Revisiting Romania: Dress and Identity
Horniman Museum, Balcony Gallery, 04 October 2014 – 18 September 2016
Curated by Alexandra Urdea and Magdalena Buchczyk and curators at the Horniman Museum, this exhibition explores how Romanian folk art has been used to express identity and nationhood in Romania in the 19th and 20th centuries, including its use as a political tool during the Ceaușescu years.
My role in this exhibition and project of research was to initiate research in Horniman Museum’s archives related to the Romanian collections and help with outreach funding from Ratiu Family Foundation for initial phases of research. I was invited to curate one glass case about the use of folklore during national socialism in Ceaușescu’s Romania. For this exhibition, many of the objects were donated in 1957 following an exhibition at the Horniman, which was organised from behind the Iron Curtain.
The exhibition highlights the elaborately decorated textiles, costumes and artefacts used in Romanian peasant homes to showcase women’s skill and industry, to display a family’s social connections and to express national pride. It reflects the fascination and enchantment felt by visitors on seeing the textiles of Romania, explores the way in which the upper classes adopted peasant clothing, and looks at how the meaning attached to textiles – particularly costume – was manipulated under the Ceausescu regime to promote national unity.