Ornament is language of ancestors
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Ornament is language of ancestors

September 28, 2021

The unique book about indigenous ornaments became a breakthrough in the study of the Taimyr peoples’ life. Its co-authors are old-timers of three indigenous ethnic groups.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. The presentation of the Ornament is The Language of Ancestors book was held at the St. Petersburg headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society. Experts assess the work as a kind of breakthrough in the study of the Taimyr indigenous peoples’ life.

The specialists of the Taimyr House of Folk Art have worked on the book for ten years, having conducted three ethnographic expeditions to the most remote corners of the peninsula.

The main uniqueness and value of the publication is that the actual co-authors are the old-timers of the three Taimyr ethnic groups – Nganasans, Dolgans and Nenets.

“The book was written not by scientists, but by the bearers of culture themselves. We wrote down everything they know and remember. Moreover, one could often hear from them: “This is elementary, what can be unclear? Here is a squirrel, and here the footprint is embroidered”. And we had to explain that not everyone had that knowledge”, Vasily Batagay, the Taimyr House of Folk Art’s Decorative and Applied and Fine Arts Department head told goarctic.ru.

Some of the interlocutors passed away during the work on the book. That’s why the collected materials about traditional clothing, the secrets of its manufacture and, most importantly, the ornaments on it are extremely valuable. Each stitch, its location and application method has its own traditions and interpretation. It’s not easy but greatly important to preserve national spiritual wealth.

“A few years ago, we observed the presence of significant eclecticism in national dress. For example, in Dolgan clothes, one could see Evenk or Nenets ornaments. This suggests that the cultural bearers themselves sometimes did not know how to use them correctly in their clothes. Old people are leaving, but young people are not always interested in this. Therefore, one of the main tasks of our project is to put everything in its place”, said TDNT director Lyubov Popova.

The ornament in the life of the northern peoples, in addition to aesthetics, has a very serious informational value. Its elements allow an unmistakable first impression of any stranger. Everything matters – the color palette, the quality of the fabric and, of course, the pattern. The presence of metal or beads will immediately indicate the wealth of the owner. And by drawing and color inserts, you can determine, for example, if woman is married or not.

“By the national dress, one could tell how old a woman was, whether she was married, how many children she had, and even how many deer her husband had in their household. If you look at a Dolgan cap, a man has an eye or an ear on it. Because he is a hunter – he should see and hear well. And the woman has a chumon her hat, because the woman is responsible for its construction, for dressing the skins and raising children”, explains Olga Shadrina, head of the White Bear educational center.

Ornament performed another important function: contacts with spirits. That is, the function of the amulet. That is why the master was forbidden to make ornamentation if grief happened in his family, for example, the death of a relative. Otherwise, a person who put on such clothes received all the negative energy with it. Moreover, such a ban could last for several years.

Specialists at the presentation noted the incredible volume, scrupulousness and importance of the work done by the team of authors.

“We have long-standing business and friendly relations with the staff of the Taimyr House of Folk Art. We supported two of their projects with grants: the Tundra Man’s School aimed at the rehabilitation and return of orphans and disabled indigenous children to the tundra, as well as the VI audiovisual competition of the northern territories of the Krasnoyarsk region The Arctic and Siberia in the Lens of an Aborigine. I should say that these projects, like the book Ornament is the Language of the Ancestors, have been carried out at a very high level. It is felt that the team has gathered professional, creative and caring people who care about their work with their souls”, said Alexander Stotsky, director general of the Arctic Development Project Office, at the presentation.

Director of TDNT Lyubov Popova said that this publication is not the last. After all, five indigenous ethnic groups live on the territory of Taimyr, so there are at least two ethnographic expeditions are ahead to study the ornaments of the Enets and Evenks.

The circulation of the book, which contains exclusive material, is only 500 copies. Most of the copies will be sold to libraries, therefore, given the demand, the authors have already posted a digital version of the book on the official website of TDNT.

Earlier, young artists learned about the cosmology of the Nganasans costume. We also told that in Dudinka Taimyr Attraction area with ethnic sites was opened.

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Text: Angelica Stepanova, Photo: Taimyr House of Folk Art

September 28, 2021

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