Marianna (left) and Anita with the assembled Kivicka loom.
Source: Latvians Abroad Museum and Research Centre
A weaving loom built by exiled Latvians has arrived at its new home in a Lativan emigration museum.
It is one of two 'sister' countermarch floor looms from the Museum Victoria collection with remarkably similar histories. The Kivicka loom and the Apinis loom were both built in displaced persons camps in Germany after World War II from scrap timber, and both were brought to Australia by immigrating Latvians.
Initially, the Kivicka loom was acquired from Anita Apinis for display at the Immigration Museum. Anita had inherited the two looms from her mother, Anna, who purchased the Kivicka loom in 1970 from another Latvian woman.
Later Anita also donated the Apinis loom - a true family treasure that was designed by her engineer father Ervins. Anna Apinis passed on her weaving skills to Anita and both women worked with the loom for many years. The strong family connection, and the first-hand story of the loom’s design, construction, transport and use, meant that the Apinis loom was most valuable for Museum Victoria's Migration Collection, and Senior Curator Moya McFadzean began to think about deaccessioning the Kivicka loom.
Deaccessioning is the formal removal of items from the museum’s collection. It is an important part of maintaining collections and may reflect storage limitations and changing collection priorities. In the case of the looms, Senior Curator of Migration, Moya McFadzean, considered how the surplus might be shared with another institution. “The looms share many similarities and we felt we didn’t need two,” explained Moya.
Moya knew a former MV staffer, Marianna Auliciema, had returned to her home country of Latvia and was working on the establishment of a new museum in Riga that would tell the story of Latvians abroad. It seemed the perfect place for the Kivicka loom and Anita Apinis was delighted by the idea of transferring it to Riga.
“Anita now lives in Latvia,” said Moya. “and she helped put it back together in Riga. We provided transcripts of the original oral histories with Anna and Ervins Apinis, photos and information. It became their first object, and for them it will be an iconic object because of its story – from Germany, to Australia, then back to Latvia. It’s a transnational object full of symbolism.”
Moya is especially moved by the community collaboration that created these looms even under such terrible conditions. “Everybody was recognising the importance of the looms in the displaced persons camps because a lot of those people were never going back to Latvia." The Apinis family were a formidable team with Anna’s weaving skills and knowledge and Ervins’ ingenuity. “It was a real partnership. Ervins also created the unplying machine that produced the yarn for Anna to weave.”
This collaboration between two institutions means the sister looms tell a story of Latvian migration and immigration from both ends of the journey. With many Latvians returning home since independence in the 1990s, the new Latvians Abroad museum and research centre is a significant way for Latvians reassert their culture and history after the Communist regime.