Adina Nanu, in between lights and shadows

It has always been every man’s dream to discover a time machine able to take him through space and carry him through the centuries, sit him next to kings and queens, drop him by the craftsmen’s workshops from times of yore, enter the ball rooms in the shining of candle lights and the sumptuous costumes, where princess stories were woven, but also the modest houses of the simple people, fly him over marketplaces and flamboyant boroughs, AND SEE…

            I chose to speak about Adina Nanu and her world of costumes and colors, not only because I visited her exhibition „Bucharest-like Elegance”, open to visitors until the end of the month at the Bucharest National Museum of History, but also due to the fact that she has been teaching for some years a course about „traveling through time and space”, at the Faculty of Theatre, part of the The University of Theatre and Cinematic Arts.

            Although Adina Nanu is not in the forefront of theatre, she has painstakingly built unbreakable walls in the course of time, as generations of theatre creators took her course in the History of Costume and Visual Education.

A journey around my house

            Author of the only History of Costume ever published in Romania, Adina Nanu is one of those persons whose life might as well fit a novel or a theatre play…In a house which looks as if from another world, on a street lost somewhere near the National Television, she carries her collection of stories that remained a mystery for the Theatre and Cinematic Arts, until one year ago, the book A journey around my house, came out at Compania publishing house, describing with such a delicate elegance a life scattered with words and colors.

            Adina Nanu has always been recreating worlds by collecting costumes, pieces of costumes and discovering a button here, an accessory there.

            Although apparently an unwanted baby, as her father had lost her wife and children from his first marriage, Adina later became the center of his universe, reminding us of the Bible story of Job.

            Her stories are sprinckled with a childish delicacy, although she talks about a difficult and sad itinerary, starting from the moment her mother decided to give birth to her, despite her father’s resilience, as a result of his fear of losing everything once more…

What followed was a long journey towards light, as she overcame the moments of darkness with the same grace she uses whan talking to her students about lights, shadows and colors. She cuts through this darkness with shades of light and words, that equally amuse and give thrills.

            I will use as an example a quote that describes two almost parallel moments from A Journey Around My House :

„The year after Ana Pauker came to power and brought a bill according to which all those with „a bad descent” were forced to quit their jobs.

It was during the spring break that Speranta Erka from the library and I, got fired. I desperately looked for a job for an entire month. (…) My dad was sick so I decided not to tell him so as not to cause him more trouble.

Moreover, as his pension was suspended, I counterfeited one of his coupons and told him that the postman had given me the money. (…)

I used to go to the market on Sundays and sell whatever I could find in our attic, in order to earn some money. I knew I would be kicked out of the University in autumn. Tired of all the running, I went to swim in the lake.”

And the moment of her wedding: „I planned the craziest thing at that time, but which today looks like the supreme wisdom: a fairytale wedding. (…)

 For I didn’t have the money, my wedding dress was borrowed from  Ira Sturdza, who had sewn it herself using a silken parachute left from the war and had embroidered it with daisies.

I made myself a coronet from daisies and showy baby’s-breath, that I had bought from the market.”

And her stories go on…

            Her tormented existence lived within a hair’s breadth of death – a breadth as wide as the golden lane crossed by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz – can always be perceived in the way she talks about painting, or in the joy she feels when collecting old costumes, as if looking for a remedy for oblivion.

A scrawling game…

            Let’s finish with a childhood memory: ”My favourite game was drawing. Lying on my belly, I used to scrawl on everything I could find.

On one of my mother’s cards, I had drawn a lady standing on her high-heeled feet, and next to her, a cat. My mother signed it and wrote next to it : <3 years and 10 months>. My crayons were living creatures: I loved the most the pastel blue one, and then the light yellow one…’

Translated by Casleanu Gianina-Aniela



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