Stories in English

Faces of traditions

2012. január 26. | CJI - Románia
By Oana Dan & Vlad Stoicescu,
Photos: Iulian Nan

Roma craftsmen in Romania meet at fairs. Once hundreds or even thousands, just several tens today, they all have a story to tell. Of a journey and of  a tradition, preserved by language and skills, of the proud and free outcasts who would leave everything behind and take on the unexpected. Of a people that only settles to move on. Changing seasons and places and only clinging on to a craft. Silver, copper, brass, gold, silk…All the precious materials they exercise their mastership on. Objects after objects pass on their story to other generations, while the hands that made them wrinkle and wither and other hands take on the skill. But behind these magic hands are the humans and their faces. In a world that imagines the Roma community fenced inside a too abstract pattern (around which the so-called integration programs are tailored), tradition may be the last feature to identify it by. And this is more important in a country like Romania where the ethnic group is generally identified by stereotypes. Beyond programs and official figures, beyond statistics and social integration always lies a story. This is what is worth passing on to the next generation, along with the gold and silver unique jewelry, pots, traditional skirts, hats etc. We invite you on a journey to discover the faces of traditions.

Ioan Nistor makes leather belts and saddles. The quintessence of his work is to be found in the medieval citadel of Sighisoara where he lives and works and where he will invite any visitor to take a look at his horseback collection dating from ages. He is a very spirited man, joking about resembling Alain Delon which drives all the women mad and makes it impossible for him to get home safe. Famous for his hand made belly bands, Nistor believes in all sorts of conspiracy theories and tells his own one about the origins of the “Roma” term which he discards as being unrepresentative for him.

Mircea Craciun is well known for his hand worked silver jewelry. He has learned the craft as a boy and now is looking for ways to pass it on to the youngsters. Once, he got so annoyed that one of his kind was throned king of the Gypsies in Romania, that he made a huge silver crown for himself. Otherwise, he is a cheerful man, full of popular wisdom and very easy-going in conversations at fairs where he sells jewels and also works on new ones.

Sonia Craciun is Mircea’s wife. She makes traditional skirts from silk and is also by her husband’s side at fairs. Sonia looks up to him, praising his “magic touch” on silver and imagination which give birth to wonderful jewels. They have three children, but none of them learned the craft.

Emil Caldarar is from Brateiu, a village close to the city of Sibiu, worldwide famous for its brass and coppersmith work. Their products sell as far as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and even the U.S.

Eva and Niculae Caldarar are also from Brateiu. They make copper kettles, the best for coffee, as they say. They speak in a softer tongue, deeply influenced by the accent of people in the region and put on a lavish expression which instantly charms visitors at fairs.

A tradition. The authentic touch of Roma handmade objects mostly stems from the work method.

Craftsmen use only traditional methods and avoid any kind of mechanized intervention, as Mircea Craciun put it.

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