Kukeri: The Forgotten Rituals of Bulgaria
29 March, 2018
This project documents Bulgaria's ancient, arcane and pagan practices dating back thousands of years. Performed in the country's remote mountain regions, the annual practice of "Kukeri" takes place at the end of January. The other-worldly rituals are intended to dispel the evil spirits of winter which might otherwise bring ill fortune or "loshotiya" to the community. Kukeri wear wooden masks carved with the faces of haunting beasts and heavy bells hang around their waists, creating a deafening symphony as they dance and jump in hypnotic rhythms.
I spent weeks on the road travelling rural Bulgaria exploring the villages and snow fields to capture portraits of the annual ritual's practitioners. I've been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the Bulgarian mountains over the past four years and have fallen for the mysterious traditions of these tiny villages, steeped in their ancient folklore in this timeless and somewhat forgotten corner of Europe. In our society, ceremony and ritual have ceased to be a part of the cultural fabric in the way that they once were. I was drawn to document a community that remains to place so much value on folk law and ritual, with the practice still alive and flourishing in the face of modernity.