This morning I woke up naturally- a luxury I don't often experience. As soon as I got up I started to get ready for my day of painting- another luxury I don't often experience. But first things first, I was off to the local food shop to buy the week's groceries. The shop is approximately 50 meters from Moks' front door. In the quaint shop, one of only two in the entire village, I was greeted by one of the shop owners, Maeiri, with a friendly "Tere" (hello). Siiri would later tell me that the woman I met has worked there her entire life. I milled about looking for the basics: cereal, milk, cheese, artisan bread and butter. When all else fails you can never go wrong with carbs. Maeiri attempted polite chit chat in Estonian in which I smiled and nodded and tried one of the few words I did know without much luck.
After breakfast I was fueled for my day of painting. I began with a drawing of a man that I noticed on one of the bus rides yesterday. However, as I painted his portrait my imagination began to distort his features captured in my initial sketch.
A few hours into the painting Siiri came into my studio to tell me I had a few visitors waiting for me downstairs. She continued to explain that a few of the children who saw me yesterday wanted to meet me. Thinking there are no better resources to get candid and unfiltered perspective, I was just as eager to meet them. Downstairs there were three girls aged 9 and 10 patiently waiting. As soon as I entered the room there was a collective gasp followed by instant giggles. I greeted them and asked if they wanted to see some paintings- an opportunity they jumped at. I wish all people were as impressed and friendly as children can be. In broken English they said they liked the painting so far. Sensing they were still a bit timid and knowing how to get any pre-teen talking, I asked what type of music they liked. Before I knew it, one of the older girls had taken my laptop and typed in Justin Bieber into youtube search and the song "Baby, Baby, Baby" was blaring throughout the house. After a few songs and new dance moves they were chatterboxes. It was impossible not to smile at how curious and sweet they were.
So often does my work only address corrupt and bias portions of society that I forget to explore the innocence of it. It is that innocence that I would like to capture in one of my next paintings. When I asked the girls if I could take their picture to paint it they began to bicker over which would go first.
After some time they left with a handful of sweets and a promise that they could stop by again. Winning Mooste locals over, one Bieber fan at a time.
I arrived into Tallinn's International airport around 1pm this afternoon. The first thing I noticed was the snow. The feet of snow. Apparently in my attempt to avoid any information regarding Estonia's history I foolishly avoided the weather forecast as well. Very foolish indeed.
After the initial shock of the weather I made my way to the main terminal. Having no knowledge of my current surroundings my mind went into overdrive trying to liken the people, the language and the atmosphere to some past experience as a means of trying to make sense of everything.
From Tallinn I began my four and a half hour journey to Mooste. Mooste is a tiny village of 500 residents, 35 km outside of Tartu and can only be reached by the occasional bus. From the very moment I entered into the country hours ago, one thing has been painfully apparent. There are no people of color. Living in London for the last year and a half I've become accustomed to hearing seven different languages and seeing nine shades of brown during the short trip from my front door to the closest tube station.
However, this lack of diversity became somewhat comical when I finally reached Mooste. Siiri, the program's coordinator met me at the bus stop from which the facilities are a brief ten minute walk. During our walk back the local children, clad in coats, snow boots and scarves all stopped in their tracks as they saw me and Siiri approach. I can only imagine what a mystical creature I seemed to them with dark skin and an easy grin. Siiri laughed at their expressions and we continued on our trek.
Once we reached MoKs facilities Siiri began showing me around the beautifully restored historic building. As we made our way room to room we began to notice children peeking in the windows at us, following our progress throughout the first floor. Siiri again, almost as apology explained, "for many of them, they've never seen someone like you." That's when I knew I picked the perfect place to have a residency.
I am heading out for Mooste, Estonia in a few hours. While in Mooste I will participate in an artist residency program for the next ten days. The goal of my residency will be to create a series of reaction pieces to my immediate and brief stay in the country. Given the length of my stay these pieces will inevitably be superficial in nature as I make snap judgements about my surroundings and project preconceived notions and past experiences onto my present surroundings. These reactions and then judgements will mirror the act of judging individuals based on race, ethnic identity and other social categories. I have intentionally read no literature on Estonia's history, social constructs or happenings as I attempt to have my reaction pieces as unadulterated as possible prior to my visit. This is has proven extremely difficult as I love to obsessively plan any trip that I take. I do, however, know one thing which will hopefully serve me well: "