This is not the first time we work together with Zsuzsa. Actually, she was our very first contact to the village of Nagykamarás back in 2017, when we were working with Antje on I like being a farmer and I would like to stay one and looking for watermelon farmers to collaborate with. I received Zsuzsa’s phone number from Márton Lendvay, a young researcher in the field of rural geography, who had been doing fieldwork on community resilience in the region. Zsuzsa had been one of his informants. He calls her “Hairdresser Zsuzsa”—but as we later find out, this is only one facet of her manifold activities.
Zsuzsa runs two hair salons—one in Nagykamarás, the other in the neighbouring Medgyesegyháza. She works together with her daughter Anita, who we often see cycling frantically from one village to the other between shifts. The hair salon in Nagykamarás is also the home base for Zsuzsa’s other business: she is one of the local fruit and vegetable traders, an important player who negotiates with international buyers and receives trucks from Lithuania to Poland. She sets the prices for farmers who sell locally, choosing not to take the risk of bringing their produce to the wholesale market at their own cost, without knowing whether or not they’ll be able to sell it. Farmers and traders are often at odds, tensions run high, especially during harvesttime.
Zsuzsa knows all about the perils of watermelon farming, as she and her husband used to grow them as well. She tells us how she sold their melons in the 1980s at the market on Mars Square in Szeged and what tactics she used to charm buyers as an attractive young woman. She shows us an impressive collection of Polaroids from these times. We see Zsuzsa in high heels, with her black hair piled high, as she stands next to an old-fashioned scale weighing melons. Everyone called her “Angela”, she tells us, after Angela Davis, due to her curly hair.
For Zsuzsa returning to the Szeged market with our performance is a kind of homecoming. This is where she was first asked if she could fill a truck for export with melons—a turn of events that resulted in her becoming a trader. But Zsuzsa’s portfolio of activities doesn’t stop there: she is also a politician, a member of the Nagykamarás village council, and the head of the civic guard, a self-organised group of locals concerned with public security. As a result, in a corner of her hair salon, we discover a screen showing images from surveillance cameras set up around the village.
When we rehearse the scene for the performance where Zsuzsa does Orsolya’s hair, re-creating her younger self, she describes herself saying: “I am multi-faceted. Many people don’t get it, sometimes I don’t understand it myself.”