Anna Bedynska. Explores the fading Polish tradition of preparing clothes for death.
We live in dehumanised times, family relations are growing looser, people are more and more depersonalised. Our life is automatized in many aspects, including customs of death and burial.
In Poland, the tradition of preparing clothes for death is almost extinct. The only people who continue to cultivate this tradition are aged 70 and over. If we do not document this now, the next generations will be deprived of it and the knowledge will be lost.
As one of my subjects said: it is not proper to go in jeans to meet the Lord. This is why many old people prepare clothes for death before they die. Sometimes they sew, sometimes they believe that clothes must be brand new and they collect them with pietism. Others say that it must be comfortable and used, as the journey to Infinite is long. Some want black, others full of colours. Some want to take several goods for “the last journey”, pictures of saints, prayer books, rosaries, etc. Everything they want to wear and take has meaning.
It is said that we cannot ignore the will of the dead, who had declared beforehand what he/she wants to wear and how he/she wants to be buried. Otherwise, it is believed that the dead person cannot find the right way to Infinity. Moreover, the person, who did not fulfil the will of a dead, can be haunted by the soul of the dead.
This is part of a process of getting accustomed to death. This particular tradition is still cultivated in little towns and villages, mostly among the older generation. Probably the last one. People in towns employ funeral companies, that take care of the dead bodies. Death is still a taboo.
Anna Bedynnska (1975, Poland) has extensive experience as a press photographer documenting social projects as well as working for Polish National Newspaper ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’. She won World Press Photo for her portrait ‘Zuzia’ in 2013, annual Prize for Cultural Achievements of Polish Ministry of Culture. Her picture from the Russian series ‘Innocent but sentenced’ won Picture of a Year at Grand Press Photo 2017. In her work, she focuses on social changes in contemporary society. Her projects, including ‘Dad in Action,’ ‘Clothes for Death’ and ‘Go Home, Kids’ were used as national NGO campaigns to humanise death and childbirth. She has highlighted taboo and sensitive subjects with particular reference to the role of women.
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