Kihnu, an Estonian island in the Gulf of Riga, situated an hour’s ferry ride away from the coast, has thanks to its women retained a culture that has cemented its position as part of UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage since 2003. This unique European and Baltic culture is thus now officially acknowledged and protected. Whereas Kihnu’s men – for the most part sailors and fishermen – brought innovation and novelty to the island, the women, that we could qualify as ‘cultural guardians’, where more conservative and tended to the affairs of the island.
And so, despite the influence of the dominant powers (Danish, Swedish, German, Russian), the islanders have managed to preserve their traditions to this day. Theirs is a culture that expresses itself every day through clothes, dialect and celebrations, through music, songs and religion, in a form of syncretism that brings together local traditions and beliefs.
Today, if this culture is under threat, it would certainly be due to the globalisation of standards and the ageing of its population.
Jérémie Jung is a French photographer who lives in Paris and works for the French and international press.
His personal work focuses on Estonia and in particular on the question of the resilience of traditional cultures. His photos about the island of Kihnu as well the Setos, an ethnic and linguistic minority of South-Eastern Estonia, have been exposed in France at Rencontres d’Arles – 2014, “Photo de Mer” Vannes – 2015, INALCO, Paris – 2015 and the Festival Les Boréales, Caen – 2016, but also at the Estonian National Museum (Tartu, 2015). This is the first time his works are shown in the UK.