In the 80s you could watch a famous short
movie on national TV. This film was broadcast 2 or 3 times a week
during the 2 hours of programming (from 7 to 9pm). However, I have to
ask myself if the movie was really in black and white, or if it was my
impression of the world around me … at that time life looked black
and white to me, and sometimes it had red and yellow spots.
The movie that appeared on the screen of the little black and white
magic box was about some skinny girls and it had a touch of the
grotesque. The outlines were hazy, only one figure had very plain
outlines and that’s why she looked like a photo stuck on the screen, as
if this girl wasn’t really part of the movie. The girl with the
artificial figure was the famous Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who
was said to be the idol of every Romanian girl.
But it gets even
better: the others, the faceless, the outlineless figures, were the
Romanian gymnastics team. The rest of the team, girls who didn’t have
the same success as Nadia, were used as a background, a social scenery
for the great star. So far there is nothing unusual, nothing you
wouldn’t be used to seeing today. There were, however, some exceptional
nuances: although Nadia was considered to be a "prachtexemplar" of a
talented Romanian, her image abroad was that of a skinny girl, and her
performances were viewed as a grievous circus performances.
The girls in the movie were really "living life to the max", they
were playing Baba Oarba (‘old, blind woman’). Everybody wanted to
believe that those girls had time for playing games, although it was
obvious that they were gym machines made after a Chinese pattern. Baba
Oarba was a game played in the playgrounds among the apartment blocks.
The playground was meant to be a kind of miniature version of block
estates, but for me it was a colourful elephant graveyard. The children
gathered in a circle and in the middle was the "chosen one", with a
scarf over his eyes. The "blind man" had to recognise one of his
playmates only by touching him. It was forbidden to say any names, he
had to invent a story that could suit his playmate, a short, sad or
funny fictional story about his strange habits, or about his character.
If the others thought that the story suited their playmate, the Baba
Oarba was released and somebody else took his place. This world
discovered with bound eyes was shapeless, a world of imagination, a
world that wasn’t moulded into the shapes of reality. The graveyard for
elephants was a violent moulding of the childish imagination into
shapes, but the same role was played by the black and white room, and
the most perfidious of all was the small black and white magic box at
home. The adults also kept this kind of childishness, not innocence,
because Freud had already banned this word out of the modern world. The
Baba Oarba: "pretending it isn’t truth", "I want to believe". These are
the instruments of a Romanian defence mechanism. The great pretender is
back on the stage, he had never really left it, he is the small
Romanian master of hypocrisy. The Romanian way is full of the magic of
hypocrisy, the secret sweet poison that has transformed the solitary
human being into a social one.
It is a world built on Baba Oarba and Hypocrisy: emptiness and
shapelessness were the structures. A few years ago this world was an
opposite to the world of forms, at that time communism. The Baba Oarba
is a kind of "not living anymore in an unkind reality", it is a bit
more and a bit less than death, if death is seen simply as "not living
anymore". We Romanians have always had a special relationship with
death. Like the small, perverse drummer boy from Grass’ "Tindrumm", the
Romanian always creeps under the seven skirts of grandmother death.
When life becomes a bit more difficult, let us die a little: not
forever, just for a while, until life becomes worth living again! Great
proposal, but I’ve found out that it is not that easy to wake up from
Baba Oarba. The Romanians, citizens of a country based on a democratic
system, haven’t woken up from this artificial death. They are not
really there. And the new reality, yes, it is not really like in the
story in Baba Oarba; the illusion is confronted with reality and it
broke into a thousand pieces. And now what?
"The show must go on": that’s the opinion of some people who speak
perfect English, although they spoke Russian only a few years ago – the
survivors. To continue to imitate the ‘serious’ world means playing.
The others, the mortals, are sitting and crying at the sunset, looking
at the lemon tree, their greatest acquisition since the revolution.
The colour TV-set is spreading darkness into my room. A commercial
break tries to find its way to my disconnected brain. It is an advert
against violence. A young daydreamer turns into a militant. He wants to
convince some grandmothers to bring their grandchildren to a deserted,
ruined playground, because in his opinion a child can only begin his
social life in a playground. The children come, bringing an arsenal of
Barbie dolls and Pokemon figures, but it looks like they are also
playing Baba Oarba. The young, ‘new’ man makes an attempt to touch one
child. A coloured inscription appears on the black screen: STOP THE
CHILD ABUSERS! Is it really true
that they don’t want to play Baba Oarba anymore, because, you know, I
am not strong enough to live without it.