Oltenian Rugs, a tradition revived with European funds
by - Daniel Botea
Last autumn, I stood spellbound in front of the wonders made by Covorul Oltenesc (Oltenian Rugs), discovered at a market organised in Craiova.
When I came to my senses, I saw that the wonders were even made “in the countryside” where I grew up, literally in the village where I spent my childhood – Măceșu de Jos in the county of Dolj.
I didn’t know Anca Dumitrescu, but after we’d been talking for just a few minutes it felt like we’d known each other for a lifetime. I am passionate about customs and traditions, but the fact that “work” of this kind was happening right where I grew up made me really proud.
Along with the rug she inherited from her grandparents, Anca also inherited the urge and the desire to continue the Oltenian tradition.
I grew up in the countryside, and in the nooks and crannies of my memory I can still recall looms. Anca reminded me of them.
Like images on a reel, the spindles and the needle passed quickly before my eyes.
As children, we played with them in winter when grandma was working on weaving the rug. Some of the rugs my grandmother wove are still on the walls of the house in the country. When I was a child, all of the women “went to loom” in winter. The rugs were then sold “in town” or kept as dowry.
Over time, interest in traditional rugs has declined and the craft has become increasingly rare in our villages.
I was delighted to meet someone who was reviving the tradition and respecting the basic elements of an Oltenian rug.
I very much liked Anca’s initiative and promised her that I would help her to promote the tradition.
The first idea materialised during a competition for bloggers, during which 18 items and 10 prizes were won by bloggers from around the country. I loved seeing how mini Oltenian rugs reached bloggers in Prahova, Hunedoara, Cluj Napoca, Galați, Focșani, Tulcea and Bucharest.
Then on 1 December I invited Anca to provide the framework for an event that was already traditional alongside bloggers from Craiova. While we were celebrating the Romanian National Day surrounded by Oltenian rugs, we found out that traditional folk rug weaving had been included on the UNESCO world heritage list. More specifically on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
But if “folk rugs” are popular at a global level, wouldn’t it be a shame not to be proud of them?
We came across the Oltenian rugs again at other markets and events, with Anca omnipresent at all of the markets in Craiova and beyond. Still more, over the long weekend at Pentecost I visited the “Bastionul Țesătorilor” (“Weavers’ Bastion”) in Brașov and found out that they run a cultural project called Looms in the Weavers’ Bastion.
So what did I do? I told the museum in the Weavers’ Bastion about Covorul Oltenesc. But I also told Anca Dumitrescu about the event. We are hugely proud of Oltenian rugs and we like to be able to see them everywhere
Great minds think alike, so then I also found out about EU in my region – Blog Contest.
Covorul Oltenesc at EU in my region
Since it was about the exact village where I grew up and an EU project which revives the folk traditions, I didn't want to miss out on such an occasion.
So here I now am, introducing the world to the passion with which Oltenian rugs are made in Măceșu de Jos, in the county of Dolj.
Anca spoke about how the project came about in an interview with Alto Media.
But I didn't think that was enough, so I went to the workshop in Măceșu de Jos to make a documentary too. It’s only my home after all
I found out that the project “Establishing the traditional rug weaving workshop” was financed as part of PNDR 6.2.
I also met the girls with skilled hands at the Covorul Oltenesc workshop. In the order in which their names appear on the rugs, they are Ana-Maria, Cristina and Nicoleta.
Oltenian rugs are also named after the girls who work on them.
As you can see, two girls work on the larger rugs, Ana-Maria and Cristina.
Just one person works on the mats, in this case Nicoleta.
But once a mat is finished, it stays “yarned” until the others on the same grid that are also being worked on are finished too.
Since I arrived around lunch time, they greeted me with bread cooked under the clay bell, spring onion, sheep’s cheese, tomatoes and fried chicken, as is the custom in the village.
When I put some cheese and a bit of spring onion into the bread, it once again reminded me of a childhood in the countryside. Thanks for the meal!
I said goodbye and left them to keep perfecting the wonders of Covorul Oltenesc.
Why I think the Covorul Oltenesc project is sensational
It’s not just the fact that a tradition of this type is worth keeping that is hugely important, it’s also the idea that tradition is experiencing a rebirth in the village and that inhabitants of rural areas are bringing Oltenian rugs to life.
In addition to this, jobs are being created there and greater value is being placed on folk traditions. This work is extraordinary and well worth continuing.
Until the next time I will leave you with pictures of the workshop in Măceșu de Jos.
Keep it up!
The project “ESTABLISHING THE TRADITIONAL RUG WEAVING WORKSHOP” had number n06200000021541700233 in the PNDR 6.2 of 2016. More information is available on http://www.afir.info/