Politicising vyshyvanka – the history

It was during the Lukashenko’s reign when then eighteen-year-old Rufina Bazlova from Grodno left her hometown to study graphics, illustration and sculpture in Pilsen. While still in Czech Republic, she moved to Prague where she took up further artistic education, graduating in scenography and puppetry in 2020. From that moment on, the artistic life of thirty-year-old artist has changed completely. On the one hand, there came an artistic success measured with huge popularity of her works in social media, such as Instagram and with her participation – resulting largely from her Internet admiration – in individual exhibitions in Poland (in Warsaw and Łowicz) as well as many international collection presentations in cities like Prague, Paris, Berlin, Vilnius, Wrocław, Łódź, Bayeux, Cologne, Halle and Swedish Hjö, Kyiv, Leipzig and Amsterdam. On the other hand, Bazlova’s popularity made her come to the bitter realisation that she cannot set her foot in Belarus without risking imprisonment, torture or the official banishment from the country ruled unofficially[1], but still in real terms of the word, by Lukashenko.

The immediate source of her artistic success and related dangers was the outbreak of massive protests in Belarus on the 9th of August, 2020, resulting from the presidential election fraud and artist’s full engagement in an attempt to create an artistic project which, given the social reality dynamics, became a sui generis “protest chronicle”. Since she was in Prague, she could follow the situation via Telegram – an instant messenger used for sharing content by Belarussian dissidents, journalists, bloggers and common citizens. Mobilisation in the spirit of solidarity that resulted in a mass and prearranged, peaceful protest against election fraud and ruthless systemic repressions towards protesters made the artist post on her Instagram profile her first white-red-white digital embroideries which constituted a series that she later called History of Belarussian vyzhyvanka. It was the author’s intention to use the neologism „vyzhyvanka” that joined the word “vyshywat” (“to embroider”), referring to the choice of artistic medium, with “vyzhyvat” (“to live/experience”) that encodes a real experience of persecutions in the form of overt and covert assassinations, batteries with fatal effects, strange “suicides”, arrests and all this ordeal of physical and mental torture.

Bazlova herself had used embroidery as a medium as early as in 2012, when in keeping with vyshyvanka family tradition with respect to feminine character of the legacy – contemporised with a pinch of feministic views[2] – the artist finished her first work inspired by the traditional, Belarussian red cross-stich and called it Ženokol / Feminnature (“a woman in the circle”). A white skirt with a comic strip knitted on it, symbolising a virtually cosmogonic narration on femineity and the idea of creation, was intended to revitalise Belarussian tradition using a graphic code of contemporary culture. According to the artist herself, it was back in 2020 – around the time she was finishing her studies and stepping into her artistic maturity – when she decided to revisit the aforementioned work. Believing in intuitions and the discovered potential of bringing embroidery back to life as an artistic medium, she planned to create pieces of art that could continue and develop the contemporary topic.

il. 1, Zenokol - Rufina Bazlova, źródło: https://www.vyzyvanka.com/other-projects/zenokol

il. 2, Zenokol - Rufina Bazlova, źródło: https://www.vyzyvanka.com/other-projects/zenokol

The first work from the new series was entitled Jabacka (Belarussian neologism of the word “jabać” or “fuck” in English) and Bazlova alluded to female context related to fertility and the relationship towards masculinity by utilising the geometrical language taken from the iconographical tradition of Belarussian embroidery as well as Ženokol-inspired motives of phallus and vagina – this time presented in a symbolic sexual act. It was then, however, when Belarussian protests broke out and the artist changed her initial idea, concluding that she has to “present contemporary history of the country”[3]. “I thought that it is a symbolic picture – copulation as the beginning of life and the beginning of the project at a symbolic level. I created an Instagram account where I shared this one and other works of mine”[4]. Regardless of artist’s determination, the piece Jabacka made its way into a political context thanks to the hashtag #jabacka – meaning “I, the father of the nation” – manifesting support for Lukashenko. It was used by his followers to spite protesting Belarussians who voted for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in the elections[5].

il. 3, JW, animacja grafik Bazlovej autorstwa Olgi Tesluk prezentowana na wernisażu w Galerii Browarna, fot. Jacek Wiśniewski, dalej JW

