Smt. Rashmi Verma, Secretary, Ministry of Culture & Tourism inaugurated an exhibition, entitled “Textiles and Decoration in the Culture of the Serbs in the 19th and the First Half of the 20th Centuries” organized by the National Museum under M/o Culture in collaboration with the Ethnographic Museum, Belgrade in National Museum, New Delhi today. The exhibition will be open from 26th July-31st August, 2017 at the Special Exhibition Hall of National Museum, Delhi. The exhibition has been curated by Dr Mirjana Menković, Director and Ms Marina Cvetkovic, Curator, Ethnographic Museum, Belgrade and Ms Anju Sachdeva, Curator and Ms Abira Bhattacharya, Co- Curator of National Museum, New Delhi.
This exhibition represents the ethnographic cultural heritage of Serbia and the Balkans and their multi-layered cultural-identities by showcasing the different style of expression through textiles, ornaments and colour schemes. The exhibition also emphasizes the diversity and complexity of meanings inherent in the items on display and to draw attention to the pictorial dimension evident in folklore artifacts. In this exhibition, only a small portion of the culture of Serbia is manifested by showcasing a select range of objects, approximately 95 objects from the wide range of collection of Ethnographic Museum, Belgrade, which houses over 50,000 ethnographic items, the majority of which were produced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These objects indicate the wealth of the Serbian ethnographic cultural heritage and would aim to reach out to the public of New Delhi and India.
The items on display are products of the knowledge and skill of anonymous individuals and craftsmen. However, they are also products of the multi-layered cultural heritage ranging from the ancient Balkan peoples, to Antiquity and Slavic culture, to tumultuous historical entanglements of the modern period. They have accumulated multiple cultural meanings and testify to both private lives of individuals and families and the life of the communities within which they were produced. The diverse symbols featuring on the displayed artifacts are indicative of a broader narrative about the Serbian culture.
The exhibition theme focuses on the tradition of Serbian textile production and the significance of ornamentation in the traditional bridal outfit, both providing a glimpse of the Serbian material culture. Based on which the display is thematically sub divided into three sections: (1) carpet-making; (2) Pirot Kilim-making and (3) the role of jewellery in the traditional bridal outfit. These objects, both visually and technically, are diverse and represent a variety of materials and techniques used the indigenous people of this region.
Weaving is the basis of textile-making skills and artistic expression. In the textile section, the items include objects used indoors: woollen covers (blankets, rugs, kilims, etc.), towels, curtains, straw mats, cradle covers, wall hangings, and bedclothes. Also, the folk costumes and garments, either casual or ceremonial, woven by the womenfolk of the community are produced by specialized devices, methods and tools, which are rather complex and time-consuming. The predominant traditional weaving device in Serbia is the horizontal loom, whereas the warp-weighted, or vertical, loom is used to a much lesser extent, mostly by craftsmen. The variety and visual appearance of items were effected through the use of ornaments, colour schemes, yarns and fabrics, and various textile-making techniques, of which weaving was the most common. Embroidery represents the highest achievement of folk art and the most important form of artistic expression on textiles, which is achieved using different combinations of diverse yarns and base materials. Similarly, knitting is represented in the production of socks, foot warmers, woollen slippers and mittens, whereas the production of other items began at a more recent time.
In addition to clothing, the items produced for household furnishings are identified with the tradition of Pirotkilims, which are multipurpose covers that were used as furnishings of urban interiors. Pirotkilims is based on various, mostly vegetable and, to a lesser extent, zoomorphic, anthropomorphic and figurative motifs. Pirotkilims stand out as the most sophisticated legacy of Serbian carpet-making.
The role of jewellery in folk life is not reduced to merely embellishing the wearer. Analyses of the function of jewellery in the traditional bridal outfit indicate that it serves three purposes: to mark marital status, to denote economic power, and to serve as protection. The exhibition showcases a diverse range of head dresses, neck and chest ornaments, which formed an important part of the bridal trousseau and also indicate the tradition of family heirloom in the Serbian culture.