Posted: 23.03.2023 17:23:00

Pigeons on glass

We got acquainted with the creative dynasty of glass painting masters: the youngest is 13 years old, the eldest is 101 years old

‘If you try to write on glass one day, you will be drawn into this art’. The veracity of this statement of the folk master from Pruzhany Maria Kuletskaya today can be confirmed by her entire family and hundreds of boys and girls — graduates of the clubs and studios where she taught. This direction of folk art is now actively promoted not only in Pruzhany, but also in the children’s art School No. 2 in the city of Bereza. In the coming months, the ancient tradition, revived in two districts, will be included in the State List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the country.

The President of Belarus,
Aleksandr Lukashenko,

“We’ve always known and today we recognise particularly acutely that all the material and immaterial values created by the Belarusian nation act as staples, on which basis the national statehood was born and developed.”
During the presentation of the Spiritual Revival awards 
on January 10th, 2023

Malyavankas from the country house

Foil — under the glass, two doves are painted on the glass, wedding photographs look out of the ‘windows’ cut out in the foil. Such pictures-Malyavankas once hung next to the icons in the red corner of every rural house.
“Then they went out of fashion. Once she was standing at a bus stop in her native village of Kobylovka. I see my grandmother carrying a glass picture to the landfill. Asked to give it to me,” Maria Kuletskaya, the most famous master of artistic glass painting in the Brest Region today recalls.
In order not to lose this art forever, Maria began to revive it. However, she did not copy old work. She left only one distinguishing feature of the Pruzhany craftsmen — to frame Malyavankas with a frame, which is done with a star pen and black ink. The food foil is used for work, and the glass is just ordinary window-glass.
“If a person can read, write — we already say that he or she is literate. I do not agree with this idea! A person must also be able to sing, embroider and draw,” Maria Kuletskaya believes.
Her family was the example of it. Mainly her father Nikolai Klimashevich. The village guy knew several foreign languages, played the mandolin, danced, sang, embroidered, knitted, wove from vines and straw. Father taught his Maria a lot. “Garden and sealing were a top priority in the village, but for us, it was creativity,” Maria Kuletskaya says with a smile.
Therefore, it is not surprising that she has been familiar with paints since childhood. The craftswoman remembered how she wanted to stand out in drawing lessons, “They said to draw a duck, but I drew a turkey!”
There are flowers, birds, animals on her Malyavankas today… On more complex ones there are architectural landmarks, icons, rural landscapes. A whole series of works is devoted to folk rituals.

Craft of four generations

It is difficult to specify how many people Maria Kuletskaya taught to paint on glass. During the years of the existence of the Zorachki club, and then through the Shklinka-Malyavanka studio at the Pruzhany House of Culture, where Maria Kuletskaya taught, hundreds of Pruzhany children passed.
“I left at the age of 70, well, only because of the appearance of COVID-19. However, they often invite me to take part in meetings with children at schools. So, I never refuse,” the craftswoman admitted that the interest of children inspires her.

The Brest Region proposed to include the ancient tradition of painting on glass into the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Maria Kuletskaya taught the ancient craft not only to schoolchildren, but also to many colleagues who came to her for master classes. She also got her whole family involved. Therefore, she confidently says: her youngest student, grandson Yuri, is 13 years old today, the oldest student — her mother Yevdokia Nikitichna, is 101 years old!

In our presence, Yevdokia Nikitichna confidently took up the star-pen and began to trace the dove on the glass with a firm hand. She showed us a painting she had just finished. Impressive!
“My mom has always been a creative person. Both when she taught, and when she worked in the library. She retired after 70 years. She began to grow grain — for straw, to weave boxes. Even at the age of 101, she does not sit idly by — she weaves baskets, weaves small rugs and began to draw on glass,” Maria Kuletskaya demonstrated a shelf with works by Evdokia Nikitichna made for the fair.
Traditions are inherited in this family. While still a student at the Belarusian University of Culture, Irina Mamanovich, daughter of Maria Kuletskaya, received a scholarship from the President’s special fund for popularising glass painting. In addition, she became a member of the Belarusian Union of Folk Art Masters even before her talented mother. It is not surprising that Irina’s sons Yura and Sasha study at art and music schools in Minsk, draw well and dream of creative professions.
“Creativity helps us to understand each other perfectly, to live in harmony with ourselves and the world, to see good,” Irina says, and it’s hard to disagree with her.

The original paintings of Maria Kuletskaya are in private collections in Belarus and abroad, four works of the folk master can be seen in the National Historical Museum

By Valentina Kozlovich
Photos by Pavel Bogush