After The New Man – Dana Popa

Directly following the sponsored visit to ‘Oil’, I went along to the Foto 8 gallery with another interested student to see the Dana Popa exhibition ‘After The New Man’, a study of people and place in Romania after the fall of Ceaucescu in 1989, based on her own series ‘Our Father Ceaucescu’.

Dana made this work with the younger people of Romania twenty years after the fall of the communist system and the dictator Ceaucescu; she wanted to get their thoughts on what heritage they had from those years of subjugation and how it affected their lives today.  My belief is she came away with a feeling of sorrow for both the people and her birth country.

All the images have a short editorial of conversations with either the subject of the image or from older people who had lived through that era and now reminisced about their nightmare lives.  Laid out in separate cabinets are ephemera of that era which presumably were part of Dana’s belongings or those of her immediate family and provide a poignant reminder of how closely the Romanian people were governed by the regime.

Her pictures show anomalous situations where young people are depicting themselves as westerners but with a desire to leave what is to them a backward country.  Three young women in a bedroom dressing up in their best, putting on make-up, curling eyelashes seemingly getting ready for a night out; the editorial says, ‘You must marry a German citizen and skip these queues,’ says one mother to her young daughter while both had been waiting in a long queue overnight in front of the German embassy in Bucharest’.  Are they going out to ‘hook’ a German?

Another shows a young man with his back turned to the camera laying on a bed with a freshly stitched wound on the left-hand side of his abdomen. The editorial says, ‘My mother left for America 10 years ago.  I was raised by my grandmother.  She told me stories of the incredible abuse Roma people suffered before ’89.  I am half Roma. – Flavius, 21 years old.’  My take on this is that his kidney wasn’t there anymore.

A young man lies on his front on a bed his right arm dangles above a new laptop.  The editorial caption, ‘Without the right connections one cannot usually get a good job here.  My monthly income was £120.  I don’t have a desire to migrate.  But living with this huge fear that I might not have a chance to a decent life in my own country can be depressing. – Ciprian, 24 years old.’  So what does he do now?  His monthly income WAS £120, what is it now?  What does he do to own a new laptop, crime?

A very worthwhile trip and I’ll be going to exhibitions there again; I also signed up to their email update system for news of future events.

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