On August 9, 2020, peaceful decentralized protests erupted across the Republic of Belarus to contest the falsified presidential election results. The unprecedented scale of public mobilization caused the illegitimate dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka to quip that these protests were directed by Czech puppeteers who allegedly manipulated them from Prague. Lukashenka’s propaganda uses the metaphor of puppetry and marionettes to discredit the frontwomen and -men of the protests and thus deprive them of their agency. The same terminology is frequently applied by the Russian government to discredit the pro-Europe politicians and leaders of East-Central Europe. The rhetorical trope of the Czech puppeteer later became the subject of many memes within Belarus. This exhibition responds to this discourse by presenting the work of Rufina Bazlova, a Prague-based puppeteer from Belarus whose comic embroidery series The History of Belarusian Vyzhyvanka went viral within the first days of the protests. The medium of traditional embroidery is a widespread transnational phenomenon that uses elements of folk culture as a marker of belonging. Belarusian embroideries are a specific code for recording information about the lives of the nation. Bazlova utilizes this medium and manipulates it digitally to narrate the ongoing saga of the Belarusian uprising, where each tableau corresponds to an actual event that took place during the Summer–Winter of 2020.
Vyzhyvanka is a pun combining two Belarusian words, “embroidery” and “survival.”
Vyshyvanka means “embroidered shirt.”
Vyzhyvats' means “to survive.”