Living traditions of famous ethnographic landscapes

The second half of the twentieth century saw Communist collectivisation, forced industrialisation and mobilisation, which put an end to the traditional peasant way of life. The dwindling of peasant culture took place in different ways and paces in each area. The belated modernisation of Transylvanian Hungarian areas was further delayed by the constraints of the Ceaușescu regime and its anti-minority policy. Although traditional culture no longer exists as a whole, in the case of some of the ethnographical areas certain manifestations of the cultural survive to this day in original or slightly altered form (dress, music, dance, customs) in local communities, in particular with respect to the turns of individual lives, or church and secular festivals and community events. Festival dresses, only the odd set of which people will still have and wear at special occasions, are important means of expressing one’s belonging to the local, regional and ethnic community. Local institutions (schools, church, municipality, cultural associations) often promote the preservation of traditions, renewing them, teaching them again, and call to life events (grape harvest processions, village days, dance camps), which are not only celebrations of community belonging, but also enhance the touristic attraction of the village. Folk costumes have made a comeback, as have various folk crafts, which have kept alive artisanal traditions.

This room showcases objects from famous Transylvanian ethnographical areas (Kalotaszeg, Székelyland, Mezőség Szék, Gyimes and Hétfalu Csángó) created in the recent past by local artists, who have consciously taken to passing on their “own” traditions. They include wood carvers, furniture painters, stove-makers, potters, furriers, goldsmiths, bootmakers, head-dress makers, weavers, embroiderers, seamstresses and egg-painters. Living traditions cannot always be compared to the masterpieces of the golden age of peasant culture, but more important perhaps is the fact that local crafts and aesthetics still exists and there is a demand for preserving traditional means of expression that foster community self-identity.

The exhibition space features Hungarian ethnographical areas including Mezőkövesd, Sárköz, Kalocsa and the Palóc. In these regions the power of tradition still fuels creative drive. There are craftsmen and -women who carry on local tradition, and whose work contributes not only to local cultural life, but also the broader craft movement, which often owes the models and techniques specific to an area to these local artisans. The folk-art heritage of Kalocsa made it to the UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009, Mezőkövesd in 2010 and Sárköz in 2012. This list and register is dedicated to communities where common cultural knowledge remains sustainable through living practices, and which the community boasts as its own.