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The Yakut Wedding

As I said in my two previous posts here and here, there was a lot going on on the day of the Quilted Field.

One of the posts on the entertainment program, was a demonstration of Yakut wedding customs, especially on how to dress the bride.

 

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It all started with a small procession of the participants entering the field and the stage. First came the groom..

…then various family members and a shaman (…I think..).

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One person was at the microphone explaining what was happening, but only in Russian. We could guess quite a lot from what we saw happening on stage, but we probably missed out on a lot of interesting details.

The bride came on stage already with the pink dress on, but there was a lot more to be added, both clothes, jewellery, belt, handbag, hat and mittens, – all of this in beautifully made traditional style clothing.

Everything was done with slow, ceremonial movements while some haunting songs, reminiscent of sami joik, but not quite, were played in the background, occasionally interrupted by the storyteller explaining something.

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When the bride was ready, the groom came and led her to the other side of the stage, both holding on to opposite ends of what looked like a big tassel.

Afterwards there was some kind of ceremony, and then some serious gift giving, – everything in slow motion:

 

In the end they danced some sort of line dance, – again with very slow motions and sombre faces, – very dignified. No hoopla or laughter.

 

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No wedding is without food and drink, of course, and they had brought some of their traditional foods and drink on to the stage. After the ceremony and dancing, they came around and offered the audience tastes of both food and drink, served in carved wooden vessels.

The food was waffles and some small pancakes, – very good, – and the drink was white and had a sour-ish taste. After reading up on Yakut wedding traditions on the web, we think that it must have been fermented mare’s milk. Nobody got sick or died as far as we know,  😉 even though everyone drank from the same cup.

This also gave us a chance of a closer glimpse of their wonderful attire, – all beautifully made with lots of details to admire. I should have liked to examine them all more closely and in person, but the photos will have to do. There was a lot of fur, as would be expected on traditional clothing from the coldest place on earth, but there was also woolen fabric and what looked like silk brocade on some of the coats. There was also lots of silver jewellery, some of which reminded me of the designs from Juhl’s Silver Gallery in Kautokeino, who has got their inspiration from the tundra and the people living there.

Yakutia, or the Sakha republic as it is also called, is the largest republic in Russia, and is almost as far east and north as you can come in that country. This group had travelled 8-9 hours by plane to get to the festival, – all inland, which is telling of just how large this country is.

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The organizers had better cameras than mine, so the photos on their website have some more close ups and details from this event.

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Here is a Youtube video of a Dressing-the-bride ceremony at a big event in 2012.

(It stops rather abruptly, before they are quite finished, I think.)

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In my next post, we will take a closer look at some of their quilts.

🙂

Eldrid

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The International Quilt Festival of Suzdal, Russia

This August I travelled to the International Quilt Festival in Suzdal, Russia. It was a 10 day trip, with 8 of them spent at the Quilt Festival and in the immediate neighbourhood of Suzdal, a small town about 2 hours east of Moscow.

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I have been wanting to visit a Russian quilt event for a while, as I know there are several, and when I saw pictures similar to this one posted on the internet last year, I decided that this was where I wanted to go.

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Suzdal is a very old town. It was founded nearly 1000 years ago, and for a while it was the capital of a principality while Moscow was still merely a small outpost.

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The Suzdal Kremlin (photo above) is way older than the more famous one in Moscow, and is on Unesco’s world heritage list, along with one of the monasteries in Suzdal.

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The capital was moved, but over the centuries,  Suzdal became a religious centre with several monasteries and lots of churches. During the Soviet time, industrialization passed Suzdal by, and much of the old architechture was preserved. When the people realized what a gem they were sitting on, laws were passed to prevent highrise buildings in or near the town centre. More than 300 buildings in town are now listed or protected, including 5 monasteries and more than 30 churches. Suzdal is now a major tourist attraction on the so called Golden Ring, and more than a million tourists visit every year.kyrkjer

This also means that the place is well equipped with reasonably good hotels and restaurants, so the town, with a little less than 10 000 inhabitants, is capable of hosting quite large events.

