Poland village draws tourists with floral motifs
ZALIPIE, Poland — Danuta Dymon is sitting by the side of the road, painting flowers on her fence. The 70-year-old has been at it since the sun came up, dressed from head to toe in clothes also displaying her brushstroke.
“As you can see I’m covered in flowers,” she says, adding neon green leaves to the fluorescent orange and pink garland spanning the fence’s brick base in front of her home in Zalipie, in southern Poland.
Dymon is known around the farming village for having painted flowers on virtually everything under her roof: the ceiling, walls, curtains, pillows, kettle, wooden spoons, boiler and the toilet.
She took to the paintbrush with particular gusto but she is not alone. For over a century, Zalipie women and the occasional man have been decorating their homes with folk art.
Last year, some 25,000 tourists from countries as far away as Japan and the United States, visited the village of 700 people to see the bright, cheerful flowers that adorn about a quarter of the cottages nestled among fields of corn, cabbage and strawberries.
The tradition began in the late 19th century as a way to cover up sooted walls in the smoke-filled area around the stove, according to the head of the local community center, Wanda Chlastawa.
“Women would take a homemade brush, dip it in whitewash and whack at the dirty wall to brighten up the space with the white splotches,” says the 59-year-old director of the center, appropriately called the House of Painters.
“Later they started adding dots, lines and circles and that’s how the first primitive flowers came to be.”
The first floral motifs were limited to three colors — white, black and beige — made at home out of lime whitewash, soot and clay, while early brushes included birch branches with shredded ends, as well as horse or cow-tail hair tied together with twine.
At 78, Maria Chlastawa remembers making the brushes at home, as well as using the powdered paints the women would buy once they expanded their repertoire into today’s flashy rainbow range of colors.
“My mum painted so I’ve been painting since childhood. Then my daughter started painting as a kid, and now my granddaughter is painting, too. It’s tradition, from one generation to the next.”
For decades, the village has held a painting contest every spring, when a jury of ethnographers makes the rounds of the houses and awards prizes.
Maria Chlastawa in her yard where the walls of buildings are covered with flower patterns in Zalipie, southern Poland.