Probably, reading the title of this article, you will ask if it is possible to somehow combine all this. Can. And very harmonious. And here’s how.
Recently, the exhibition Minsk anti zoo opened at the Belarusian Youth Hub in Warsaw. It is about animals, people, captivity, and also about beauty and love. This exhibition is the look of a stylist Anna Prishivalko and a whole team of women and girls about what happened to Belarusians in 2020.
The events of that time greatly oppressed Belarusians. Anna felt the same, but one day the events around the woman began to take shape like a puzzle, and so it came to the birth of this project:
“Once my child and I went to the zoo. Who is from Minsk – I think you remember the Minsk Zoo. We have such a bear there, I remember it from childhood. Although, the bear is probably already different, but all this time he has such a terrible bath there and the tire is hanging. And a tiny, tiny camera. And this bear – as handsome as from a cartoon – is in this cell. And there is also one lovely chimpanzee – she sits behind the glass all the time and looks at everyone with a terrible look, full of hopelessness. And then comparisons began to appear in my head on the topic of what it is like when a living being is in a confined space, and not in its natural environment.
The stress of being in captivity resonated strongly in Anna’s thoughts with how these defenseless animals feel. A similar fear of being behind bars, according to the girl, then reigned almost in the entire Belarusian society: terrible arrests and searches made Belarusians afraid for themselves and their loved ones:
“I ended up in the place of a man whose loved ones went to jail. And I realized that these are no less sufferings and experiences than being detained, – Anna Prishivalko shares her impressions. – And I remember standing with the transmission, and it was winter – February, it was very cold. I stand in line, next to other women, too, with programs, and there was a complete feeling that I ended up here by accident. It’s like I flew in from the country of rainbow unicorns and it’s not all about me at all. The brain simply refused to accept this reality. A woman was standing in front of me. And when you transmit a program, you must write down a list of what you are transmitting, and a prison employee sits at the entrance and checks what you put in the program. I understand by things that a woman passes the transmission to her daughter. And at some point it comes to a small bag, the prison worker turns it inside out, and there are elastic bands for hair, hairpins. And he looks at it and says: “What is this for?” And the woman was very confused and all she could answer him was: “Well, she’s a girl.” And that’s all.”
At that moment, Anna decided that she would make a project in which she could express all her pain, infinite respect, solidarity and sympathy to all those women who went through places of restriction of freedom. From thought to implementation, the idea matured until the spring of 2021. The images that can be seen at the exhibition also correspond to this time. Here are a few of them. Do you know who these women are?
Fox: Hello! You must have seen and heard me! I’m so bright, coquette, I stand out from my pack. Look at my lipstick! And I have a lot of superpowers! I can utter over 40 different sounds, hear a mouse under a meter of snow, skillfully confuse tracks, managing not to catch my eye. I could run all night without stopping…
And here I am…
Keen hearing is now needed to hear the jingle of keys in the hands of the caretaker before others. Sense of smell – to smell what will be for dinner. They gave me a nickname – incredible.
A monkey: Hello! How are you? Everything is fine? What did you do today? I put on my beauty, put on my favorite tights and went out on a warm evening to admire the sunset. I love it when the sun warms the tops! Have you been there? Seen? How – no? I can’t stand boredom, I like to be on the move. And you never know who might need my help.
And here I am.
I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself. Cold, crowded … One of the few entertainments is to fight other people’s lice. I’m worried, how are mine?
Wolf: Awww! It is best not to enter this area. I go first with my tail held high. See two units? The tactics are developed to the smallest detail, next to a reliable shoulder for life. Just go ahead, don’t give up! We can go a week without food. We must go forward. People like us can’t be trained.
And here I am.
Almost out of dangerous territory, but an ambush awaited. The flock was defeated, but did not leave. This is contrary to the laws of nature. So what are they doing to survive? Are they singing? Awww! So, let’s play checkers, here are the figurines of hardened bread. Aww, cold booth! Endure. What’s this? Do you hear the voices of other wolves?
These are images Maria Kolesnikova, Olga Khizhinkova and Elena Levchenko. In addition to them, the exposition includes three more collective images that do not have exact matches – a pensioner, a mother and a student.
All images of women are presented as animals that are in the Minsk Zoo – a fox, a bear, a she-wolf, a monkey, a leopard and a llama. The authors of the exhibition seem to have hidden the heroes in the avatar of these animals, imagining what they think there, behind the wires of the cage.
“I have a friend who lives in Germany, and she said that she would advise her friends to visit the exhibition,” says Anna Prishivalko. – And then one of her friends asked her what the exhibition was about. She says: “Well, there are girls in fur coats, it turns out, about a fur coat.” Yes, I would also like to talk about a fur coat. After all, each of those fur coats in which our models are dressed has its own history. For example, I dyed a fur coat for a fox with a spray can for dyeing hair, a gray fur coat for a wolf is an old fur coat of my mother, a fur coat for a leopard was given to me especially for filming by a very famous stylist, and a famous artist donated two more furs.
Anna admits that the Minsk anti zoo project had no budget at all: the girls themselves paid the make-up artists and hair stylists, and the Belarusian Free Theater provided a filming location. With special gratitude, Anna tells that the actresses of the Belarusian Free Theater agreed to play the roles of the main characters.
“Among other things, this exhibition is about fashion. After all, beauty is what our world stands on. There was a lot of beauty, aesthetics, creativity, creativity in our Belarusian protest. And a lot of love. These are the components we tried to invest in our project. And if you believe that beauty and love will save this world, then, it seems to me, we have very good prospects, – says Anna Prishivalko. – And, probably, this exhibition is my personal contribution to remembering and being grateful to those people who suffered in 2020. After all, when we moved to Warsaw, I began to hear from my compatriots the idea that, with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the Belarusian agenda had faded away. And it hurt me a lot to hear that. We lived in Ukrainian Irpen and on February 24 we woke up to the sound of explosions. And I in no way underestimate the importance of these events, but Belarus is our home. And terrible things happen there. Keep happening. And we cannot underestimate their importance – after all, it affected all Belarusians in one way or another.”