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A photo story

Radoslav and Ivana in Wonderworld - in Evo Danchev’s photography project “Guardians”

Photo: Evo Danchev

Tucked away in the hills between the rounded ridges of Rila mountain and the cliffs of the Pirin there is a farm – Rado’s farm. Nearby one can see a picturesque shepherd’s cabin. It is an old military van, turned into a cozy shelter.

Two fur-creatures open the door and enter to keep warm from the icy wind outside. The two are friends of photographer Evo Danchev.

Radoslav and Ivana are two of the central characters in Evo’s project “Guardians”. Evo Danchev travels across Bulgaria to take photos of traditional masked dancers kukeri (mummers).

We told you about his work in earlier publications “A winter’s tale of kukeri, and how tradition is passed down from father to daughter” and “Chaushi, arapi, babugeri and dzhumali – Evo Danchev and his magical mummers”.

The photographs, accompanied by comments, were posted by Evo on social media in late December or shortly before the start of the Mummer's Festival, which traditionally begins on the first day of the New Year and ends in mid-March.

Masquerade rites in Bulgaria are connected with livestock breeding. Even today many of the participants in the rituals still breed their own animals and use their hides to make the costumes. The length of the hair of an adult ram can reach one meter, and the price of a high-quality costume - up to BGN 20,000 (EIR 10,230).

“I met Radoslav and Ivana while I was in search for another story for my project “Guardians”. I was impressed by the strong connection they had. They were an illustration of that transition between generations thanks to which ancient traditions have been preserved to survive till out day. The father somehow managed to pass his passion for the old rites down to his daughter. The young child’s heart was filled with love for the animals and the traditions – the very love that defines a true Guardian,” the photographer says.

Having grown up as a goat herder, Rado has settled at the foot of Rila Mountain. He has been raising animals all his life.

Eyes shining

Rado is a strong man, the type that are only born in the mountains. His eyes are fiery, his heart is as big as the world, his hands are tough and roughened from hard work.

Pruchlyo is the name of the ram. When Ivana calls him he pricks up his ears and runs to her - but not to head butt her. The animal loves to be cuddled and stroked by the girl.

Ivana was only four when she donned her first fur and skins costume. She was fascinated. Since then, she has not missed a single opportunity to dance at the Starchevata Kuker festival in Razlog and she dreams of one day becoming the first chaush (kuker).

“Captivated by my subjects, I take photos until dusk. The freezing wind wouldn’t stop. Little Ivana bites the bullet and stands still. I'm worried about her, and Rado proudly tells me, "No problem. The little one is tough."

Compiled by: Veneta Nikolova

Photos and captions: Evo Danchev

Editing: Elena Karkalanova

Translated from Bulgarian: Elizabeth Radkova

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