Folk Culture

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The aim of the town of Horezu is the valorization, both from a tourist, but also from a durable development point of view, the cultural, historical, traditional and natural, material and immaterial heritage of a representative area of Oltenia and of Romania. The remarkable concentration of historical and cultural monuments, the most noteworthy being the Hurezi Monastery – an UNESCO monument – the multitude of traditional crafts representative for the region, with an artistic component unanimously recognized, both by Romanian and foreign specialists, and by the educated audience (the Hurez pottery, the wood carvings, the woven pieces), the local religious, traditional, pastoral manifestations, true springboards for the folklore bands from the North-Western part of Vâlcea county and for the folklore singers from the Northern part of the Vâlcea and Gorj counties, are as many elements of an Tourist Destination of Excellence selected within the 2008 pilot-project and awarded by the European Commission, together with the other European Destinations of Excellence (one for each participating country) during an event benefitting from ample media coverage, at Bordeaux, in September 2008.

Horezu is an area where most traditions have survived, despite the ascent of globalization  over the national/local identity. Authentic and spectacular forms of Romanian culture continue to manifest themselves in this area just as they did decades ago. From an ethno-folkloric point of view, Horezu represents one of the 7 ethno-folkloric areas of the Vâlcea county. This distinction was created in 1974 by the Vâlcea County Centre for Folk Creation.

The evolution of traditional culture in the locality of Horezu and in the area it represents consists in the blending of the structural constants derived from history with the mutations determined by the manifestations that define a living, dynamic heritage, where the traditional patterns are updated in concrete stances. The main pillars defining the traditional culture are: the architecture, the pottery, the folk costumes and the woven pieces, the folklore.

The traditional architecture of the area is part of the style characterizing the Vâlcea county style, without particularly original elements. It includes peasant houses, boyars’ fortified houses, monasteries, and as an individualizing element we mention the pavilion, which allows for the original intervention of the craftsmen.

The art of wood processing is well represented in Horezu, the Romanii de Sus and Urşani villages being recognized as important spaces of traditional artistic creation in the Vâlcea county. The Horezu folk craftsmen produce various objects, from furniture items to working tools, household utensils and elements that complete in an original manner the traditional local architecture, if one were to analyze the beautifully carved wood pillars of the local houses. Among these, the most remarkable are the pieces of furniture decorated with original carvings. This traditional craft led to the affirmation of a true artist of the genre, Jean Dumitrescu. An interesting piece of furniture, with a strong traditional value, related to the special events of the daily life in the Romanian village, is the famous dowry chest. This type of furniture items, once created by the craftsmen from the Romanii de Sus, are remarked due to the diverse ornaments, geometric or vegetal, that increase their attractiveness. A particular attraction among the traditional wood-carved objects of folk art are the shepherd’s pipes. A traditional craft always present in the pastoral areas, the manufacturing of shepherds’ pipes became an activity that took place in Horezu, too, especially in the Urşani village, where the craftsmen Constantin Antonie and Nicolae Bem made themselves noticed.

The weaving, a craft appreciated as a necessity of the Romanian village in all the historical ages, reaches new dimensions in the Horezu area at the time of the Brâncoveanu foundation at Romani. This craft emphasizes ever increasing artistic valences. The famous carpets woven at Horezu, having vegetal, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic motifs, have drawn the attention of the admirers of beauty, of folk tradition and of the specialists in the field. Since the 19th century, the carpets embellish the interior of the peasant houses.

The field that the Horezu area identifies itself the most with is the one of ceramics. Together with the Horezu Monastery and the inhabitants, the pottery is the symbol of the locality. The fame of the Horezu ceramics in the first decades of the 21st century is a reality brought to this level by the local people, by the passing of time and by the context that made it more and more famous. Ever since the 18th-19th centuries, the Olari village imposed itself as an important ceramic centre in Oltenia. The authors of specialty books, such as Corina Mihăescu, who quotes Barbu Slătineanu, considers that the potters from Horezu developed their activity as a result of the stimulus represented by the ceramic objects brought by Constantin Brâncoveanu from the Orient to his residence of Horezu. The building of the Horezu Monastery determined the development of the craft of pottery in order to give a better response to the needs of the ruler’s court and to those of the boyars in the neighbouring area.

It is believed that the entire “Brâncoveanu” style that the monastery was built in has influenced the potters. As the time passed, Horezu became one of the most important pottery centres in Romania, nowadays its fame crossing the borders of the country.

