Rainis and Aspazija are to Latvia what Goethe is to Germany and Shakespeare to the United Kingdom. They wrote plays and poems, worked as journalists, and translated world classics. Rainis (1865-1929) was imprisoned for his political activities and later went into exile. After 1918, when Latvia gained its independence, he became the Minister for Education. Aspazija (1865-1943) did not leave his side either during his deportation to Russia, or when he was in exile in Switzerland. She fought for women’s rights and did not shy away from speaking about the inconsistency of human nature and the anticipated independence of the Latvian nation.
“Thoughts hold great power: what you think is who you are.” (Rainis)
The #mindpower project features a collection of 29 short films in which celebrities from all the EU Member States read excerpts from the works of both poets in their native language and clothe them in the image of their culture. Each week a new video will be released on the Presidency’s website EU2015.LV and social networks Youtube and Facebook.
“This is a very special project because it engages all the Member States. It is an opportunity to introduce our most gifted poets of Latvian history and their ideas which are still topical today to a broad international audience,” said the author of the project’s concept and the Head of the Presidency Secretariat’s Department of the Public Diplomacy and Culture Programme, Selga Laizāne.
“For this project, I was inspired by the Poetry Project which took place during the Irish Presidency when each week one of Ireland’s leading contemporary artists read a different poem. I thought it was a good way to address a wide audience,” she explained.
The first video features the charismatic Per Morberg from Sweden. In his earlier days, he received a black belt in judo and later worked as a professional chef, but in the 1980s he got into dramatics. Per is the author of different cookbooks and hunting books, an actor in a TV detective series and the host of various TV shows. In the #mindpower short film he calls out to Aspazija across the Baltic Sea with lines from Rainis’ poem “The Voice and the Echo” which was published in his famous poetry collection “The End and the Beginning” in 1912.
Üllar Saaremäe, the Artistic Director of Rakvere Theatre who devised the concept of the Estonian Punk Song Festival, Toma Vaškevičiūte and Tadas Gryn, actors from the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre, Irja Askola, the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and other Europeans will appear in the upcoming videos to share the ideas of Rainis and Aspazija.
The visual concept for the project and the contents of each episode were created in the Juris Podnieks Studio.
The Director and Producer of the studio, Antra Cilinska, said: “We have two events in the spotlight this year – the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the anniversary year of Rainis and Aspazija, and #mindpower embraces both of them. We have a dual challenge ahead of us – tograsp Rainis and Aspazija’s values ourselves and to help modern Europeans understand their true meaning.”
Latvian musician Goran Gora and Eva Ikstena-Strapcāne, a news presenter at Latvian Television, play the roles of Rainis and Aspazija.
“Rainis is Rainis. Determined, clever, astute and self-righteous. Rainis is as brilliant a personality as other great European thinkers, poets and publicists. All Rainis conveys can be understood only when you yourself start to think,” Goran Gora described the poet.
“Even if Aspazija appears quite robust, she is also very feminine. I think she was no stranger to beauty. Aspazija was convinced that the Latvians would enter Europe by way of culture and democratic values. To think that then, unbelievable! This social movement, our community, our nation concerned Aspazija greatly. Women’s creative freedom was a special imperative for her," said Eva Ikstena-Strapcāne.
In Latvia, 2015 is the year of Rainis and Aspazija.
In Latvia, 2015 is the year of Rainis and Aspazija. The cultural programme of the Latvian Presidency will celebrate their 150th anniversary with several events. On 1-2 May the international interdisciplinary conference "Between Truth and Power" will take place at the National Library of Latvia. The exhibition "Aspazija/Rainis: rebel/humanist", inspired by the poets’ mutual correspondence which is included in the Latvian National Register of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme, will be displayed in Paris, Minsk and Kirov. And the #mindpower short film project is the most extensive of these events in terms of time and scope.
The sponsors of the project are the airline airBaltic, Jūrmala - the capital city of Rainis and Aspazija - and the EP Information Office.
Join #mindpower, watch a new short film every week and travel through Europe for half a year!