Endel Ruberg's walks in beauty (1)
Archived Articles 10 Mar 2006  EWR
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The development of DVD technology has resulted in a welcome increase of access to recorded moving picture material, often out of print, or in a format not convenient for easy viewing. The Montréal Estonian Society acquired the DVD distribution rights of the 1973 Alar Kivilo documentary film "Ruberg" to serve as a fund-raising project. Beyond the obvious benefit to the MES this English language DVD also serves to remind us of a legendary youth leader and artist and to introduce his teachings to a younger generation.

In the hey-day of Estonian scouting in Canada there were numerous men and women of many various talents who kept Estonian heritage and unique culture alive. Among them stood out Heino Jõe in Toronto and Endel Ruberg in Montréal. Both found strength and inspiration in nature, indeed were true environmentalists before the name became too easily given, knew the significance of the Estonian shaman culture, expressed their ethnic strength through various artistic media and in passing on their wisdom and knowledge to the youngsters born abroad were considered mentors of considerable importance. Both, alas, are no longer with us. Thus this documentary about Endel Ruberg is a very welcome release.

The booklet accompanying the DVD provides a brief biography. Endel Ruberg was born in 1917 in Estonia. He studied art in Finland (where he had gone to as a Soomepoiss to assist the Finns in their battle against the Soviet invaders during WW II). In 1951, he took up residence in Canada, where he lived for the rest of his life. He died in 1989 while in Stockholm on holiday.

Ruberg created works of art in leather and watercolour, both with a unique technique and style. In leather, he developed a method of producing images in high relief. (He taught many the pleasures of working with leather, among them numerous campers at Jõekääru.) In his watercolours Ruberg perfected an unusual technique of frost-patterned images. His work is associated with religious and natural themes that range form abstract forms to detailed representations in leather. Among the film's values is in showing at length how Ruberg worked with frost and leather. His works won over 50 awards and prizes - among them the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Jubilee Medal for contribution to Canadian art (1978). Since 1979, his works are on permanent display in the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts.

The film begins with a voice-over narration reciting an Iroquois prayer that asks - let me walk in beauty. The next half-hour is spent with Ruberg as he expresses his deep respect for the harmony of nature. His uncompromising trinity is Man, Nature and God. Most of his time creating was spent in the forests of the Laurentian hills. For Ruberg, the rocks there were filled with God's teachings, and as he learned from his forefathers, the simpler the handling of Nature the greater the value.

The strong windswept tree is a recurring motif in Ruberg's work - it needed strong roots, and also serves as being connected to the Estonian cultural past, regardless of its modesty.

Endel Ruberg left a lasting legacy in training Montreal Kalev's Scouts in marksmanship. He saw rifle sport as developing character and discipline, and his coaching brought results with numerous Canadian championships, both individual and team. Ruberg taught to shoot only at targets for skill, he was vehemently against shooting at animals for "sport", or to take a life. He believed that encouragement brings patience and maturity - this especially on a range in the woods, when mosquitoes and the elements challenged concentration.

Ruberg also devoted considerable time to art instruction in schools for the disabled. The film demonstrates how blind and deaf children through tactile sense learned how his raised relief windswept trees "looked".

One section of the film concentrates on the Estonian shaman's role as keeper of tradition, educator of the young. A re-enactment of Ruberg leading old sacred grove (hiis) rituals emphasizes our cultural heritage and building bridges with our forefathers. No book could ever evoke the actual experiences of the children shown with Ruberg in the sacred grove. The film concludes with Ruberg painting in the winter wilderness, then skiing off into the yonder.

The young Kivilo, all of 20 years of age when this film was made, demonstrates his mastery of the camera and the medium throughout. Harri Kivilo was the producer, and Eva Varangu, Ao Loo and Vello Salo provided the English narration. "Ruberg" provided this viewer with reminiscences of times gone by and of the continuing impact of the teachings of an Estonian patriot and environmentalist who endeavoured to strengthen the connection of Estonian youth with their ancestral roots and nature.

The Estonian National Foundation of Canada is gratefully acknowledged for their financial support in the MES fund-raising project. "Ruberg" is available for purchase from Toronto's estore or by mail ($20 +5 shipping and handling) from the MES treasurer: Anton Tikovt, 2473, rue Coursol, Montréal, QC. H3J 1C9. Visit the MES website at www.mtlmes.ca for more.

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