Urmo Raus

Sand is probably one of the few natural minerals that has given a name to a people, a language, and even an entire country. The beautiful white sand of Courland and Livonia stretches all the way to Pärnu County. Around the border of this county is where Livonia ended for centuries, and Estonia began from there.

I have my own personal relationship with Livonians and Livonia. My grandfather on my mother's side came from the areas of present-day Latvia and was probably a Livonian by origin. He spoke Latvian as fluently as Estonian, and in his thoughts, he was always more on the other side of the Latvian-Estonian administrative border. He probably never visited Tallinn and Northern Estonia during his life. For him, Riga was the capital, and Livonia was what attracted him. He often disappeared there in the mornings along the dusty gravel roads with his mopeds, and when he came home in the evening, he had a bucketful of blackberries or other gifts of the forest with him.

In a sense, I must have inherited this geographical self-definition from my grandfather because Tallinn leaves me indifferent to this day. I spent all my childhood summers in Jäärja, on the edge of the endless forests and swamps of the Estonian-Latvian border areas. The beaches of Livonia, from Häädemeeste to Saulkrasti, were the beaches of my childhood dreams. These beaches exude a warmth that is not found in the beaches of Northern Estonia, and they still make me feel safe with the soft needle rugs under their beach pines. Once in my life, I have literally sought this safety there.

In 1987, when I received an invitation to appear in a Soviet army camp, of course, I did not appear there. Instead, I went to Saulkrasti Beach with a tent and my high school sweetheart; I stayed there for two weeks until the army recruitment period ended. I then appeared tanned and sheepish at the military commissariat in Viljandi, where I calmly accepted the verbal thrashing I got subjected to.

Running away to the forests of Latvia was my first instinct, which I probably got from my grandfather Karlis Lusis, in Estonian Karl Luus, who also hid from the Stalinist repressions in the forests of Latvia. From that time of living in the forest, he had retained a great knowledge of nature and also a respect for nature. My grandfather's relationship with nature has also influenced me.

A few years ago, I bought a French book, "History of Livonia," published in Utrecht in 1669. At the end of the book was the author's epilogue, written in The Hague one August evening more than three hundred years ago. I was also sitting at my desk in The Hague, and it was a tender August evening. I remembered all the sandy beaches of Livonia and carpets of pine needles with blueberry tussocks, a kind of general archetype of Livonia, which is hidden in the deeper layers of my memory. Already then, I had the idea to convey this archetype by painting. This idea matured for some time, and was looking for the right outlet - a form that will now come true together with Andres Koort in the form of a joint exhibition "liiv-liivi".