Ubiquitous censorship and a ban on libertarian web portals, in a word – the lack of access to reliable information about the course of protests’, convinced the artist to employ the strategy that ignored regular communication channels in favour of Internet reach extension through artistic activities. They first appeared on Instagram and, similarly to the content from Telegram application, were supposed to be shared via replicated and eye-catching bit of information that would contribute to disseminate knowledge about the real image of the situation in Belarus at that time. The artist explained her motivation in one of her statements:

„People abroad do not know how brutal the authorities can be, what do tortures and killing people look like. One can get behind bars for wearing white socks or hanging a white-red duvet on the balcony to dry. People in the brig are tormented. It was my intention to present universally understood works”[6].

il. 4, Zenokol 2012, źródło: https://www.vyzyvanka.com/other-projects/zenokol

il. 5, Zenokol 2, źródło: https://www.vyzyvanka.com/other-projects/zenokol

il. 6, Zenokol 3, źródło: https://www.vyzyvanka.com/other-projects/zenokol

The original plan of combining the language of tradition with the language of culture noticeable in Ženokol was set to germinate a core identity reflection on being a woman, artist and Belarussian in Prague (or Europe, maybe?) simultaneously. It has morphed into a project that should be regarded as identity-based, with a slight change in emphasis. Social and cultural motifs, up to this point submerged in a rather subtle reflection of metaphysical and existential kind, were dominated by prominent accents brought by a social and political fight, this time immersed in an objectivising and hard as stone description of specific historical events in History of Belarussian vyzhyvanka.

Łowicz Democracy is off

il. 7, Plakat, źródło: materiały prasowe Galerii Browarna, fot. JW

il. 8, plakat, źródło: materiały prasowe Galerii Browarna, fot. JW

The most complete chronicle of the protests from History of Belarussian vyzhyvanka series could be seen between the 4th and 19th of September, 2021 in Browarna Gallery in Lowicz[7], run by a painter, art critic and publicist Andrzej Biernacki. The significance of Bazlova’s folk-political art was not limited to mere presentation of somewhat interesting and – at the sociological and political level – quite contemporary artistic proposal, organised using unquestionably modern and innovative means of expression. According to Zofia Gajewska – a curator of the exposition, creating exhibition programmes for Browarna Gallery for years – Democracy is off exhibition (in Polish: Nici z demokracji) constituted also a form of confrontation between two distinctive views about folk art in general. Aestheticising vision of folksiness emphasising superficial decorativeness or usefulness clashed with a stark vision of thereof, becoming a reservoir of key existential and metaphysical meanings, amassed in family, lineage, people and nation heritage[8]. Fake-folk and time-worn folkiness of Łowicz striped costume, treated exclusively as an ornament, is metaphorically confronted with vivid folk code viewed as some kind of a mysterious language and a collection of meanings.

il. 9, fot. JW

il. 10, fot. JW

Upon entering gallery’s spacious interior that once was a Protestant church[9], there is a seven-metre-long Belarussian embroidery called Protest saga, made using red cross-stich technique on white linen, arranged according to curator’s idea. Around embroidery’s axis, a dozen of works are placed on platforms, representing different formats ranging from several-centimetres-long squares to large ones, pieces in A1 format hanging on the walls. The smaller works, in a fashion resembling a digital cloud, literally and metaphorically surround Bazlova’s distinctive opus magnum. Apart from a few prints made in screen-printing technique, most of them were made primarily as computer projects and never lived to see the handicraft versions, arduously embroidered using most sanctified Belarussian tradition. The digital cloud of works simulating cross-stitching in comparison with real-life embroidery of Saga are indicative of Bazlova series’ two key determinants: holy ritual of embroidery tradition as well as Internet environment of generating, functioning and spreading.

One cannot admire Protest saga – or any other works from the entire series for that matter, that complement on and expand the chronicle of resistance – simply by relying on Bazlova’s embroidered visualisation. Each of the presented events as well as each of the motifs used derive their meanings and have their source in films that participants and witnesses of protests made. If a video uploaded to a social network becomes viral, they instantly inspire artist to create a “digitally” or tangibly embroidered record of it[10]. Embroidered scenes that we can find in Saga as well as in dozens of single paintings, comic strips or even included animations, are therefore a kind of visual-content conclusions, coding relatively autonomous contexts. They become fully understood only after watching a video or hearing a story told on the side.

