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Magic Power Of Dolls

When I look at a doll I feel it is not just an inanimate object. It seems it has a mysterious breath of its own, there is a divine reflection in it of the distant heavens to which the human soul aspires in an attempt to comprehend why man has been put into this world. Or maybe a doll hides a bright flash of recollection about the image of humans in the paradisiacal heavenly garden? Man has always been creating representations in his own image made of stone, clay, or wood, believing his creations are imbued with mysterious, incomprehensible, powerful forces, immeasurably mightier than his own.

Impressive pre-historic paintings, discovered on rocks and walls of caves and dating to the Paleolithic times can be regarded as evidence of the fact that man from time immemorial had had an urge to create representations of himself, of animals and plants. Man, in his attempts to overcome the primordial, atavistic fears, created dolls which he imbued with magic powers, performing rituals in sacred groves, and temples. Man appealed to dolls created by him for help and protection.

There were all kinds of dolls-idols in old times. Some of them could live for ages - idols made of stone or little charms made of bone. Ritual "dolls" were put to all kinds of uses: they served as guardians of the domestic hearth, they were representations of gods that commanded the elements of nature - the wind, lightning, thunder, plus a lot more. There were idols-dolls of zoomorphic shapes too. With the course of time these idols-dolls were losing their magic nature and gradually they were put to other uses. And then came the time when dolls began to be treated as toys, souvenirs, things to be given away as gifts, to be used as puppets in theatrical performances.

I call "a doll" anything that acquires a nature of its own and expresses this nature in a specific outward manner. A doll reveals itself only when it is being played with. In the civilized epochs, the main feature of dolls is to carry memories of childhood into the adult world. Dolls are a reminder of playful mythological worlds. All of this makes dolls an inherent rather than accidental feature of any mature civilization. In many cases a too close resemblance to what a doll makes a parody of, much too great naturalistic appearance, too big an emphasis on details can do the doll more harm than good.

Dolls have been in use in the Republic of Moldova since ancient times. Tatiana Esanu is an artist who creates dolls of great artistic merits. Her dolls are much closer to what might be called "sculpture" rather than to dolls proper. Her creations are collector's items, worthy of being exhibited in a museum. She does not make replicas, so all of her creations are literally unique.

Tatiana Esanu works very carefully, she possesses a wide knowledge of the history of arts, history of dress. She has skills of an experienced tailor and sculptor. Each of her creations lives in a world of its own, filled with pulsing, living fluids, a world of the fairy tale or of actual history. Her dolls represent ancient Romanian and Slavic mighty heroes and deities, created by the poetic imagination of our ancestors. Incidentally, most of them were humane, not too complicated, even mundane, and they were patrons and protectors of people. For the ancient man the whole cosmos was alive, everything had a spiritual side to it in addition to purely material: the heavenly bodies, and rocks, and rivers and forests. All of these things were worshipped and made sacred at celebrations and feasts. There were uncountable numbers of spirits and gods that were considered protectors of plants and animals, particularly domestic animals (many of which were offered as sacrifices): bulls, cows, horses, goats and sheep.

The goat was one of the ancient totems, connected with the idea of fertility and productivity. The goat was also a permanent feature of winter, New Year festivals and carnivals. Tatiana Esanu uses some of these ancient beliefs in her artwork. She has created a whole series of dolls, which represent participants of such carnivals, wearing goat coats, and masks with brightly painted horns, holding tambourines.

The Man-Bull Doll wears something that looks like the night sky embroidered with either decorative stars or fragrant apples. Thanks to this "deep night-sky" effect the figurine seems to be much larger than it actually is, it looks as though it is capable of protecting you from invisible dark forces, and a fairy-tale bird perched in the Man-Bull's body will put you to sleep by its sweet lullaby.

Tatiana Esanu shared with WELCOME magazine some of her artistic secrets:

"I put my wishes into my dolls. I draw these wishes on the palms, draw lines of happiness. Through such lines you can put some special qualities into people - stubbornness, bellicosity, for example, but you can give these qualities the positive, good energies, a will to achieve. The lines on the palms of my dolls tell the whole truth. So, this is my wish - I wish that everybody would be happy."

By Vlada Popushoi

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