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December 4, 2022

National Library of Romania hosts exhibition of traditional Romanian blouses

The Universal Ia Day is marked this year in 50 countries on 6 continents, and represents a model of cultural diplomacy and citizenship. The NGO ‘La Blouse Roumaine’ has taken its name from the homonymous painting by French artist Henri Matisse, an admirer of the Romanian traditional women’s blouse, who did several works on this subject. Two of them are in the possession of Romania’s National Museum of Art.

 The traditional Romanian blouse known as Ie [Ia when the definite article is added] is an identity card to Romanians, both at regional and national level that in recent years has returned with increased popularity among young people, Minister of Culture Bogdan Gheorghiu said on Wednesday evening.

On June 24, the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse, he participated at the National Library of Romania in the opening of an exhibition called entitled “The written and rewritten story of Ia.”

“This blouse from the Romanian folk costume contributes to maintaining the feeling of belonging for Romanians everywhere, and also to increasing pride in the country. In times of trials, it was a symbol of closeness and human creativity. (…) Out of respect for the work and the creation of our ancestors, the tradition and the folklore must remain alive, must be passed on,” said Gheorghiu.

In his speech, the minister praised cultural groups, which, in the form of small creative workshops, keep alive the tradition of the sewing bees and create genuine testimonies through the traditional blouses.

“But the beauty of these elements of intangible heritage is intertwined with the diligence and dedication of the women who gave birth to a great part of our national identity. That is why I believe this day has to be devoted to the makers of this national standard. Yet, we should not neglect the holiday that contributed to today’s tradition – Sanzienele or Dragaica – the Midsummer, an agrarian holiday considered sacred in Romanian culture. To Romanians, this day has always been a perfect opportunity to celebrate the sun and summer agricultural work,” said the culture minister.

The exhibition of the traditional dress of the Romanians, photographs, book illustrations and vintage engravings opened for the Midsummer holiday.

“If we celebrate them [fairies] properly, they bring health and abundance. In order to please the fairies, and also to delight the public, (…) I have prepared the exhibition together with Mrs Iulia Gorneanu (…) If you look closer and patiently at these wonderful traditional blouses you will see a wealth of symbols sewn in a universal language that unites the communities of our country. Visiting Wallachia, a series of foreign travellers, writers and Western artists of the 18th and the 19th centuries noticed over time the picturesque traditional costume from different historical regions, which they then painted in writings and images,” said Carmen Mihaiu, director of the National Library of Romania.

The exhibition brings together pieces from the impressive collection of Iulia Gorneanu and documents from the special collections of the National Library of Romania. Iulia Gorneanu has rediscovered a deep part of the Romanian soul, mysteriously hidden in the beautiful Romanian blouses, in a sacred language that we are invited to decipher. She tries to prove that genuine items of the traditional costume can be integrated even today in urban outfits, like the Romanian ladies who proudly wore the folk costume in the 19th century.

“What I’m trying to do is inspire, that’s why I exhibit parts of my collection,” Iulia Gorneanu said at the opening of the event.

In her opinion, ia should be a source of inspiration for contemporary designers.

“It is mandatory for it to be a source of inspiration for the contemporary designers, to see these signs on the current clothing of the urban man, to enjoy our heritage, to exhibit from time to time, and that should become a source of inspiration,” said Gorneanu.

According to her, the blouses tell about destinies. “There are lives told on these pieces of canvas, there are destinies told. The blouse was a kind of Facebook a century ago. By wearing a blouse and entering the church, a woman would tell everything about her: if she was married, if she was a widow, if she was a widow who wanted to remarry or wanted to keep her status, if she was preparing for death, the blouses of women on the death’s bed had certain symbolic signs. Many of the blouses are underground because they left with their wearers. Let us rejoice in what we have, let us be inspired, let us do, at our level, what Brancusi tried to do and succeeded with great, great grandeur and take the story forward, as much as everyone can,” said Gorneanu.

Attending the opening of the event, Director General of the AGERPRES National News Agency Claudia Nicolae showed that every year on June 24 AGERPRES also marks the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse in a series of unique stories.

“We have started with talking about the ie as a tradition, as a history in some years; we have promoted it as an ambassador of Romania and we talked about Romanians who went abroad taking with them the inheritance they received from their parents or grandparents. ( …) This year’s special editorial project was called ‘Tales of ia.’ Why tales? Because amidst the isolation we all had to take, when we all had to stay at home without socialising with friends and acquaintances, maybe we went back a little to our roots, to origins, maybe we had more time to think about tradition, about family, about what we get as heritage,” said Nicolae.

In her opinion, ia is a treasure that Romanians have to preserve.

“At Sannicolau Mare there is a legend, perhaps the most beautiful story of the Romanian blouse in the region of Banat. In the plain areas of Banat, in times of exile, women would bury their dowry chests. When they returned, they would dig them up. To them, they were the treasure of their family. Maybe this is or should be to us – a treasure that we have to preserve, pass on to the future and remember every time what our roots are, what our origins are, and mostly what our value is,” said Claudia Nicolae.


