The range of Făgăraș mountains stretched a long line of alp-like heights in the far distance, bounding the sub-Carpathian hills, their topmost peaks, always crowned with snow, luring us towards them. Driving past a chain of villages very close together – Ungureni, Galeșu, Brăduleț, Brădet, Gruiu, we could admire the traditional rustic architecture specific to Muntenia region. We passed the shepherds driving their flocks up the hillside to pasture them by shady grove, or running brooks. These people make their living through honest breeding of domestic animals and fruit growing and they are best known for creating the best Romanian semi-hard yellow cheese, cașcavalul de Brădet, a well-renowned stretched-curd cheese that every homestead in Argeș county produces, a must-taste while visiting Argeș.
First stop: the Stone Ravens (Corbii de piatră ) from Corbi, a rupestral church dating back to the 15th century, housed in a cave rock wall, about 30 meters high and almost 15 meters long. Such a unique settlement, containing one of the oldest paintings in Romania on its limestone walls.
Nearby there is an old traditional house that keeps traditional Romanian objects and massive boulderstones in the yard. The strand of water streaming into the yard turns into a spectacular ice wall in winter and into a cascade in spring.
At noon, we stopped and settled ourselves beside a clear running stream, on the valley of Râului Doamnei, in Nucșoara, a commune made up of four villages – Nucșoara, Gruiu, Sboghițesti and Slatina – located in an area of passage, connecting between Transylvania and Muntenia.
The history of this legendary land at the foot of the Fagaraș Mountains is fascinating, given the resistance to the aggressions of the dictatorship, but also the skill and diligence of its inhabitants. Nothing has altered the love of the homeland of these inhabitants. Parents encourage their children to respect God and to preserve their cultural heritage by partaking in sewing and weaving classes.
“I have students ranging from ages 8 to 18. They all enjoy learning valuable weaving and sewing skills,” says artisan Olivotto Viorica, who instructs the sewing and weaving classes in the village of Sboghițești, passing down her knowledge and preserving the craft for future generations. Mrs. Viorica is so well known for her work and dedication, that we were easily directed to her place by a lot of people who knew her. Viorica moves between home and school, where she has the looms set up for weaving lessons.
In her house, Viorica’s exuberant love of color and pattern knows no bounds. As she opened the door of her closet, there must have been over a hundred Romanian blouses, old and new, neatly arranged in stacks, not to mention a multitude of traditional skirts.
„These are some of the traditional blouses and skirts from my collection.” Her eyes make a cursory pass over the precious collection: „They are from Nucșoara. We use geometric designs more. The black background is woven, then the colorful thread embroidery is worked by hand. Each area has its own costumes, its specific colors. I only create costumes from my birthplace”, says Viorica.
Viorica was born and raised in the village of Slatina. After she got married, she moved to the neighboring village of Sboghițești. The composition and cut of the blouses give clues about what village and social status they once belonged to.
„ Each sleeve is made of a width of material and altoaie, side gussets added to give extra width The body of the blouse is made out of a width of the material, and two side gussets for extra width. Then, a small square of fabric is inserted under the arm to ensure carefree mobility. Traditionally, the composition is made out of altiță and râuri flowing down the sleeve. The front side of the blouse is usually decorated with either three or four vertical rows. All the blouses from Nucșoara have neckbands. The sleeve ends with a cuff band”, she explains.
Sewing peasant blouses can take up to three weeks. Among the oldest pieces in her collection is a bridal blouse that is about 100 years old. “Wedding blouses don’t have that black background. They are either pink, or white. This one was sewn on a homespun fabric. The embroidery was worked with silk”, says Viorica.
Her dearest piece is a blouse she wore while pregnant with her daughter. „I made it forty-seven years ago, it is the same age as my daughter. I wore it to church”, she says, further explaining the making process of the blouse. „The black background was woven, then the empty spaces were filled with the needle.” The skirts are worked in the same manner: first, the black background is woven on a loom, then it is embellished with hand embroideries. Woven belts, traditionally made of wool, serve to support the skirt and as a decorative piece.
Married women have their heads covered with scarves (basma) and a fine veil (marama) over the scarf. “The bride doesn’t wear marama. Marama was worn after you got married, not before. The bride costume doesn’t include a marama,” says Viorica, putting the fine silk veil over her head. She likes to preserve traditions unaltered. When dressing a costume, the marital status, the region and the time period it belongs to are taken into account. She never combines a blouse pertaining to a region with a skirt from elsewhere.
Olivotto Viorica has an important and effective role in spreading customs and traditions and conveying them from one generation to the next. She is the storyteller and teacher who presents vivid stories of the past and teaches the new generations the importance of preserving cultural and traditional values.
Contact artisan Olivotto Viorica on Fb: https://www.facebook.com/olivotto.viorica
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