il. 11, fot. JW

The focal point of the exhibition, Protest Saga, draws inspiration from traditional Belarussian embroidery semantics, symbolising one’s way, fate and protection. In its original and basic cultural context, Belarussian embroidery was used to cover bread lying on the table; it was either placed around icons hanging in the “beautiful corner” or in the Orthodox church iconostasis. Alternatively, it was given to children leaving their homes or was used in the rites of passage, such as weddings or funerals. For the layman’s eye, ignorant of tradition, Belarussian embroidery represents merely a decorative geometrical language of repeating embroidered forms and symmetrical patterns alone. In such view, there is no deeper meaning, such as symbolical code’s protection against evil of this world whose purpose is to bring luck and blessing. In her Saga, Bazlova preserves these original meanings though she transforms the geometrical repetition and conventionality of abstract motifs based on a story of figuration and representation that delivers diachronic and synchronic narration structure[11].

Space Invaders in Minsk

Storylines that document important moments and episodes of the protests that broke out on the 9th of August and continued in various forms throughout the next couple of months were collated by Bazlova in Saga to form a single journal-like entry, full of dynamics and terseness, representing key situations. Most original and complex graphic poetics of the artist derives mainly from Belarussian embroidery tradition, using the principle of utilising a maximally geometricised, simplified sign, limited always to “a pixel” of red cross on the white background. The artist reaches beyond this tradition and delivers faithful representations and storylines drawing on diversity of contemporary graphic-based stories. Stylistically, she uses classical comic strips, graphic novel or cartoon animations as well as cult computer games of late 20th century. Looking at Belarussian embroidery made of “border pattern”, one cannot deny the feeling that groups of militiamen and Special Purpose Mobile Unit (abr. OMON in Belarussian) guards, coming from the sides of both compositions, resemble Space Invaders with their invasive spaceships, breaking from mass formations in groups or one by one in order to assault Earth’s ships. In Bazlova’s version, the conventional “invaders” are isolated from the abstract arrangement of diagonally placed squares to acquire human features, swastika-like arms and legs, and armed with militia clubs attack groups of protestants running away with white-red-white flags. The name space invaders used to call representatives of totalitarian regime is, from Bazlova’s point of view, completely justified despite the fact that her version of cult shooter game is deprived of projectiles flying in the air and opponents clashing in direct combat. In artist’s version, peacefully demonstrating people avoid fighting and surround their opponents, employing the tactics inspired by young people’s manifestations in Hong-Kong taking place the very same year – “be like water”. The tactics of protesting crowd is to become similar to water which is, by its nature, without a form and can flow freely or destroy, and once poured into a cup or a kettle, brings either the former or the latter[12].

Throughout the entire protest chronicle, the complexity of reference layer to visual language chosen by Bazlova is accompanied by the matter of clash between dramaturgical conventions. Casual superficiality, and frivolity that atmosphere of fun brings, suggested by use of archaic shooter game elements, animation or merrily joining the bandwagon code of comic strips - all these elements Bazlova confronts with a context which cannot be further from fun. The said context does not exist solely in the imagination, does not allow having “second lives”; unless it is about “afterlife”. Though the tragedy seen in described situations constitutes a significant component of Bazlova’s works, the protest chronicle does not evoke feelings of fright and horror exclusively. Saga – exemplary for the whole project – takes place in emotional ambivalence, confronting scenes that are on the one hand tragic and comical on the other. The scenes that show both real events and wishful versions of the nearest future or Promethean-eschatological visions of protests’ victims afterlife.

It is almost as if the elements of comedy were dominant in Saga. They can be seen in the use of Lukashenko’s figure as a dead cockroach[13] – one time it is on the hands of protesting women driving away in a truck, the other time it is a would-be feast for a bird chased by OMON and militiamen for dissidence. One must smile at birds defecating on the cockroach’s corpse or the dictator’s portrait, which is a literal manifestation of Belarusian saying “a bird emptying out on the head” that is equivalent to English “cuckoo for cocoa puffs” (Polish original: “kuku na muniu”). What is also funny are dogs walking out for a walk with their owners, demonstrating colour allegiance to protests, while some other time defecating on all symbols of regime. The tragicomic portrayal of a mighty OMON guard wrestling out a white-red-white liberation flag from the hands of feisty, yet small and fragile, seventy-three-year-old Nina Bagińska is there as well. Yet another funny motif is, without a doubt, two pairs of underpants in white-red-white colours, hanging on Kaskada skyscrapers, that were pulled off in a spectacular way using large cranes. Following this, there was a cat-and-mouse play with militia and OMON of hanging and removing the protest flag. It is amusing to see huge cages in forms of Christmas gifts under the Christmas tree, packed with Lukashenko and his official supporters and propagandists Natalia Eismont, Grigori Azarionoki and Lydia Yermoshina. Nevertheless, the loudest outbursts of laughter would be caused by figures of militiamen-terminators marching in their full gear and representing – according to Bazlova’s description on the website that is currently under construction – a common saying spoken during protests:

“They will come for everybody who has a door”.

il.27, JW

The comedy of the situation – on the one hand being a documentary of authentic events recorded with smartphones and on the other hand, being a wishful vision of the nearest future – combines in Saga with tragic motifs. Among others, Bazlova shows them in a vehicular manslaughter of Jauhen Zaytzkin by a militia truck, a prison scene with a woman who is bleeding onto the floor, a fence tied with ribbons that form a white-red-white flag which Roman Bondarenko defended with his own life[14] or in Minsk’s Hero City obelisk group of winged angel heroes, floating around the monument. All wounds of the fallen, killed in one way or another, were represented by Bazlova in meticulous works where she struggles against her geometrical self-imposed convention and the size of red cross “pixel” (Alexander Wikhor – 10th of August, beaten to death in prison, Alexander Taraykowsky – 10th of August, mortally shot in the chest, Gyenadyi Shutow – 11th of August, mortally shot in the head, Denis Kuznyecov – died on the 3rd of October due to injuries following beating, Nikita Kryvcov – the 12th of August, reported missing and then found dead due to hanging on the 22nd of August, Roman Bondarenko – the 12th of November, died in a hospital due to severe injuries following assault).

il.28, JW

il.29, JW

The fundamental message of Protest saga and the entire protest chronicle does not become unilaterally tragic or comedic tale due to this. By clashing totalitarian horror with authentic laughter, Bazlova diagnoses the intricacy of social emotional states leading us to a message far from fatalism and fun.

Genes and memes

The exhibition Democracy is off showed that genetically sanctioned folk embroidery and meme-quantified Internet message are interrelated and Bazlova recognised it perfectly. In both cases, we witness concision of the code, understood as a system of signs, where we arrive at visual unit of emotional and informational sense, through substitution of items. Bazlova’s genotype conjured by the definition of folksiness and her memotype – as suggested through immersion in the contemporary web reality of copying and sharing content – eventually decide on the character of Bazlova’s art political nature.

Ornament patterns employed by Bazlova have survived thousands of years on vyshyvankas, items of daily use, everything that man has created. The motifs of diamond, meander, rosette, zig-zag and swastika, also known as swarga, are almost twenty thousand years old. The last one made its way into Belarussian ornamentation, originating from areas of Miezynska culture in Ukraine across Polesia, and as a symbol of the Sun and happiness[15], has its well-funded tradition in Belarussian embroidery. Through careful study of vivid embroidery tradition in Belarus, Bazlova plays with swarga symbol’s interpretation: its positive meaning in folklore code and negative meaning assigned to it due to the 20th century German nation history. This ambiguity is perfectly reflected in, for instance, an exhibited piece called Manure[16].

il. 30, Nawóz

Aesthetics and art historians agreeably link the appearance of geometrical ornamentation based on signs or symbols to the world of animistic religion where they constitute a communication code between perceived reality and supernatural world instrumental towards it. In this way, a strict relation between ornamentation and the spiritual world was made, a kind of a language to communicate on one side and a means to present the state of knowledge about the world on the other. By keeping forms abundant with signs of archaic deities, family, forces and elements that were to protect and guard against evil powers, help in hard times and give strength to tackle difficulties, the ornamentation survived as a sign language in female line of passing tradition onto family, the people and the nation[17]. Thanks to geometrical symbol’s repetitiveness and its syntax schema as well as volatility of meanings, many times being obliterated or altered in their magical-animistic character due to words of Christian significance, embroidery maintained its semantic accumulation. Bazlova excellently combines Christian blessing with non-Christian, animistic incantation of reality in Saga where a plain white weave usage represents God’s grace through innumerable crosses of threads and warps presence, not to mention the embroidery cross significance itself. On the other hand, half of the message conveyed in the piece is characterised by wishful vision of the future and magical-animistic thinking that is supposed to bring a desired state of things into existence, maintaining Pagan symbolism by presenting Tsikhanouskaya as Mokosh[18], goddess of embroidery. Furthermore, it is about preserving the symbolism of red as a sign of youth, day, blood of ancestors, festivity and mirth, with white being a sign of light, energy, purity and protection against plague, completing it with the Christian meaning behind red and white being blood and water coming from the Saviour’s heart or white symbolising God the Father.

