Kononenko speaks on importance of Ukrainian ritual cloths
EDMONTON - Natalie Kononenko, Kule Chair of Ukrainian Ethnography at the University of Alberta, delivered a lecture on June 29 at the Annual general meeting of the Friends of the Ukrainian Folklore Center. The meeting was held at the Chateau Louis, and an enthusiastic audience filled the room.
Prof. Kononenko began by talking about the importance of cloth, especially embroidered cloth, in Ukrainian culture. She mentioned contemporary evidence to this effect and offered some earlier parallels.
She then talked specifically about "rushnyky (ritual cloths)" in Central Ukraine, the area where she does her fieldwork and where she will be heading shortly. Rushnyky are used in the home and in church. They are important in weddings and funerals, and some even have the power to help in unusual situations, such as when a young soldier is killed in battle far from home.
In Canada, rushnyky are less widely used. Some people have them in their homes; many use them in weddings. Various embroidered ritual cloths are important, such as the cloths used in Easter baskets, Prof. Kononenko noted.
Canadians greatly value things that are traditional and folk, the speaker continued. But with the many waves of immigration to Canada from many different parts of Ukraine, what does "folk" mean? Prof. Kononenko showed some of the experiments conducted by her students, using not only real rushnyky, but digitally manipulated items, which are much faster and easier to produce.
Student experiments, she said, show an interesting mix of preserving tradition, adopting new traditions from Ukraine, and adapting to the new Canadian setting in which Ukrainian Canadians now find themselves. The existence of this mix, she asserted, is indicative of a vital and thriving tradition.
Prof. Kononenko came to Edmonton one year ago to be the first occupant of the Kule Chair. Since her arrival, she has been active both as a teacher and a scholar, organizing the graduate student lunch seminar and publishing widely on Ukrainian folklore topics.
She said she is looking forward to gathering more data for her research during her trip to Ukraine. She also noted that she is anxious to extend her fieldwork to include Ukrainian Canadians.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, July 10, 2005, No. 28, Vol. LXXIII
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