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Thursday, March 1, 2018


Happy 1st March !

Every year, it is a Bulgarian tradition on the 1st of March, the month marking the spring awakening, to adorn our chests with a red & white wool brooch, which we Bulgarians call martenitsa. Through the centuries this art, but a handful of wool, has been handcrafted in various forms and shapes, but always using red & white wool. The white represents our wish for long life and the red our wish for good health. Martenitsa is not just a strong symbol of Bulgarian identity,but has become part of Unesco heritage. It is invariably one of the first presents that we share with friends of Bulgaria. As Irish would have it, there is an Irish story about martenitsa. It is a love story.

The Artist’s Take

The art pieces look into the science of love; endorphins and dopamine are first released by those who click. In the Bulgarian tradition of martenitsa-making, the white represents the female hence Svetlana has a white cape and carries a hat sculptured with white blood cells. Arnie wears a hat sculptured with red blood cells and has a red cape. Their hands are connected by a long piece of rope which is a sculpture of endorphins. The inspiration for the art pieces in this look comes from the pursuit of understanding love at first sight an intricate connection that bursts in a moment and could last a lifetime.
Svetlana and Arnie Hensman
The Hensman family lives in Dublin and have three children and two cats. They have been married for 15 years. Arnie‘s dad is American and his mum is Irish. Svetlana, originally from Varna, Bulgaria came here almost 20 years ago to pursue an academic career. Their first connection was when Svetlana gave Arnie a martentitsa on the 1st of March. At their wedding reception, Arnie had a word of caution to all guests: ‘‘If a Bulgarian girl gives you a matrenitsa, be warned that you might end up getting hitched one day. Just like us!’’ Svetlana, Arnie and their children Daniela, Christopher and Alex all celebrate Martenitsa Day by giving martenitsa-making workshops in the children’s school. Perhaps it is in the hope that there is another couple somewhere that might find their own love by such an exchange.


The work profiles the evolving make up of a community through geographical, cultural and personal change. The artistic conversation is how festivals and customs reflect and manifest this.
The models in each visual narrative are authentic members of the Bulgarian community. They are selected on the basis of their personal connection to a festival, holiday or custom.
For each scene the artwork in felt is purposely created by Niki to reflect the message about growth, change and strength which is connecting to others. It is a research into what shifts our personal and collective boundaries of empathy, acceptance and strength.

This is a collaborative project between Niki Collier- an award winning visual artist and designer based in Dublin and Ivaylo Petrov a photographer from the Bulgarian community based in Kildare.