Through conscious usage of the ritual that requires keeping the imagery, diligence, awareness and clarity of mind so that vyshyvanka could play its role, thus changing reality and giving blessing, Bazlova is well aware that the language of the past, though dedicated to Belarussians, is practically illegible for a modern European audience. She then utilises fragmented codes of present times, social media users’ memotypes.

There is no coincidence in gene and meme words relation as it comes from a scientific – though not developed anymore[19] – theoretical proposal of Richard Dawkins who suggested in his book, The Selfish Gene[20], memetics as an evolutionary concept of information transfer that is culturally based on memes as subjectively understood cultural message fragments. The very word was coined through etymological abbreviation to a single syllable of antique Greek word μιμητής (mimētḗs), meaning someone who imitates or acts. Just as a gene is a self-replicating structure striving to achieve the largest number of copies in biological evolution, according to Dawkins meme is its equivalent in cultural evolution: as an idea or trending expressions, pictures or even methods of making clay pots, jumping “from one brain to another in the process of broadly understood mimicry”[21].

The subject of our interest, the fontal link between gene and meme definitions, loses its validity in the context imposed by contemporary web culture understanding. An Internet meme – in a form of a picture with a commentary, a short video, a text message or a hashtag – in its most popular rendition is a contagious piece of information when posted in the Internet by users – its direct purpose is to draw attention and built emotional-based need to share it with others. The meme becomes itself in the process of multiple replication, with a good meme being the one that goes viral. Suffice it to say, one suggestive picture with heavy emotional load does not seem to illustrate the present-day reality, but rather substitutes for it in a completely autonomic fashion. This way, the meme context is not a narration implying cause-and-result sequences but it is the emotional aim that functions within relative isolation from that kind of sequences[22]. Taking both formulas of thinking about a meme – the formula of a strict meme-gene relation, functioning due to continuous mechanism of so-called culture ratchet and superficial formula of amusing/irritating punchline, fragmenting to the maximum and polarising reality that severs from all types of narration – Bazlova’s artistic approach exhibits incredible devotion to logic-based narration of consequence and therefore a logic of responsibility.

Operating in the field of arts, Bazlova is inspired by genes and memes on the one hand, by making them main axes of artistic communication, but on the other hand she questions their commonly acknowledged vision. She questions both superficial folksiness perception reduced to ethno-designer decoration as well as contemporary format of fragmenting Internet communication, understood mainly as a tool of emotional “us” and “them” polarisation. The artist utilises both visions to create an attractive bait to lure contemporary audience, which is manifested through her works’ popularity, especially among ‘digital locals”, but in reality she intends to devaluate both visions on a more profound level.

Political art of interdependency

Once we regain our composure after experiencing novelty visuals and emotions of humour and tragedy brought by recorded events, it becomes evident that Bazlova’s protest chronicle is fundamentally about unique sense of establishing Belarussian community identity. The main goal for most of the portrayals, both in Saga as well as in the entire protest chronicle, is to document downward movement, unregulated by any solidarity groups’ activities other than the one started by thousands of individual Belarussian citizens. Bazlova presents that in Saga with scenes of protests carried out by workers in Salihorsk state-owned plant, the scene that documents the biggest protest at Minsk’s Hero City obelisk on the 16th of August[23], in the march of the disabled scene (the 15th of October), in the scene of “Power of women” manifesto, the inspiration for Triumvirate of women, in scenes of doctors and workers’ solidarity chains, in the scene in front of the Government House (the 14th of August) where militiamen were given orders to lower their shields and women handed them flowers, in the scene called The fall of epaulettes that documented the fact after elections, due to protests, many members of uniformed services left their units or submit their resignation and joined the opposition. In all aforementioned scenes, Bazlova’s objective documentation becomes a desired vision of future unity; a vision that diligent embroidering could lastingly bring. This can be viewed as symbolical-actual power to restore natural order of things.

