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Yard from Jämaja (in Sõrve)

Johannes Võerahansu Yard from Jämaja (in Sõrve) Ca 1941 Oil on canvas 100 × 130.5 cm

During the Second World War, many Estonian artists turned to poeticising and mythologizing everyday rural life. Their own anchor and that of the viewer was affixed in this way to something that was apparently about to break into pieces in that extremely dramatic time period. Võerahansu worked in a place that had already become familiar to him: in Jämaja village on the western edge of Sõrve Peninsula in Saaremaa.
People are in the midst of their traditional physical and social element, and they do the same jobs that they have already been doing for hundreds of years. Although wearing folk costumes was no longer a usual custom by the 1940s, this time Võerahansu has dressed the woman in the foreground in folk costume. His aim was not ethnographic precision and a multiplicity of details (women from Jämaja, for instance, also wore aprons, their blouses had high collars, they wore a special so-called lahttasku (an open pocket pouch that was tied to the belt) on their right hip, etc.), but rather the wish to bring one more sign to the picture surface that would refer to a traditional lifestyle. The concentration of so many signs on the picture surface is a poetic act of resistance on the part of Võerahansu that was typical of Estonian art: the creation of a romantic depiction of the continuation of everything that had gone before at a time when that continuation proves to be impossible.