Poland vil­lage draws tourists with flo­ral mo­tifs

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE -

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.

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