At 6 October the Culture Centre of the Šalčininkai Region Municipality opens an exhibition The Dieveniškės Region. The Expedition of 1951 by the Folk Art Department of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art. The exhibition revisits one of the first expeditions of the LNMA to the region of Šalčininkai. It tells a story of a small corner of Lithuania encircled by the Dieveniškės bend, and its ethnic culture. On display are artefacts and related documentary material collected by the expedition.
The cultural project The Šalčia Region: Past Open Onto Future
The Dieveniškės Region. The Expedition of 1951 is the second part of the project The Šalčia Region: Past Open to Future by the LNMA and the Culture Centre of the Šalčininkai Region Municipality. The first exhibition of the project, Inspired by the Beauty of Nature, was held in a barn of the farmstead of Jašiūnai estate during this summer and through September. It featured the art by the best-known self-taught artist of Lithuanian Minor Lida Meškaitytė and the painter from Vilnius region Ana Krepštul.
The gone-by everyday life
The exhibition The Dieveniškės Region. The Expedition of 1951 will familiarize visitors with objects of ethnic culture from the 2nd half of the 19th c. to the 1st half of the 20th century: the homesteads, landscape, architecture, every day utensils in photographs and sketches, technical drawings, also woven articles featuring patterns typical exclusively for the region of Šalčininkai.
The first expeditions to research and collect folk art closely followed the end of WWII. They were more of a scouting nature, while a thorough and consistent work commenced since 1951. The first such an expedition by the museum was organized in the environs of Puškonys and Dieveniškės. The Lithuanian territory, now surrounded by Belarus from three sides, always attracted researchers through its archaic way of life, interesting dialects and specific language features.
‘The region of Dieveniškės was selected because the retained archaic life forms. The shabbier the place, the richer it is for ethnography professionals’, says Dalia Bernotaitė-Beliauskienė, head of the Folk Art Department of the Centre of Record, Research and Preservation of Collections of the LNMA.
The expedition was led by the then head of the Folk Art Department Akvilė Mikėnaitė (1912–2001). She set off with a group of students, as a summer practice leader for students of ethnography.
‘At the time the museum had no transportation nor a professional photographer, even the forms to collect information were in shortage, as well as paper for technical drawings. Worst of all, there were no funds to purchase exhibits. Few items were brought from the expedition – five small sashes, two fringed kitchen towels, and a few tens of patches’, recounts D. Bernotaitė-Beliauskienė, adding that the participants of the expedition documented the most interesting finds.
In their sketches and technical drawings, a couple of students of architecture recorded nearly 200 buildings, decoration elements, examples of interiors, furniture decor. Local terminology for a number of objects was also recorded. In total, the expedition yielded over 250 pages of descriptive material.
Plenty of pictures were taken during this exhibition, too. Behind a camera was Vacys Milius (1926–2005), freshly on staff with the museum, later he became one of the leading Lithuanian ethnologists. He mostly focused on architecture and the peculiarities of local way of life. His camera captured also examples of woven textiles.
Exhibits interesting to both locals and visitors
According to Ilona Tunevič, curator of the exhibition, specialist of ethnography of the Culture Centre of the Šalčininkai Region Municipality, the exhibition The Dieveniškės Region. The Expedition of 1951 will be interesting to those who do not know the Šalčininkai region, as well as those who come from these places, and those who live there. Especially so to the latter. ‘In the pictures people will see the ancient houses, details of interior, bedspreads, specimen of weaves or their drawings, and above all, they will be able to recognize themselves or familiar aged people’, says the curator.
D. Bernotaitė-Beliauskienė believes that most interesting among the woven pieces presented at the exhibition are the fringed kitchen towels – skariniai in Lithuanian – characteristic of southeastern Dzūkija. They are made mostly from the left-over ends when a woven cloth is cut out of the weaving loom, occasionally, also from 4 heald shaft twill. The left warp yarn at one end of such towels would be decorated by macrame – around Dieveniškės, such decoration was called karūnka (a crown). Different patterns for macrame work were used, among them, women’s-beloved diamonds, called little chests, also minute open work called drizzly rain, patterns of three loops – hare’s footprint, or a meandering chain.
At home women would keep several such fringed towels. They were used to wipe one’s hands and face, others – to cover food: a sliced loaf of bread, a mug of milk. When leaving to work in the fields, they wrapped their dinner into such towels. While going to a wedding, or a baptism feast, they carried a piece of cheese or pastry in their best skariniai.
The exhibition as a part of the impressive folk art collection of the LNMA
Presently the Lithuanian National Museum of Art keeps around 30 thousand of pieces of fine and applied folk art, approximately the same number of photographs and negatives of crosses, of roadside chapels, village graveyards, homesteads, of all kind of utensils, of woven textiles, pieces of clothing and other. The bulk of these ancient collections are items collected during expeditions. A part of these will appear at the exhibition The Dieveniškės Region. The Expedition of 1951.
The exhibition The Dieveniškės Region. The Expedition of 1951 at the Culture Centre of the Šalčininkai Region Municipality (Vilniaus 48, Šalčininkai) opens at 6 October and will run through November 30.
Exhibition organizers: The Lithuanian National Museum of Art and the Culture Centre of the Šalčininkai Region Municipality
Exhibition curators: Dalia Bernotaitė-Beliauskienė, Daiva Beliūnienė, Žydrė Petrauskaitė, Ilona Tunevič
Exhibition designer: Ilona Tunevič
Project sponsors: Lithuanian Council for Culture and the Culture Centre of the Šalčininkai Region Municipality