Inga’s Latvian Reflections Woven Through Exhibition

Inga Hanover’s latest body of work combines her history with textiles with her family and Latvian folklore.

Aptly named, sen mēs tev jau gaidījām (sen mehs t-ev yauw gay-dee-yarm), which translates to “we have been waiting for you long ago”, the exhibition launched at Hyphen last week.

Hanover is a well-known artist in North East Victoria and has been exhibiting for more than 30 years.

There is a constant theme of “home” in her artworks, both in her illustration and installations over the past decade with themes that reminisce on childhood, yearning for things of the past and “longing for home”.

This latest exhibition is no different, this time reflecting on her Latvian home, from where her family came to Beechworth via Bonegilla as World War II refugees in 1949.

She wanted to understand and preserve the ancient and enduring rituals, ceremonies and folklore of the indigenous Latvian traditions of neo-paganism and dainas, which is the name given to folksongs, and has spent the past decade researching and reflecting on her Latvian heritage and that is shown in her works.

“Daninas (folksongs) are the primary mode of transmission of Latvian culture, dealing with two fundamental cycles: the human life cycle and the agricultural cycle,” she said.

“They figure prominently at birth, marriage and death; exploring the interplay between the living and the dead; and delve into superstitions of fecundity, virility, and the occult.”

Her research journey started with Valdis Celms’ Latvju Raksts un Zimes (Latvian Patterns and Signs).

In this reference book Celms describes in detail the evolution and meaning of all the symbols used in Latvian traditions.

“In my visual language I borrow from the Latvian symbols connected to its mythology that imbue the world around the Latvian with personality and purpose,” Hanover said.

The exhibition includes a suite of digital prints of aluminium, digital jacquard tapestries, digital prints with hand stitching on canvas, along with a video related to the textile works.

“In the digital print series titled growing birches on granite hillsides, I have used archival family photos, incorporating latvian symbology,” she said.

“Birch trees are so essential to the Latvian. I think they are in our DNA. My family planted birches on the granite hillsides of Beechworth to remind them of the home that they fled at the end of World War II.

“In the 1960s you could always recognise where Latvians lived as there was a birch tree in the front garden.”

She explained that Jumis, which symbolises fertility, well-being and abundance, was used in this series.

“The sign represents two crossed spokes of wheat, and is commonly used atop the roofs of barns and houses – bringing blessings to a home’s inhabitants.

“There are many and orate variations of the basic sign. Inside the home, it hung in a room in a place of honour. It was also placed at the bottom of a new daughter’s future dowry.”

Hanover’s first job after finishing her undergraduate course in printmaking was in textile design, which she continued for about a decade.

“I have always worked in textiles, but never shown it publicly, and all of this textile work is deeply rooted in childhood memories of sitting beside my grandmother and mother, deconstructing worn clothes, cutting off buttons from used shirts and being taught the techniques of cross-stitch, drawn thread work and knitting, in particular the ornate Latvian mittens.

“Over the past decade I have been drawn back to the repaired and reconstructed cloth; a process that encodes the deep richness of lives lived – preserving memories and stories.

“The act of harvesting, cutting, stitching, binding, covering and wrapping of reused materials is very meditative and healing.

“These personal materials have marked the passage of time and are the remains of corporeal existence.

“I particularly enjoyed using the work kitchen aprons that belonged to my father and the inner tube from my mother’s old bicycle.”

sen mēs tev jau gaidījām is on exhibition until June 9 in Hyphen’s Artspace Gallery.

/Public Release. View in full here.