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Interview

Rotating Roles

Interview and notes


Suzanne Raes and Hristina Tasheva collaborated to make the documentary Hristina’s Huizen (The Houses of Hristina). In December 2007 the film was for the first time featured at the IDFA festival. Suzanne Raes is the director and filmmaker and Hristina Tasheva the person from whom’s perspective the story of the documentary is developed.

Interview with Suzanne Raes and Hristina Tasheva
http://www.geuzen.org/female_icons/wp-content/uploads/rotating.ogg
(video, 50″, 78MB)
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Notes on archetypes (Riek Sijbring)

Madonna and Madonna

Sometimes a female icon is a celebrity like the pop-star Madonna. And at other times, an icon goes beyond the individual and represents more abstract qualities. For example, in contrast to the pop star, there is “The Madonna”. While she was a person, she has also come to represent certain feminine qualities, like motherhood, piety and selflessness. These attributes have become ideals which have been culturally engendered, shaped by the private domain and frequently characterized as second nature for women. They have become iconographic roles, for example: a mother, caretaker, cleaner or educator. But while different women can fulfill these roles, other hierarchies come into play such as class, heritage and economics.

Marietje and Marjetica

marietje.jpg marjetica.jpgAs a result of globalization, migration and the dissolution of European borders, tasks like caretaking, cleaning and education are more often performed by women coming from other places, such as the new Eastern European member states or other countries from even further away. With the demand for a flexible labour force and the increased pressure for both parents to work, affluent Western European families frequently employ women to take care of their children and household. However, while they work to gain income, they are not given the standard social benefits and rights afforded other Western European workers. And of course, the presence of domestic labour is nothing new. Historically in Dutch culture, Marietje was a figurative name given to young female servants. These women often came from poor Dutch families. In exchange for fulfilling domestic chores, they were guaranteed room and board in the master’s household. Today, with the influx of Eastern European workers, Marjectica has replaced Marietje in the iconography of domestic labour.

Cinderella and princess Amalia

cinderella.jpg cinderella_1.jpg What are the implications when mothers have to leave their families, children and country to find a better economic life elsewhere? Also, what are the consequences of supporting urban professionals in wealthier Western countries to provide income for the rest of the family members remaining behind? A shift takes place where people stand in for each other. On the one hand, they fulfil the tasks and demands of their profession, but on the other, gaps appear in their homeland as children are left with grandparents, or miss parental care. The ’stand-ins’, relieving urban professionals of their burdens disappear in an opaque parallel world. The cleaners and the nannies work as strangers in the most intimate and private domains. Although they work, their own families are gone like a shadow, soundless and unseen. While for some, the outcome results in better economic opportunities, for others, it is far from a Cinderella ending with a heavy price to pay.

Europe and AphroditeThe Myth of Europe One day Europa, the daughter of a Phoenician (Asian) king, plays with her friends at the seaside. Zeus is impressed with her juvenile beauty and would like to meet her but he cannot because his wife Hera will never allow such a meeting. Zeus transforms into a bull and arranges in this disguise an encounter with Europa. Not at all afraid, Europa approaches the bull and in the playful situation she jumps on his back. At that moment the bull runs away from the scene and jumps into the sea. Careful and considered of his ‘catch’ he swims for a day and a night before they arrive at a coast. Europa is dropped of, afraid and disorientated not knowing whether she is dreaming or not. When after a while the landscape doesn’t change she realizes that she is not dreaming. Europa is in a state of desperation when the goddess Aphrodite and her son Eros visit her and explain to her what has happened. Aphrodite also tells Europa that she is now an earthly goddess and that her name will become eternal because the new country that has admitted her will be named Europa (Europe).

europabull.gif aphrodite.jpgEurope, reunited after bitter experiences, intends to continue along the path of civilisation, progress and prosperity, for the good of all its inhabitants, including the weakest and most deprived; that it wishes to remain a continent open to culture, learning and social progress; and that it wishes to deepen the democratic and transparent nature of its public life, and to strive for peace, justice and solidarity throughout the world (…)” (from the preamble to the European Constitution, version 2007 the treatise of Lisbon). Only the future will tell whether or not the goals of harmony, balance and sustainable economic growth will be achieved. There is free movement of people, labour and goods within Europe. And it is clear that member states from Northern Europe cannot sustain their standard of living and thriving economies without the support of lesser affluent member-states. While in theory, all EU countries and their citizens are afforded the same equal rights, the question remains exactly how those rights will be guaranteed in practice.

Suzanne and Hristina

suzanne_hristina.jpgIn a poignant way, Suzanne and Hristina show the unseen life of a cleaner who comes in to contact with the most intimate traces and signs of the private lives of those strangers who’s homes she passes through. It is their mess she cleans up, and as she puts the house back to order, she makes up an image in her mind of her employers, communicating with them through little notes.

While cleaning Hristina finds time to reflect upon her own situation. What dreams and hopes did she have she first arrived within the Netherlands from Bulgaria? As photography is her passion and occupation, Hristina starts taking pictures, self-portraits on different places in the homes which she is cleaning. Hristina has moved on to become a professional photographer and Suzanne cleans her own house again while making new documentaries. Positions and roles appear to have rotated.


Hristina Tasheva studied Agricultural Economy in Bulgaria. To make a living, when she arrived in the Netherlands she started cleaning houses. After a period of time, she wanted to find meaning in her job so she began photographing herself in the houses she was cleaning. January 1st 2007 Bulgaria joined the European Union, and Hristina can now legally live and work in the Netherlands. Currently, she is able to earn a living from her photographic work. Hristina’s website

Suzanne Raes studied Cultural Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Working as a freelance film director and documentary maker, her work has been screened on Dutch Public Television. She is the initiator of art2stay.
Filmography: Uitstappen (1994), Een kleine revolutie (1995), Het einde van het kind (1996), Haagse klasse (1997), Gouden tijden (2000), Sterren van Europa (2001), Haagse klasse - Het vervolg (2002), Ruis (2003), 26.000 Gezichten (2005), Pijn (2005), Erfgenaam van Elsschot (2007), De huizen van Hristina (2007).

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