The art of the traditional blouse with embroidery on the shoulder (altiţă) — an element of cultural identity in Romania and the Republic of Moldova
The art of the traditional blouse with embroidery on the shoulder (called altiță) is an essential part of Romanian and Moldovan folk dress for men and women. It juxtaposes a simple cut with rich and colourful ornamentations that are stitched using complex sewing techniques. The blouses are white and made of natural fibres (flax, cotton, hemp or floss silk), and the complex stitch combines horizontal, vertical and diagonal seams that result in a specific pattern and texture. The styles and techniques vary according to the region and the wearer’s age, as well as to the skills of the women who create the blouses. The motifs and ornamentation are also varied: from geometric and stylised registers to organic shapes, and from sombre to vivid colours. Traditional blouses with altiță are made entirely by hand, and recent attempts to mechanize certain steps and to simplify the ornamentation and techniques constitute deviations from tradition. The craftsmanship is exclusively female and generally passed on within families, although some organizations, museums and schools organize camps and courses. Today, interest in creating these blouses is steadily increasing, with the practice viewed as a means of relaxation and of affirming one’s national identity and maintaining visible ties to the past.
Date of Inscription:
Inscribed in 2022 г. (17.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Cultural Practices Associated to the 1st of March comprise traditions transmitted since ancient times to celebrate the beginning of spring. The main practice consists of making, offering and wearing a red and white thread, which is then untied when the first blossom tree, swallow or stork is seen. A few other local practices also form part of a larger spring celebration, such as purification actions in Moldova. The artefact is considered to provide symbolic protection against perils such as capricious weather, with the practice ensuring a safe passage from winter to spring for individuals, groups and communities. All members of the communities concerned participate, irrespective of their age, and the practice contributes to social cohesion, intergenerational exchange and interaction with nature, fostering diversity and creativity. Informal education is the most frequent means of transmission: in rural areas, young girls are taught how to make the thread by older women, while in urban areas apprentices learn from teachers, craftspeople and through informal education. Another occasion for transmission is provided by Martenitsa/Martinka/Mărţişor workshops organized by ethnographic museums. The communities concerned are actively involved in efforts to inventory, research, document and promote the element, and numerous cultural projects geared at its safeguarding are underway.
In the past, wall carpets produced by weavers in communities of Romania and the Republic of Moldova were used not only as decorative features and sources of insulation but also as part of a bride’s dowry. A variety of techniques were needed to produce the pieces with impressive motifs. Certain patterns also indicated where the weaver was from. The carpets had additional roles in community practices, such as at funerals where they symbolized a passage for the soul to the hereafter. They were also displayed at international exhibitions as markers of national identity. These days, wall carpets are mainly appreciated as works of art for public and private spaces and exhibited at city festivals and ceremonies. Techniques have changed from vertical or horizontal looms practised in some parts, to tight picking (thread by thread) and other forms with weavers now able to work from home. In villages, girls learn the art form from their mother or grandmother, while in cities craft centers, associations and colleges, as well as museums provide classes. Viewed as an expression of creativity and identity marker, wall carpet craftsmanship is also considered as a tool to unite groups in society of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Date of Inscription:
Inscribed in 2016 (11.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Each year before Christmas, groups of young men gather in villages throughout Romania and the Republic of Moldova to prepare for the ritual of Colindat. On Christmas Eve, they go from house to house performing festive songs. Afterwards, the hosts offer the singers ritual gifts and money. The songs have an epic content, which is adapted to each host’s individual circumstances. Ritual performers also sing special, auspicious songs for unmarried girls and dance with them – a practice said to help them find a husband within the next year. Colindat is sometimes performed in costume, with instrumental accompaniment and choreography. Groups of young men (traditionally unmarried) are the main bearers and practitioners of the element; experienced men, often former group leaders, are responsible for the group’s training. The ritual songs are learned at daily rehearsals from the time the group is formed until Christmas Eve. In some areas, children are allowed to attend these rehearsals in order to learn the repertoire. As well as conveying the season’s greetings, this cultural heritage plays an important role in preserving social identity and ensuring cohesion.