Smoke Sauna Symphony / 2019

As women cleanse themselves in a smoke sauna, their fears are also washed away. Within the shadows of the sauna, these women are able to confess stories that could not be uttered anywhere else.

“A girl's appearance is so important, that you immediately look at her with a very critical eye” - Women in a smoke sauna, January 2016, Old-Võromaa.

Dimness. The sizzle of water being thrown across hot stones can be heard as the contours of women's body's are visible through the fog.

Contrasting bodies tell stories about the intimate and multifaceted details about life as a woman.

Each story gives birth to another one. Inside the sauna, women wash themselves and each other's backs. The bath water washes away the dirt of their bodies, and with it, their fears and despairs. They are now able to tell the personal stories that would otherwise remain unheard. Women nourish themselves while whisking, singing 'runic' songs of old, crying, and laughing. Men on the other hand, heat the sauna, cook pieces of meat in the smoke of the sauna, chat about women, and smoke cigarettes. For centuries, women have given birth and washed the dead inside of smoke saunas. Smoke saunas are a sacred place, in which the human body, in addition to the soul, can be purified. Every Saturday, when in the sauna, people are forced to confront their former birth and future death. The dim smoke-filled room functions as a confessional booth, in which stories can be shared, that would otherwise remain untold. Through the film's characters, emerges the cultural customs of the Old-Võromaa smoke sauna. In 2015, UNESCO articulated the importance of the smoke sauna tradition when they included it on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.