Hanging laundry

Panni stesiI don’t know exactly why I have developed this mania for hanging laundry, but I know when and where. It happened when I went to Istanbul to celebrate my 50th birthday with my life-long friend Ingrid. Visiting the neighborhoods of Fener, Balat and Fatih was a stunning experience for many reasons. One of this was seeing so much laundry hanged to dry in such a creative way. I had forgotten that when I was a child in many places you could see the system of a circle made with a string fixed from one window to the one in front, which allowed you to pull the string thus moving the laundry you had just hanged far from you, and gain more free space. I saw that system in Fener, and it was like going back in time. Hanging laundry does bring me back in time, and this is the first reason why I am so attracted to it. How could I forget all the times I watched and helped my mother hanging our clothes, breathing the fresh smell of washed bed sheets and feeling in my hands the reviving sensation of touching cold and wet clothes.

But there three other aspects that fascinate me. One is the sharing element hanging laundry entails. It’s no coincidence that the more popular and lively the neighborhood is, the more hanging laundry you see. The proverb goes: don’t wash your dirty linen in public, but it could easily quote: don’t hang your wet linen in public. Panni stesi2There is a sense of disclosure and admission in exposing your clothes to the public eye. By sharing the most intimate clothes (your underwear, sheets and towels) in a way you open up to others. And this is something I greatly enjoy. Secondly, hanging laundry contributes to the visual harmony of the common space, with the advantage it can be changed profusely. Some hanging laundry – for the colour combination and the size disposition – contribute to embellish the area, or to give it a taste of familiarity and warmth. Last but not least, the way laundry is hanged can reveal a lot of the local culture. In Fener, Istanbul, sharing windows to make the hanging string run like I described above was a common practice – it tells me of a community which tends to share rather than seclude; I have been in Jakarta for little more than one week but I have already seen a number of houses where laundry is directly put to dry on hangers, one shirt or cloth after the other, neatly arranged – it tells me of an organized and practical culture. So now, when I walk around a place, instead of watching people and movement around me, I stick my nose up in the air in search of beautifully hanged laundry.

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