The travel agency connected with the quilt festival, which organized the tour, had put together a varied and interesting program, which, in addition to the quilt festival events, also included a trip to a local farm and several guided tours of the town and area.

Since there were so many interesting things to do, and to look at, that were not necessarily quilt related, I brought along two family members who are not quilters, and we all enjoyed ourselves very much.

 

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The quilty events like exhibitions and classes were spread out on 8-10 locations throughout the town; – in hotels, churches, culture house, library, and even inside one of the monasteries. Exhibitions were open every day for more than a week.

The quilt shops were located in one of the hotels on the outskirts of town, along with the show administration and most of the classes. Our hotel was in the very centre of town, right next to the town square where much of the entertainment was going on, and with short walks to most of the exhibitions and attractions, and to a variety of good restaurants.

 

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Some events were one day dos, like the Quilted Field event held in the grounds of the Museum of Wooden Architecture.

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People sew quilts of the same size, 1 x 1 meters with ribbons attached to all four corners. The quilts are then laid out on the grass in a checkerboard pattern, and tied together at the corners.

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The audience can then walk, run, dance, or skip in between the quilts, all across the Quilted Field, enjoying all the different colours and motifs, and of course take lots of photos. People love to pose with their quilt, or with their family and friends, and photograph each other in the field.

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In addition to the quilted field, there were also quilts hung on clothes lines and on the walls of the old houses around the area.

 

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There were also lots of stalls selling food and various crafts.

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In addition to all this, the organizers also put on a more than 4 hour long show with lots of song and dance, traditional wedding processions and games, in which both young and old took part.

The theme of this years quilt festival was “Love”, and on this day the focus was on courtship and weddings. There was a special competition category of wedding quilts, and these quilts were hung around the area, and the winners were announced at the end of the day.

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People had dressed up in traditional wedding dress, and a procession of wedding guests following the couple marked the start of the show program.  Later the guests mingled with the audience, and it was interesting to study the various costumes they were wearing.

Quilters also wore their home made dresses, and we recognized a few of them from the fashion show in the town square on the previous day, – more on that in a later post.

On stage a folk dance group sang and danced to traditional folk tunes. They were very good, and wore a variety of wonderful costumes, – the sort quilters would love to take a closer look at.

I think they performed for more than an hour, and still I was sorry to see them go.

 

The audience were invited to learn traditional wedding dances in front of the stage. One couple led the dance, one lady had a microphone and explained the moves over the loudspeakers. Of course, we did not understand the words, which were in Russian, but we understood the moves and steps that were shown. They started out with the polonaise, which we also did at our daughter’s wedding 10 years ago, so it was really very similar to our customs at home.

A small play was performed, again all words in Russian, but you could guess a lot from the mimics and tone of voice. My guess is that this was about a young girl who wanted to be a fine lady in town, and turned up her nose at the simpler farm girl who wished to stay put. However, the farm girl got the eligible young man in the end, but luckily an officer also came to the rescue of the “fine” girl, so all was well in the end.

I loved their costumes.

 

The whole thing was very informal. You could sit and watch all the time, or get up and walk around looking at the quilts, participate in the dancing and games, go have a snack at one of the stalls, or sit on the grass enjoying your packed lunch. There were not only quilters present, but families out for a Sunday afternoon walk, officially invited guests, and also busloads of tourists visiting the museum as part of their tours. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves very much.

 

This is already getting too long. I will have to make several new posts to show you more of the quilts, and of other (hopefully) interesting stuff.

🙂

Eldrid

 

 

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The Four Seasons Embroidered Frieze

This summer Kaffe Fassett’s exhibition “50 Years of Colour” has been on show at Hadeland Glassverk here in Norway. I finally got to see it during its last week, and it was indeed glorious. But I also got to see a lot more.

Since we had travelled a long way for this, and stayed a couple of nights, we also decided to visit the nearby Blaafarveverket in Modum, as we had heard they usually have some good exhibitions there during summer.

