Master’s heart and soul evident in craft souvenirs

Returning from long trips we tend to bring back souvenirs, chosen to remind us of a country’s culture or way of life. Often these are small, handmade pieces by local masters: clay statuettes of fairytale characters, tableware or textiles with folk patterns, costume jewellery or a shell or stone. What do tourists choose to bring home from Belarus?
By Olga Zakharievskaya

“Our most frequent visitors are from China, who visit in large groups. However, we recently welcomed family from Italy and tourists from America,” notes the Departmental Head of Minsk’s Gallery of National Decorative-and-Applied Art, Valentina Shavel. “As a rule, foreign guests tend to buy linen items as souvenirs: rushniks, table cloths and napkins. Undyed pieces with embroidered Richelieu or Belarusian folk patterns are popular, all being handmade. You can see the heart and soul of each craftsman in their work.”

Russians like Belarusian matryoshka nesting dolls, despite these being a typically Russian souvenir; they like our traditional wooden versions, complaining that cheap Chinese matryoshkas have appeared on their home market.

These days, you can buy lovely souvenirs at any roadside cafй or hotel — even far from ancient castles and churches. The Trade Ministry ruled that all owners of roadside services must have set up the sale of souvenir goods by the end of 2012.
One of Minsk’s cosmetics shops tells us that those from Russia and Ukraine are eager to buy creams, lotions and shampoos made by Belarusian manufacturers, bringing long lists for themselves, friends and relatives.

Of course, the range of souvenirs available is ever growing, being unrecognisable from a decade ago. The word ‘souvenir’ can be translated as ‘recollection’ or ‘memory’ from French; there is certainly an argument for people making return trips based on their final feeling on leaving a country and the purchase of lovely souvenirs may be a deciding factor.

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Minsk’s stores are already selling souvenirs for the 2014 IIHF World Championship. All the capital’s large shops and those of our regional cities have souvenir departments, although the Arts Gallery perhaps boasts the greatest choice.
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