Society of Epirotes "Anagenesis"

The Establishment and goals of the Museum

"This museum is not only about the past; it is also about the present and certainly for the future."

                                                                                                                                                         W.R. West Jr.

At a General Assembly of ANAGENESIS-SOULIOTISSES it was decided, according to Article 2, paragraph 3 of their Charter, to establish a folkloric museum within the Epirotic Cultural Center, which would have as its goal the gathering, the preservation and the exhibition of articles belonging to the folkloric civilization of Epirus.

Our ambition is for this museum to be constantly enriched, to constitute a living witness to the labors and elegance of the Epirotic folk throughout the centuries.  Furthermore, we aspire to turn it to an educational place for the new generations of Epirus and the entire homogeneity.

We believe that the museum will play a basic role in the safekeeping and transmitting of the Epirotic heritage to the oncoming generations.

 

Historical background

The articles of the museum were collected due to an initiative of Mr. Christos Kossovitsas.

Most of the articles have been donated by members of our Society, other friends of Epirus and by the Society of Epirotic Studies, which uses the Epirotic Cultural Center as its office.

 

Articles of the Museum

The majority of the articles of the Museum are men and women's traditional costumes from the provinces of Zagori, Konitsa, Metsovo, Pogoni, Souli, Deropoli, Pindos and Ioannina.  There are also articles of needlework and weaving, silverware and gold, agricultural and home tools, photos, etc.

Grand Opening Welcoming Speech

Astoria, NY, December 14, 2003

Dear Epirotes and Friends,

I am proud to welcome you to the grand opening of the Epirus Folklore Museum "Anagenesis-Souliotisses", the only museum in the Omogenia, and I would like to thank you for honoring us with your presence on this historic day.

"Anyone who plants his roots
deeply in the earth where he comes from
does not get uprooted
regardless of the fierceness of raging storms"

The deep love we have for our birthplace, the voluntary offerings of the members of our association and their active participation were the driving force of all our efforts (for the past 10 years) in making an idea and a dream come true.

Our Museum aims at collecting, safekeeping and propagating the rich Epirus folklore heritage.  It is also a gift to the wider community, which offers our young people a lofty aesthetic education that widens the horizons of knowledge and reminds our young descendants of their roots.

All the exhibit artifacts are bequests made by our members, friends of Epirus and other Hellenic institutions.  The exhibits are classified and presented as follows:

  1. Section of women's and men's costumes (the largest exhibit)
  2. Section of silver and gold craftworks
  3. Section of embroidery and weaving handcrafts
  4. Section of urban, agricultural and stock-farming tools
  5. Section of house wares
  6. Section of woodcarvings
  7. Section of photographs

Dear readers, allow me to briefly describe and offer comments in regard to the exhibit artifacts of each section, so as guests, you will be able to better understand the rich civilization of Epirus.

Starting with the traditional costume, I can say that the Epirus costume is impressive due to its many forms, colors and variations, something no one would expect given the fact that all the costumes originate from the small mountainous villages of Epirus.

Studies of special folklorists reveal that the mountainous morphology of the land, the climate, the secluded living in inaccessible settlements and expatiation has played a significant role in the making of this costume.

Mr. Mazarakis Enian, general secretary of the historical and ethnological company of Greece, in the introduction of the book "Greek Costumes" says that the folklore art was developed chiefly in the agricultural mountainous areas and the islands".  Continuing he says that "the rich, artistic feelings of the people express themselves through the multiform variations of the Greek costume according to geographical and climate conditions, morals and customs, traditions, the way of life and local peculiarities".

Simplicity, the combination of colors and its many forms characterize the Epirus costumer, which is made of multiform and finely crafted hand-made local materials and is made in mountainous areas within inaccessible settlements.  For example, the costume of Pogoni features as its main pieces the sigouni (woman's close-fitting woolen dress), the girdle, the belt and the obolia.  All these are woven products of the hand-operated loom.  For the first three they were using local sheep wool for yarn, whereas silk was used for the making of the omvalia.  The same villagers were growing the cocoon and when the silkworm would grow into a "foikiki" they then would use a special process to make silk.

In Zagori, aside from the local traditional costume, we recognize the influence of expatriation in the long, wide but also elegant dresses, which emphasize femininity.  These were worn by some noble women whose husbands would introduce the cultural influences of other places back home as well as the profits of expatriation.

Slowly, when the economy and society grew, clothes were not only items of necessity, but served people's desires for adornment.

Thus, the habit of wearing chains, belts, tsaprakia, coins and other jewelry helped in the growth of silver and gold crafts.  This craftsmanship flourished mostly in Ioannina, where it still goes on.  The city of Ioannina is famous for its hand-made silver and gold jewelry and other ornaments.  Guests know it as the "Silver City".

In the section of weaving and embroidery all the exhibited artifacts are products of the loom, a craft that was already known back in the times of Homer.  Guests do not wonder upon hearing the rhythmical sound of the loom in many villages and cities.  The products are very impressive with their liveliness and the combination of their colors, which are attributed to the infallible imagination of the weaver.

Woodcarving is a traditional art in Epirus.  Samples of this craft are to be found on embelished ceilings and walls of many noble homes.  One can see admirable carvings on temples of old monasteries, churches, on furniture and other objects.

The hand-made cookware is made in good taste and characterized by its very lengthy usage.  Copper is the chosen metal used for its production.The inside surface, which comes in contact with food, is coated, through the art of tin-plating, with another metal so the cookware becomes safe for cooking.

Finally, what's noteworthy among the stock-farming artifacts is the dropolitsa or doumveki.  This tool is considered to be the forerunner of the centrifugal machine used in our time for the skimming of milk.  Back then, they were using the dropoloxylo (part of the tool) to beat the milk inside the dropolitsa.  Separation would take place slowly.  Butter would rise to the top, where it would be collected for further processing (cleansing from other elements, etc.  The skimmed product would be used as refreshment especially in the summer, or as food mixed with bread-crumbs or even for the making of cottage cheese.

Lastly, a photograph is worth a thousand words, like the saying goes.  The few pictures that are exhibited remind us of an era that is long gone, an era which we keep alive through the help of the Museum.

I wish to thank you again for your participation and hope that this Museum will be an example to be followed by other in the Omogenia.  We, the people from Epirus, hope that this Museum will constitute a constant witness of our labors and the artistry and grace that characterizes our people through the years.

Thank you.
Christos Kossovitsas
President of the Epirus Folklore Museum