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Sarakatsani Folk Museum




The Sarakatsani Folk Museum in its present form is the result of 25 years of persistent efforts, during which it passed through several phases and received various awards. It was originally inaugurated in 1979 on the first floor of an old mansion in Serres. Four years later, in 1983, the exhibition expanded to the second floor as well, and the inauguration this time was combined with a scientific conference, the first to be organized on the subject 'Sarakatsani a Greek Nomadic Pastoral Population'. The proceedings of this meeting, at which fifteen papers were presented, were published in a 191-page volume in 1984.
In 1984 the Sarakatsani Folk Museum was honoured with the gold medal of the Thessaloniki Rotary Club and in 1987 received a merit award from European Prix du Musee de l'Annee, marking its distinction as one of the 18 European Museums selected from the 146 competitors.
The growing Greek and foreign interest in this specialist (monographic, to use the terminology of modern Museology), Greek Folk Museum was accompanied by a concur
rent increase in its acquisitions, and a further round of efforts was begun, aimed at acquiring new, purposebuilt premises to rehouse it.
Thanks to understanding, interest and support from many quarters, and especially the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, these efforts were succesful. Building of the present premises commenced in 1991, on a plot of land made over by the state, and in 199$ the Sarakatsani Folk Mu
seum was inaugurated in a completely new form.
The building is arranged on three levels: basement, ground floor and first floor in the form of a gallery. The basement accommodates storerooms for the museum col
lections not on display, a library and a small hall for cul
tural events and instruction in Sarakatsani music and dance. On the ground floor and the firstfloor gallery an attempt has been made to convey, albeit significatively, the life and art of the Sarakatsani during the final phase of their nomadic existence, that is during the interwar years and till the late 1940s, when World War II, occupa
tion by Axis forces and the civil war were the death knell for the tselingata.
It is impossible to portray all aspects of Sarakatsani life and art in the available space, and the exhibition is re
stricted to its principal and most formal manifestations.
On the ground floor the straw huts of different shapes and varied uses give a concise picture of the life in the tselingato (temporary settlement). The elaborately attired Sarakatsan woman and her festooned horse with its trap
pings standing beside the tsiatoura (overnight shelter) al
ludes to the annual spring trek of the Sarakatsani from the winter pastures in the valleys to the summer mead
ows in the mountains. Next to them is the school, with equipment borrowed from a nearby village (until the au
tumn, when it was returned), noting the Sarakatsani's need for rudimentary education at least, since a man had to know reading, writing and arithmetic in order to be
come a tselingas (head of the tselingato). It was in schools like this that Sarakatsani, who after the dissolution of the tselingata became merchants, businessmen, scientists and politicians, took their first lessons.
At the centre of the hall is the 'large hut', that is the Sar
akatsani home, its walls hung with brightly coloured pat
terned textiles, as it was for weddings, kourbania and festi
vals in general. In one corner is the shepherd's hut and the bantzos, where cheese was made. The accompanying photographs, plans, drawings and texts complete the brief picture of a way of life that has disappeared, never to return.
The exhibition on the first floor is devoted to Sarakatsan art, a mainly female preserve, including textiles, em
broidery and costumes. The large showcase on spinning and weaving illustrates with photographs, texts and ob
jects all stages in the process of cloth production from shearing the sheep to weaving the homespun yarn on the loom, as well as multicoloured woollen velentzes and cotton fabrics for various uses. In the cases that follow there are accessories and jewellery from the female cos
tume, as well as ensembles of male and female garments from various local versions of the Sarakatsan costume. Impressive is the reconstruction of the costume of the Sarakatsan klepht (freedom-fighter) in the Greek War of Independence (1821).
Lastly, displayed in the cases incorporated in the parapet of the balcony are embroidered and knitted items, such as panaoules, stockings and kaplies, all outstanding examples of the skilful handiwork of the Sarakatsan women.
Popi Zora
Former director of the Museum of Greek Folk Art

























































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