Posted: 14.10.2022 17:55:00

Keepers of traditions

Folk crafts are an important part of historical memory

The Gantsevichi District, located among the Polesie swamps and forests, has always been famous for its original craftsmen. How do they pass on experience and knowledge to young people?

Folk master Ulyana Vinnik
Photo by Gennady Poplavsky

Woven towels are on trend

In December, the regional House of Crafts will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its establishment. All this time, the institution provides good opportunities for the development of creative abilities of residents of the district of all ages: from children to pensioners. Today there are five associations in which more than six dozen participants are involved, including more than 20 children. In addition, organisational and methodological work with the craftsmen of the district is carried out by the Bagach folk club of masters of folk art.
Now this unique club unites 25 masters. At the same time, four of them were awarded the title of People’s Master of Belarus. Feonia Krysyuk was the first to receive it. Following are the weavers Nina Kazak and Ulyana Vinnik. And in December 2018 — potter Vitaly Shepelevich.

Potter Vitaly Shepelevich
Photo by Vladimir Shlapak

The creativity of local talents has long received well-deserved recognition from both the jury and ordinary connoisseurs of originality. As one of the examples, the Director notes the fact that the Gantsevichi House of Crafts received several diplomas of the 1st degree in various thematic competitions at the 31st edition of the International Arts Festival Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk. 
“It was very pleasant that the work of our masters were very much appreciated. Men’s shirts, women’s and children’s dresses, original bags, woven towels and rugs made in Gantsevichi were very popular at the fair held within the framework of the festival. They were bought up with pleasure by the participants and guests of the Slavianski Bazaar,” says Director of the House of Crafts Alla Zanko. 

Wedding attributes

Among the woven products presented in Vitebsk were the works of Ulyana Vinnik. Natural linen towels and clothes, which the 77-year-old craftswoman weaves on an old loom at her home in the village of Borki, in fact, are real artistic masterpieces and are represented in a number of museums and private collections.
“I took my first weaving lessons from my mother Anna Semyonovna at the age of six, and at the age of 12 I was already weaving with my ‘krosny’ [weaving loom in Belarusian]. In those days, this was a common occupation in the countryside, so I continued to weave with the ‘krosny’ of my mother-in-law when I got married as a 17-year-old girl in the neighbouring village of Borki. Then, in the 1960s, we mainly wove towels, bedspreads and other things that adorned the modest peasant life. At the same time, towels with ornaments were especially popular — they were an indispensable attribute of all weddings. I still remember that people payed two or three rubles for such a towel,” explains Ulyana Vinnik.
However, the skill of the girl was highly appreciated not only by fellow villagers, but also by specialists. According to the memoirs of Ulyana Petrovna, her husband Aleksandr Demyanovich, who was a cultural worker, once sent her towels to an exhibition in Brest in 1966. Soon the organisers replied that they wanted to purchase them for the permanent exhibition. And for many decades now, these and other works of the craftswoman have been kept in Brest in the regional museum of local lore and the museum of folk art at the regional social and cultural centre.
“Now people really like natural things that are made using old technologies. And this is good. After all, there was a time when homespun towels and clothes were considered ‘countrylike’, from which one need to get rid of. And this, in my opinion, is the same as to renounce the memory of the ancestors, and even from oneself. Therefore, we must try to ensure that our folk crafts and crafts do not disappear with the departure of the old masters, but pass on to the younger generation. I once taught my daughters to weave, and now I pass on professional secrets to my granddaughters — Dasha, Katya and Varya. So, looking at the enthusiasm with which they master it, I am sure that they will definitely continue my thing someday,” says Ulyana Vinnik.

By Gennady Poplavsky