il. 31, Obelisk Mińsk Miasto Bohaterów

il. 32, Solidarność kobiet BLR-PL

Bazlova’s political art derivative from aesthetics of genes, memes, hashtags and virals does not rely solely on “the most modern” contemporary formula of subversion, a looped sequence of self-references aimed at disseminating/blurring/altering meanings. It is a formula of building bonds and interdependence on the base of what we have right in front of our noses, we only lack the time to carefully examine it, notice the depth within and the gravity of the situation. Bazlova sees Belarussians on both sides of the barricade and it appears that she conscientiously, in Christian way, distinguish between “personal enemy” and “public enemy”, realising that we can truly hate the “personal enemy”[24]. Her artistic proposal is dealt directly against severing identity from national culture and against detaching people from bonds and interdependency in times that promote freedom from absolutely everything. “Gaining absolute independence results in no one being dependent on us and therefore we become useless to everybody”[25]. History of Belarussian vyzhyvanka codes a simple statement for community, a starting point for any conceptual distinction, namely: “I need you”.


[1] Since the latest presidential elections, Lukashenko is not acknowledged as a legal representative of Belarus at international level, including European Union countries. See: https://www.rp.pl/swiat/art510551-ue-nie-uznaje-lukaszenki-za-prawowitego-prezydenta [access for 21.10.2021].

[2] For example, in very questioning of fine art’s atelier and turning towards the use of traditional, culturally attributed to women handicrafts’ techniques, a proponent of which in feministic art was Miriam Shapiro in 1970s USA and Maria Pinińska-Bereś in Poland. Strong identification with embroidery medium in Poland is manifested in contemporary works of Bettina Bereś and subsequent art of Monika Drożyńska.

[3] D. Dróżdż, Haftuje tortury, pałowanie i łzy Białorusinów. „Nie wiecie, jak brutalna jest ta władza”, 18.06.2021, https://wyborcza.pl/7,112588,27213887,haftuje-tortury-palowanie-i-lzy-bialorusinow-nie-wiecie.html [access for 15.10.2021].

[4] Ibidem.

[5] Apart from #jabacka hashtag, the supporters of Lukashenko also used #jamybacka (I, we, Baćka) in social media [quotation from Browarna Gallery in Łowicz catalogue] which were de facto a reaction to earlier hashtag of the opposition – #jamy97 – that was meant to show 97% support for Tsikhanouskaya in the presidential elections [this information comes from Bazlova’s commentary on her website that is being under construction; I had the privilege to use it thanks to the courtesy of curator Zosia Gajewska].

[6] Dróżdż, op. cit.

[7] A bit earlier, between June 12-22, 2021, the first, more modest and individual presentation of Rufina Bazlova ‘s series took place on History of Belarussian vyzhyvanka (in Polish: Historia białoruskiej wyżywanki) exhibition in Warsaw Poznańska 24 Gallery, see Dróżdż, op. cit.

[8] In 2016, Zofia Gajewska organised an exhibition in Browarna Gallery as a part of Łódź Design Festival Et[n]os. The impact of Lowicz folk art on modern design (Centrum Festiwalowe, Art_Inkubator, 13-23.10.2016, Łódź, see https://www.lodzdesign.com/archiwum/lodz-design-festival-2016/program-2016/wystawy/wystawy-kuratorskie/etnos-wplyw-lowickiej-sztuki-ludowej-na-wspolczesne-projektowanie/), emphasising the dependency of inherited values and folksiness.

[9] Browarna Gallery is located in the 19th century Evangelical-Augsburg church designed by Jan Łuczaj and Henryk Marconi.

[10] Many works of Bazlova exemplify both forms.

[11] From historical and artistic point of view, it is worth mentioning Bayeux Tapestry which portrays embroidered chronicle of William the Conqueror’s conquest of England in 1066, see Joanna Bojańczyk, Czołgi, armatki wodne i pałowanie manifestantów. Nici z demokracji, 10 wrzesień 2021, https://tygodnik.tvp.pl/55740191/czolgi-armatki-wodne-i-palowanie-manifestantow-nici-z-demokracji [access for 21.10.2021]. French tapestry narration has a similar diachronic and synchronic character, though seventy-metre-long textile may weaken this second component.