The journey of the clay from craft to art is a complex one, and only the people truly involved in its transformation know its real dimension in detail. The clay used by the Horezu potters is taken from the Ulmetului hill and, once brought to the potters’ courtyard, it undergoes several stages: the leavening, the cutting in large chunks having a cake-like shape, the treading, the kneading, the mixing, the creation of lumps according to the size of the desired objects, the processing using the potter’s wheel and the transformation into the intended object, the airing,  the scraping, the perforating and the painting, the decorating, the drying, the burning, the enameling. The chromatic aspect is an important criterion, according to which the Horezu pottery defines its personality and its uniqueness in the context of Vâlcea enameled pottery. The most frequently used colours are white, brown, green, brick-red and sometimes blue and yellow. The value of the chromatic of the decoration is closely connected to the chromatic of the background.

The ceramists’ skilled hands create ceramic objects of different shapes and sizes: platters, bowls, pitchers, plates, cups, vases. The traditional central motifs painted on the Horezu pottery are the cock, the star, the sun, the spiral, the ear of wheat, the tree of life, the fish, the round dance. To them are added the leaves, the trees, the vines, the buds, the oak leaf, the acorn and an entire vegetal world that occupy a secondary place, being usually placed on the extremities. From a semantic point of view, the ornaments represent a system of graphic signs that correspond to certain meanings or significations. Originating in ancient beliefs, the ornaments often lose their initial meaning, remaining as mere decorations of the ceramic objects. For the ceramists, the sun means life and joy, the tree of life means perpetuity, regeneration, the victory of life or endless youth and eternal life, the snake is the symbol of fertility, the fish is the symbol of Christianity, of peace and the connection with the Christ. The central element, the cock, is considered a natural clock that announces the disappearance of darkness, and its song makes known the victory of the sun and of its light over the night and the darkness. The cock is also a symbol of rebirth and of the immortality of the soul. The dots, the lines, the circles, the spirals, the squares, the commas are just simple geometric “prepositions” that create the passage between the main and the secondary motifs.

The craft of pottery was elevated to the rank of art, thanks to the numerous potters whose hands created true wonders, admired every year or every day, at the Romanian Folk Pottery Fair “Cocoşul de Horezu” and in their own workshops hosting personal exhibitions. Pottery, as a main or a secondary activity, is practised in famous families such as Vicşoreanu, Bâscu, Mischiu, Paloşi, Pietraru, Giubega, Frigură, Iorga, Popa, Ţambrea, Ştefănescu, etc. The most important aspect of these families is that they have, generally, learned their craft by transmitting it from one generation to the next, and that today the pottery represents an important source of income for most of them. It is worth noticing that the descendants of these families practise this craft with a lot of passion and dedication. This is the case of the Dumitru and Ioana Mischiu family, whose children, Mihaela and Nicoleta, have formed a renowned family of potters: Mihaela and Ionică Paloşi, Nicoleta and Laurenţiu Pietraru. Ioana Mischiu is the daughter of Victor Gheorghiţă, a potter from Slătioara, and Dumitru Mischiu is the son of the potter with the same name from Horezu.

Victor and Eufrosina Vicşoreanu, the renowned family of ceramists, came from families of potters, such as Gheorghe Vicşoreanu and Gheorghe Giubega. Ion Vicşoreanu made the Horezu pottery famous beyond the country borders, in France. Maria Frigură, the daughter of Victor Vicşoreanu, is married to Ion Frigură, in his turn a potter’s son. Their children, Ionel, Viorel and Florin, are also ceramists. And the examples can be multiplied, constituting a happy occurrence for the Horezu community. The potters from Horezu are known all over the country and abroad.

To conclude, we may state the fact that the movable and unmovable cultural heritage in the Horezu ethno-folkloric area reflects a strong folk culture, that combines the characteristic elements of:

- the clay civilization – the pottery, with important representatives of the Romanian ceramic craft, preserving the tradition of a craft that crosses the frontier between the functional and the artistic;

- the wood civilization – successive generations of wood carvers, that reveal traditional shapes and motifs, both in the local architecture and in the furniture items, the household utensils, the traditional tools;

- the pastoral civilization – the traditional sheep and cow breeders that continue to lead their flocks on the alpine pastures of the Căpățânii Mountains.

The Horezu Gallery of Contemporary Folk Art, covering an area of 370 sq m, within easy reach and adequately equipped, represents a true mirror of these heritage elements.

One couldn’t ignore the musical and choreographic folklore, the “stars” of the local festival and events (The “Izvorul Tămăduirii” Traditional Fair, next to the Hurezi Monastery, The “Cocoșul de Hurez” Romanian Folk Pottery Fair, on the Treapt plateau, The Winter Festival “Colindul Sfânt şi Bun” and “The Days of the Town of Horezu”), but also the village evening sittings of the autumn-winter period, present on a permanent basis in the life of the Horezu community. The “BRĂDULEŢUL” folklore group brings together the passionate and talented youth of the area and it has been presenting successfully, for more than 30 years, the folklore of Northern Oltenia at major cultural events, both national and international, their activity being crowned by numerous trophies and awards obtained at prestigious cultural manifestations.