The Power of Photography as Documentation of Lost Cultural Heritage
I am feeling nostalgic for Moldova today and so I pulled out my Peace Corps photo albums and ran through the entire collection. When I came across the images below I felt pangs of both sorrow and anger. These vibrant Soviet-era murals were a part of the casa de cultura (community center) in my village Anenii-Noi, and they were one of the few art installations in the region. Sadly, they have recently been destroyed. One of my former students told me that they were in need of repair and that the Mayor decided to tear them down and paint the walls because the village lacked the necessary budget and resources to fix them.
[Detail from lost Soviet-era mural in Anenii-Noi, Moldova – Women Harvesting Grapes – Spring 2003]
[Detail from lost Soviet-era mural in Anenii-Noi, Moldova – Women Dancing and Singing – Spring 2003]
I had always hoped to shoot these murals again with my modern equipment. I imagined these ladies in their traditional costumes would be dancing for years to come and that the peasants would be picking grapes for as long as the building and the village survived. I often used to wonder about the artist and think about the skill it took to create these giant murals. The women in the bottom photo who is sitting with the peasants watching the dancers wearing a yellow skirt is my favorite. She looks so sad and lonely. I can’t believe they tore her down. I know first hand how desperately poor the area is and yet I still can’t believe that they tore her down.
My student commented that these may well be the only photographs or documentation of the mural’s existence and so it seems appropriate to share them with you so that all is not totally lost. Yet again I am reminded of and amazed by the power of photography.
Dedicaton: This blog post is dedicated to the unknown artists who first created what was a beautiful tribute to Moldovan culture.