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Rufina Bazlova

The History of the Belarusian Vyzhyvanka

Historically, Belarusian women could neither read nor write, and embroidery and weaving were among the few ways to depict their surroundings. What followed was the development of special geometric patterns that conceal many symbolic meanings. Red, for example, symbolizes blood or life, and white freedom and purity. It could be said that Belarusian ornaments are a kind of code of the history of the nation as it was written by women, and can be read as a text or message. Folk embroidery was used as a talisman against evil spirits, leading the artist to hope it has not lost this power today.

Rufina Bazlova, The History of the Belarusian Vyzhyvanka, Brutality in prison, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.
Rufina Bazlova, Framed in Belarus, stiching by Rufina Bazlova, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.
Rufina Bazlova, The History of the Belarusian Vyzhyvanka, Heroes of Belarus, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

The political events around the election in Belarus are part of its history that, according to the artist, needs to be written down in the language of folk embroidery. Therefore, on the basis of this technique, a series The History of the Belarusian Vyzhyvanka (2020–) was created. The title of the series is based on a linguistic pun. “Vyzhyvanka” is the name of the technique of traditional belorussian embroidering; “vyshyvat” means to embroider in Belarusian, while “vyzhyvat” means to survive. Because under the conditions created by the regime, the Belarusian people are just forced to survive. All images in the series are original documents and are based on real events or illustrate specific Belarusians.


Rufina Bazlova, The History of the Belarusian Vyzhyvanka, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

Rufina Bazlova (1990) is a Prague-based Belarusian artist who completed her MFA in Illustration and Graphic Design at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. She is working in the fields of illustration, comics, art books, puppet making, scenography and performance. She received international recognition for her series The History of Belarusian Vyzhyvanka, which uses the traditional folk embroidery medium to depict the peaceful protests in Belarus. The artist is also known for the fully embroidered comic Ženokol (Feminnature), exploring the theme of feminism in folk traditions.

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Based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, each issue is dedicated to a relevant topic in art and life. Founded to promote emerging artists, its goal is to initiate a dialogue, inspire collaborations, and challenge set views.