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On arrival we were presented with the options of buying discounted tickets for any two of three sites, or all three. We thought that we had time for only two, and when hearing that one of them had some embroidery on show, we decided on that one, in addition to the main site, – which showed paintings in blue colours and also lots of blue glass and china, linked to the former production of cobalt mined in this area.

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The second site, Nyfossum, used to be the director’s dwelling. The old house and gardens are being restored to former glory, while the log barn in the photo above has been turned into a gallery to house the annual summer exhibitions.

What a surprise to step into the barn and discover that the embroidery on show was actually THE Four Seasons Frieze, also called the Life Frieze, made by Torvald Moseid during the years 1961-1977. I had read about it in some magazine many, many years ago, and I think I also may have glimpsed it on tv at some time, but had never seen it in “person”.

Impressive is an understatement. It is 62 meters long and 58 centimeters tall, and all in one long piece of linen fabric, embroidered all over, mostly using the couching stitch with yarn spun from wool from the double coated Norwegian tail-less breed Spelsau.

The whole piece was hung around the walls in three separate rooms and a hallway. It was not possible to see all of it at once, – you had to move from room to room.

 

Below are more photos showing details from the frieze. I have put them into four groups, one for each season.

For every season there was also a small text explaining some of the scenes. As they were only in Norwegian I have tried to write up an English version, but I fear the poetry of the texts got lost in translation.

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Spring
Early spring starts with naked trees and dead leaves.

The break through is like a powerful gust of wind. Flocks of migratory birds are carried by the wind. They fly with their heads stretched out towards the spring, and the wind is playing in groves and thickets.

The woods turn green, and flowers spring. The tree of spring spreads its glory like an open fan.

Flowers and plants are grown and tended to. Two who are enthralled with each other stand in the middle of them, as if they are part of the flowers’ beauty and vitality.

 

 

summertextSummer

Summer starts with the big wedding feast. Flutes are played, and in the flowering fields there are undulating rows of dancers.

The summer bride has got her finery on. She has a classic profile, she is pale, and a myrtle garland is tied around her brow. The summer breeze is playing with her long hair. A knot of glorious summer flowers is tied behind her neck, and the wind blows her bridal veil into the wedding feast.

The wedding feast is like a flaming bonfire which turns into cascades of colourful midsummer plants.  The midsummer sun shines in bright red and yellow.

Midsummer blooming has a boundless lavishness of shapes and colours. Large flower bowls are opening up, and children are playing with pollen stamens.

 autumntextAutumn

The birds bring the first signs of autumn. They pull golden threads across the earth. The threads turn into light, golden veils which are pulled over the woods.

Nature closes down towards the winter time. Colours and shapes change the trees and plants. Large, brown, knotty plants with filled seed pods are contrasting with the blue.

 

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Winter

The winter opens with the stormy wind hitting the trees, and dead leaves in brown, yellow, and red are blown into the air.

Through winter cold and frost the death rider on his wild horse charges into the night. Nature is desolate and silent.

The wind plays with light snowflakes, and they are dancing around like pearl embroidered suns.

In the darkness of the winter night a flaming ice rose shines like the fiery northern lights, filled with hope.

 

Needless to say I was above impressed when walking along the frieze, trying to take it all in, – and even more so now, when working with the photos for this blog post, and I really got to study the details.

One cannot help but wonder about the drive and stamina that the artist would need to finish a piece like this. And even so, when comparing the beginning and the end, one can almost get the impression that he did not want it to end, as the sheer masses and density of the stitches are ever increasing towards the end.

Still, the artist has produced two similar works of art after this one. His second frieze, the 50 meters long Orfeus and Euridike (1978 – 1985), was also displayed at Nyfossum in the neighbouring rooms, and was almost as impressive as this one, although a bit different.  I took lots of photos here as well.

His third and last work of this scale, is the 70 meters long frieze based on Draumkvedet, a Norwegian medieval ballad often compared to Dante’s Divina Commedia.  This was finished in 1993. I should like to see that one as well, – maybe I will be so lucky some time in the future.

🙂

Eldrid

ps

“The Four Seasons” and “Orfeus and Euridike” will hang at Nyfossum till the middle of September this year. There are still two more weeks to get to see them.