Kražiai, a small town in the north-west of Lithuania, is inseparably linked with Lithuanian identity. For example, it played a prominent role in the Christianisation of the country, and in the development of Lithuanian poetry and science. Kražiai has also been a symbol of national resistance. The small city offered fierce resistance to the Russian tzar’s Cossacks during their attack on the Kražiai Church in 1893. In the days when Mindaugas Kavaliauskas arriven in Kražiai, there was little of this glorious past to be seen. Kražiai had to deal with a population that was aging, as younger people started to emigrate and seek a better life in Western Europe. Their tickets were bought with money from the sale of milk at well under the market price, which was gravely damaging the small town’s most important economic activity. The year 2002 when most of the images were taken, was a time when you could still see the rudiments of the Soviet era, along with the fading symbols of the small economy of the Independent Lithuania, such as kiosks and small shops, and the globalization that was about to hit strongly. Thus, like so many villages in rural Lithuania, Kražiai was struggling to survive the difficult transition to a new era. Nonetheless, the strength of the local identity was always manifested by everyone coming back home for the main holiday, the pilgrimage of St. Roche, in the second part of August.
From the photographic perspective, “Portrait of Kražiai” was a photographer’s an attempt to record a life as usual in the middle of nowhere of Eastern Europe, without a specific emphasis on delinquency or excessive attention to religious life.
Exhibited widely across Europe, also in China and Australia, “Portrait of Kražiai” was published as a book in 2009.
In 2003, during the 750th anniversary of the Kražiai village, Mindaugas Kavaliauskas was awarded the title of the Honor Citizen of Kražiai. He was also awarded prizes of the Union of Lithuanian Art Photographers for a series of exhibitions of Portrait of Kražiai across Lithuania (2004) and that of the Association of Art Creators of Kaunas for the publication of the book “Portrait of Kražiai” (2010). The project earned several more awards or distinctions.
Multimedia presentation of “Portrait of Kražiai”, featuring text and voice of the artist, below.