A feat of imagination featuring an array of enchanted forests and lakes populated by magical creatures, wearing costumes adorned with intricate beading and embroidery, Your Yool is epic multimedia storytelling at its very best. What is less obvious, perhaps, is that this fictional universe draws on Tatar myths and legends and, in doing so, Your Yool seeks to bring much-needed attention to Russia’s rich and overlooked heritage.
Tatars are a predominantly Muslim community spread across Russia, Central Asia, and Crimea. The Tatar population in Russia comprises just over 5 million people, according to the 2010 census — mostly in the republic of Tatarstan, which is considered the heartland of Tatar culture. Tatar history goes back to the 5th century, yet until recently its cultural heritage has rarely featured in the work of young creatives. Kazan-based creator, Tatiana Chernoguzova, wants to change that with Your Yool — an Instagram-based project, educational resource, and flourishing creative community.
Explaining the name, she says: “Yool in Tatar language means ‘way’, or ‘road’. When I started Your Yool, my dream was to pave a new path for contemporary Tatar visual culture, honouring the history, national costume, and craft of the community,” she says. After studying fashion design, Tatiana Chernoguzova spent the next six years worked as a stylist, producer, and graphic designer in the fashion media. She wanted to try her hand at filmmaking, and was looking for a project with which she could both build on her creative skills and explore her background.
“Approaching the age of 30 I got more interested in my Tatar identity,” she recalls. Having always wanted to leave Kazan, around this time she found a new appreciation for her city. “I fell in love with Kazan once again and gave up the idea of moving elsewhere. [From then on] I became invested in Tatar myths, and the aesthetics they conjure up: woods, fields, swamps, and terrifying pagan supernatural creatures.”
Beyond researching her cultural heritage, she knew she wanted to contribute to it — the result is a fantastic fashion film based on Tatar folklore. “While working on the film, I’d read up on the history of Tatars and Tatar costumes. I’d also had conversations with a variety of experts. Certain areas of culture were tricky to research, as some books are not widely available. I realised that I needed to share this material. This is how I decided to create an online resource with everything I used to create: costumes, product design, and sets”.
The fashion movie Yooha has travelled to film festivals in Berlin, London, Stockholm, and California, the first film of its kind to bring exposure to Tatar creativity.
“I believe the Tatar stories can surpass their local context and be told without exoticism. One of my missions was to gather a community of like-minded people and start a conversation about Tatar identity in Russia,” she reveals. “My plan for the future is to develop Your Yool into a multi-faceted art residency that will support the production of national clothing and crafts, be an educational resource for Tatar visual culture, and comprise its own workshop, showroom, and art gallery. I want to provide young artists from Tatarstan with an easily accessible work space, materials, and mentorship. They, in turn, would create clothing, accessories, objects, which would reinvent and promote Tatar culture.”