The Latvian signs are of a geometrical style, harsh in their form, separate in their placement, construcive, simple and clear in their composition, symmetrical. […] each sign should be perceived as a unity of definite movements in time and space, as a process because also in nature (Universe) everything is in movement.
It is a world outlook that unites in one whole the intuitive, imaginary and rational, analytically perceivable. This is knowledge which is written in signs and symbols and which opens up to us as a system, as a world outlook characteristic of the Balts – as patterns created by the Balts’ soul.
– Signs of the Latvian Soul exhibition in Riga
Out of all the exhibitions I have visited in Riga, the Signs of the Latvian Soul exhibition was certainly the most eye-opening and inspiring one. With costumes, music, songs, dances and ornaments, the exhibition provides an insights into traditional Latvian culture and the Latvian vision of the world. Sometimes, it was quite hard to grasp the meaning of certain symbols because their logic is fairly different from our mindset. Ornaments like the slanting Mara cross (x) and the straight Mara cross (+) represent the active/dynamic/moving life and the afterworld/death (where the movements freezes) and show the highly spiritual Latvian soul in mathematical, symmetrical and geometrical figures.
Symbols are shaped by nature and everyday life. The sun is the weaver of time, many time wave strands form a time grid – the universe. The Laima cross represents spinning, and human lives are spun like a thread. Threads of destiny and time are formed by their actions and are twisted around the middle of events. The tree of dawn grows in two, four, even eight directions, its symmetry mimicking the endless cycle of the world: birth, growth, zenith, collaps and death…
These and many other symbols are incorporated into traditional ribbons, belts, jewellery, costumes and even dances. Each of them has its dedicated place in important events like baptisms, weddings and funerals. Although Latvia became a Christian country a long time ago, those values and beliefs are far from gone. It is most interesting how both world visions are merged and twisted into one and has shaped Latvian culture.
Riga itself is also worth a stroll through its old town. I took my time wandering around and captured a few moments of the city reflecting itself in its windows.