Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas

Over the past year, great progress has been made with the history of the Lithuanian community in Australia.  Much work has occurred in amalgamating three collections to form one archive here in Adelaide.  Work has started on digitising parts of the collection, early minutes of the Lithuanian Community in Australia have been scanned and several hundred photographs.  

The year is coming to a close with the 27th Australian Lithuanian Festival in Adelaide.  For the first time we will be holding a history symposium to celebrate our past.
Early 2013, a visiting scholar from Vytautas university  in Lithuania will be spending a month viewing our collection.  Plans are under way to work closely with the Lithuanian school in regards to teaching the children our recent Lithuanian history and the connection with Australia.   Open days, scanning days and maybe even a Baltic tracing your family history are planned for history month in May.
Work will also continue on the museum, and becoming re-credited with History SA.  
If you can make it to any of the Festival events or the folk art exhibition at the Migration Museum please stop by and say hi.  Details of what's on when can be found here.

Until 2013, Linksmų Kalėdų ir Naujųjų metų. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Folk art - Iron work

Ironwork on wooden cross made by Gintaras Valuzis
Artistic smithery is one of the branches of folk art with very deep ethnic traditions. Various metals (including non-ferrous) are known to have been  used in Lithuania even at the second millennium  B.C. Mostly they were used for decoration. Much  later (from the first millennium A.D.) forged metal  began to be used more and more frequently in household items, in the  production of agricultural implements, in furniture decoration, in the production of agricultural implements and means of transport, such as horse carriages.

The most common wrought iron objects are crosses that adorn graves. The cross usually passes into sun rays which sometimes include blossoms and leaves of  tulips, rues and other flowers, and sometimes moon and stars.

Local Adelaidian Gintaras Valužis was born in Telsiai, Lithuania in 1969.  He came to call Adelaide home when he married an Australian Lithuanian 20 years ago.  Gintaras studied arts and blacksmithing and has created some breathtaking examples of iron work in traditional Lithuanian style.  

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Folk art - Wood

Crosses and chapels
Crosses and chapels are religious folk art that stands at roadsides in homesteads and graveyards.  The crosses were built for the remembrance of the dead or in places where accidents had occurred.  They were also erected near villages and in the fields in the expectation that God would grant a good harvest and keep away disease.

Crosses began to appear in Lithuania with the spread of Christianity in the 14 - 15th centuries.  The crosses and chapels were often topped with iron heads incorporating smaller crosses, trumpeting angels, sunbeams, arrows, firs, lilies and tulips.

Folk art sculpture is mainly carvings from wood.  They are commonly of religious figures, Christ, the Virgin Mary and popular saints.  The most popular figure is the Rūpintojėlis (The Pensive Christ).  The sculptures are of primitive form and lack anatomical proportion.

Wood sculpture is one of the most popular folk art mediums in Lithuania. Figures were often made with simple expressions and having an unproportional body. Very typical of the surviving Lithuanian  sculptural tradition are the images of the following three saints - the Suffering Christ, St Isidore and St George.  Sculptures of work, life, holidays and folklore were also made.

Household items
Many wooden household items were carved, spinning and weaving implements being most common.  They were carved  in shallow grooves in geometric shapes and plant life.  More simple ornamentation was found on kitchen utensils, pestles, bowls, jugs, goblets, cups, ladles, spoons etc.  Instruments such as Kankles, reed pipes and whistles were also carved as was furniture, carts and sledges.  Glory boxes and other chests were specially decorated with botanical designs in various colours.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Folk art - Weaving

Country women would spin yarn and weave all the material they required for garments and furnishing.  Plain linen was used for sheets, pillow cases, underwear and towels.  More complex patterned weaves were used for towels and table cloths.  Brighter coloured material in several colours were made for women’s clothes, bed spreads, rugs etc. 

Sashes were also woven, given as gifts and commonly worn.  There are distinct regional patterns from the stylised tulips and stars of Lithuanian Minor to the checks and stripes of Dzukija.

Knitwear consisted mainly of gloves and stockings shawls and sweaters.  Knitwear designs were selected from the patterns used in weaving.

The majority of patterns on white linen cloth are based on ancient geometrical ornaments which symbolize the sun and other natural objects. 

A lot of attention was paid to colours. Striped or checked bedspreads do not have many colours, usually two, three or four.  Dominating colour combinations are black, green and red; green, white and red; black and red.

Janina Maželis
Born in Kaunas in 1912.  Janina enrolled in the University of Vytautas the Great to study medicine.  She married Antanas Maželis a law student.  They both graduated in 1938.  The second world war forced them to flee their country with two young daughters.  In 1947 the Maželis family migrated to Australia and settled in Adelaide.  Janina worked as a laboratory assistant at the Queen Elizabeth hospital until her retirement in 1977. 
Weaving began as a hobby, a way of showing allegiance to old Lithuanian traditions.  Fine wool and cotton was used to create stunning woven sashes.  

In the mid 1970’s Janina turned her artistic talents to pottery.  Attending private classes taught by fellow Lithuanian Vilija Dunda, then furthered her interest with Adult Education classes at Thebarton.  From 1978 to 1981 she studied pottery at classes held at Flinders University. 

The Festival of Arts in Adelaide, South Australia, 1962. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Downer) discusses weaving with Janina Maželis, during a demonstration which she gave as part of the migrant Arts and Crafts.