motanks

Craftswomen specializing in the creation of traditional motanka dolls display traditional costumes from different countries. Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL) 

Culture of Ukraine, International

Article by: Serhii Nuzhnenko
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
The National Museum of Literature of Ukraine in Kyiv presents an art and literary exhibit entitled Ukrainian dolls travel the world. It is based on the doll collection showcased by diaspora artists – Dolls in European Costumes – and is aimed at uniting Ukraine and Europe through doll-making.

The exhibit will run until November 20, 2021. Entry to the museum is regulated by anti-covid restrictions.

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Craftswomen from France, Portugal, Germany, Norway, Ukraine and Brazil worked on the exhibit for two months. It includes 70 custom-made dolls in traditional costumes of different European countries, including: Austria, Iceland, Greece, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, etc. Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

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Doll in the traditional costume of England. Created by Iryna Zaliubovska. Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

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15 of the participants are members of the National Union of Craftspersons of Ukraine. Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

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Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

Editor’s Note

According to historians, Motanka dolls appeared in Ukraine several thousand years ago, dating back to ancient Trypillia times. Our ancestors believed that natural threads and materials used to create these dolls are magical and protect the family from evil spirits.
The Motanka doll is faceless; the cross symbolizes the unity of heaven and earth, four cardinal points, four seasons, and the sun. The doll is an amulet, so it cannot have a human appearance, protects its owner(s), and brings fertility to the homestead.
These dolls are usually made of natural materials such as hay, straw, wood, herbs, dry leaves, grains, seeds and are filled with fragrant herbs and decorated with traditional ornaments and embroidery.
Today, Motanka dolls have became a popular gift idea for various holidays and weddings, baby showers, engagements, and even funerals. The wedding Motanka doll helps brides turn away the evil eye and supports them during their marriage. At the birth of a child, relatives often offer a Motanka doll that lies in the child’s bed in order to protect the newborn’s sleep and health.
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Doll in the traditional costume of the Netherlands. Created by Tetiana Zolochevska. Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

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Valeriya Levkivska, organizer of the Kyiv exhibit, member of the Ukraina-Svit Society. Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

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Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

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Visitors are invited not only to admire the dolls, but also to reflect on the invaluable heritage passed down by our ancestors and on Ukraine’s contribution to world culture. Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

The motanka figure as reflected in Marta Pitchuk’s incredibly vibrant art

Marta Pitchuk and her Motanka Art

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Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

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Doll in the traditional costume of Latvia. Created by Larysa Didyk. Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

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Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

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Dolls in traditional costumes from different regions of Ukraine. Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

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Photo: Serhii Nuzhnenko. Radio Svoboda.org (RFE/RL)

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
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