Historical spaces of the Royal Palace in Bucharest reopened to the public on the Universal Ia Day


The historical spaces of the Royal Palace in Bucharest – the royal dining room, the Throne Hall and the Voivodes’ Staircase – reopened to the public starting on Wednesday, on the Universal Ia Day, and will stay open for visitors until Sunday, between 11:00 and 17:00 hrs.

The moment of the reopening coincided with the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse – Ia, that has been celebrated annually since 2013 on June 24, along with the feast of the Romanian fairies Sânziene and St. John the Baptist’s Midsummer Feast, thanks to the initiative and efforts of the NGO ‘La Blouse Roumaine’.

“Seeking to highlight the connection between the Royal Palace and the traditional garb, Romania’s National Museum of Art has invited Nottara Theater actresses Ioana Calota, Creguta Hariton, Daniela Minoiu and Mihaela Subtirica to do a special photo shoot in these historical spaces, dressed in hand-sewn Romanian folk blouses featuring very old models from various regions of the country, made available by the ‘La Blouse Roumaine’ Association through the ‘Bucharest Sewing Bee’. The photos were taken by Madalina Mihai Art Photography,” the Nottara Theater informs in a release.

The connections of the Romanian traditional women’s blouse with royalty are significant, the statement says.

“Both Queen Elisabeta and Queen Maria loved the Romanian traditional dress and adopted it in their outfits, including at high-rank meetings. The photos with Queen Maria in folk costume are famous, and the royal portraits on display in the room next to the Throne Hall include paintings of the two queens dressed this way. Another important connection is visible in the decoration of the palace, rebuilt by King Carol II and Queen Maria after the fire that destroyed the central body in 1926. Greater Romania was a young state at that time, in search of a national identity, and the folk dress was one of the unifying elements that was also used in the works of art that embellish the palace. Thus, the large-size paintings by Iosif Iser and Rudolf-Schweitzer Cumpana representing women and men in folk costumes sent the important Romanian or foreign guests attending the festivities in the royal dining room a subtle message,” states the Nottara Theater.

As they climb the imposing Voivodes’ Staircase, the visitors are welcomed at the top by Arthur Verona’s “Apotheosis”, the ceiling fresco that allegorically represents the Greater Union, with the people in the foreground as a recognition of their role in the construction of the Greater Romania. Other smaller works in the Royal Palace also discreetly convey messages about the importance of the grassroots, by including characters in traditional dress in their compositions.


Hundreds of Romanian blouses displayed on the alleys of the Village Museum in Bucharest


On the alleys of the Village Museum in Bucharest, Wednesday was the day of the Romanian ‘ie’ (e.n. – the ‘ie’ is also known as the Romanian blouse, part of the Romanian national traditional dress).

Craftspersons and collectors exhibited here hundreds of Romanian blouses, some done with silk thread, with glass beads or over 100 years old, in order to mark the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse.

Tens of visitors of the museum wore, also, on the Day of the Sanziene (e.n. – Sanziene, singular Sanziana, are mythological gentle fairies in Romanian folklore, that appear on the feast day of John the Baptist – June 24), Romanian blouses, some being family heirlooms.

“In the village, the feast of the Sanziene is important from many points of view. It was at this time that those rituals tied to the summer solstice were executed, marking the passing towards plentiful summer, when the reaping began, but at the same time everything is two-faced, because the year has halved, the summer solstice makes the day start shortening, in fact it’s an announcement of coming autumn and winter. It’s a threshold that, in the village, everyone marked in some way, with certain rituals, gestures and incantations. The Sanziene are identified by specialists as being deities of the wild space. They can be met on the hills, or in the forests, or on untilled fields where they executed a dance – in the village that dance – the ‘Dragaica’ is still danced, because the Sanziene or Dragaica are sort of the same thing, the difference being that the Dragaica is seen in the south and the Sanziene most everywhere. In the popular tradition it’s said that it’s best you do not meet the Sanziene on that night because they can be good fairies, but also evil fairies. It’s said that he who sees the dance of the Sanziene and speaks may be cursed to remain mute for the rest of his life. On the Sanziene, the girls in the village would weaved garlands that they threw on the house to find out who their destined partner is. If the garlands stayed on the house, they’d be married that year, if not, they wouldn’t marry that year. That same way you could find out if you’d be healthy year round. The garlands were also used by women for back pain; the Sanziana [e.n. – Galium verum; lady’s bedstraw] is the only plant that treats the thyroid,” said, for AGERPRES, the director of the Dimitrie Gusti Village Museum, Paula Popoiu.

“Sanziene, Romanian Blouse, Flower, Light” was the title of the event taking place on Wednesday at the Village Museum. And most visitors, young and old, wore on this occasion a Romanian blouse.

The households in the museum hosted collectors and craftspersons that showed off Romanian blouses, linens, jewelry, masks, plant products, wood toys, dolls wearing Romanian blouses or filled with lavender.

The traditions and customs of this day were brought to the attention of visitors of the Sanziene Fair through workshops in stitching, in the Sant Household, and in garland weaving, at Campu lui Neag. The two workshops were dedicated to children.

In the garland workshop children could learn to weave Sanziene, daisies, lavender and ears of corn after tying them with string in order to fashion themselves a garland.

The feast of the Sanziene is also known popularly as the Dragaica.

Compiled from Agerpres



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