colour and forms as if each layer could reveal another aspect of the deities or show us the world that they inhabit, a world that could be parallel to ours, similar in some ways, existing at the same time but invisible to our human eye. Through the use of digital collages I am bringing this world closer, unveiling the sphere of Jadeive with intensely saturated imagery that creates an aura of mystery as if we suddenly became a part of the mythological land. Since our reality can be viewed through the civilisation’s mythology the spheres that I explore in this series belong to the collective unconscious and the personal from where the archetypes emerge.

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