Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Day 4 - The Museum of the Romanian Peasant

One of the main reasons for my trip was to visit the Muzeul Taranului Roman - the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and to meet Dr Vintila Mihailescu the Museum's Director. The Museum was created by artist Horia Bernea to celebrate the different Romanian rural civilisations.

The term peasant is so often used as a term of abuse and put down in England, even when joking with friends. "You peasant" - backward, uneducated, no social graces, no money and not modern. So it's interesting to visit a place where the rural village working population appears to be viewed in a very different light.

I had a fantastic meeting with Dr Mihailescu, who is also an eminent anthropologist. He was incredibly positive about the project and helping to make it happen. So, it's on!!! We "just" have to make it happen now.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Museum looking at its collections. Such a wonderfully inspiring place, with a rich collection of textiles, costumes, painted eggs, religious icons, buildings (a church, watermill and a house), workshops, crosses, pottery, tiles and chairs.

It's a museum and not a romanian village but even so I could spend days and weeks here studying the collection. I'm hoping to see some of the collection in storage on my next visit and spend some time with one of the museum's curators. Sadly, it wasn't possible this time, but everything one step at a time. The amount of textiles is in fact somewhat overwhelming, so I need to give more time to thinking which aspects I would like to research further.

I kept thinking how much Romanian villages, even the most remote must have changed drastically, particularly since the collectivisation and industrialisation of communism between 1940's and 1989. Again more to explore in another visit.

I took endless photographs, sat and drew objects and patterns. There was limited information in English, although I picked up a book about the museum in the shop. I've really got to start learning Romanian.

Here's one favourite piece explaining the stitching on a blouse, from the first room in the museum which focuses on the significance of the cross. Not a great photo sorry.

"There is a deep resemblance between the tree of life - a symbol common to many European and Asian cultures - and the cross. Both are bridges linking the sky and the earth."

"The crosses are sewn on the front of this blouse, at breast level. Such blouses seem to have been worn by breast-feeding women. The beliefs and practices related to the newly born placed great stock on ensuring of milk and rest. It was believed that evil people and foul spirits sought to steal the baby's milk and sleep, that is why the mothers needed to know how to protect themselves."

You really must visit this museum.

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