On the ball: the polka dot toy that entertained a nation

On the ball: the polka dot toy that entertained a nation
The first artistic gymnastics team of Onești, 1970

9 December 2020

Instagram and Facebook account @mingearosie explores Romania’s recent past via the photographs of one ubiquitous toy: a red ball with white polka dots.

Produced between 1950 and 1989, the ball appeared next to children and adults in family snaps across the social spectrum, giving a unique glimpse into everyday life in socialist Romania. With few toys available under communism, the red ball became a national favourite that was often recycled once it got smashed.

The project’s curators, visual artist Andrei Nacu and anthropologist Mădălina Muscă, began gathering archive photos featuring the toy after realising just how widespread the object was in family albums from that time. They say that the photo archive project “explores the border between the social memory of the communist era in Romania, and the process of redefining family and personal history.”

In some cases, the photos go beyond the home, revealing communist Romania at large. One image is from a 1970 photoshoot of the first artistic gymnastics team in the Eastern town of Onești. Six years later, one of the children training at the club, Nadia Comăneci, became the world’s first gymnast to score a perfect 10 at the Olympic Games.

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