[12] The tactics “patented” during young people’s protests in 2020, Hong-Kong, clearly references Bruce Lee’s famous words “be water, my friend”. His character and words were intentionally reminded in the documentary premiering in January 2020 at Sundance Festival, Be water, 2020, dir. Bao Nguyen. Bazlova, on her non-public Internet site, comments on her works by mentioning the usage of this technique in the protests by Belarussians, though under a different name – “wavering protests”.

[13] On 7th of May, 2020, Sarhiej Cichanouski, a blogger and opposition activist, willing to run for the president in the elections used a campaign slogan “stop the cockroach”. Two days later, he was arrested for claiming that Belarussian elections were rigged. His candidature was not accepted by the election board due t lack of signature on the documents, something he could not have done being in prison. An hour before the nomination deadline, his wife Swiatłana, filed her own application in place of her husband. Just like in the fairytale of Korney Chukovsky, the election Cocroach viral resulted in Belarussians holding slippers to symbolically kill the insect during the first peaceful demonstrations after falsified election results were announced [information from Bazlova’s website]; Polish ed.: Korniej Czukowski, Karaluszysko, translated by W. Broniewski (1936), Książka i Wiedza, Warsaw, 1988.

[14] Willing to cover death-resulting battery of Bondarenko, regime authorities publicised the event proclaiming him as a drunkard and a hooligan. Soon afterwards, protesters started using hashtags: “#0%alcohol” and “#leaving”; the latter being Bondarenko’s last entry in social media before his death.

[15] See https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kultura_miezyńska [access for 21.11.2021]. Commentary about embroidery based also on: Ołeksandra Malisz, “Ornament w hafcie ukraińskim na podstawie badania koszul ludowych – wyszywanek”, 2018, p. 6-9, Master’s thesis written at the Faculty of Arts, Pedagogical University in Cracow.

[16] In the work Manure, two trucks pour swastika „waste” of symbolically portrayed totalitarian officials into a big ditch in order for them to become fertile substratum for desired happiness of Belarussian people. A one-sided, German interpretation of swastika is shown in his description of Bazlova’s art, see D. Dróżdż, op. cit.

[17] Bazlova emphasises the ornamentation role in Belarussian vyshyvanka as an important form of female expression: “Folk ornamentation for years have been a code via which the world was described. Women, who could not write or read used this very language”, D. Dróżdż, op. cit.

[18] Triumvirate of women portrays the act of combining powers by three women (July 2020) Cichanouska, Maria Kalesnikova and Veronica Chapkalova. In the picture, women are presented as goddess Mokosh – with their hands raised and heads presented as a diamond with a dot inside (a symbol of a sown field). In folklore, Mokosh was a goddess of yarn spinning, besnowing, weaving and embroidering, O. Malisz, op. cit., p. 62.

[19] The criticism of sociobiologists, evolutionary psychologists and semioticians led to the symbolical end for memetics research perspective by shutdown of “Journal of Memetics” magazine in 2005, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memetics [access for 21.11.2021]. The illustration of controversy can be found in the following polemics: S. Blackmore, Memetics as a Good Science, [in:] Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, ed. M. Shermer, P. Linse, vol. 2, p. 652-663, and S. J.W. Polichak, Memes as Pseudoscience, [in:] Sceptic..., op. cit., p. 664

[20] R. Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, [1976], translated by. M. Skoneczny, Prószyński i S-ka, Warsaw 1996.

[21] Ibidem, p. 146.

[22] The analysis of meme as an entity isolated in cause-and-effect sequence and being a contemporary substitution for linear communication – the narration – can be found in: R. Ziemkiewicz, Strollowana rewolucja, Fabryka snów, Lublin-Warsaw, 2021, p. 82-86.

[23] A total of 250-400 thousands of demonstrators took part in the peaceful manifestation. It was incident-free and no detention was reported. After manifestation, the protesters cleaned the streets after themselves [the information taken from Bazlova’s website].

[24] Christ’s commandment to “love thy enemies” is about a personal enemy. Fighting in war we do not feel hatred towards specific people we battle with. This was discussed by Chantal Delsol, Solidarność i miłosierdzie, „Teologia Polityczna”, no. 10, 2017-2018, p. 27-29.

[25] ks. Jacek Grzybowski, Mistyczka i ojczyzna, „Teologia Polityczna”, no. 10, 2017-2018, p. 114