THE PAINTED HOUSES IN ZALIPIE

VERSION FRANÇAISE

In the village of Zalipie, in Lesser Poland (Maloposka) – the historic region of Poland, in the very south of the country, the inhabitants maintain a century-plus-old tradition of painting houses with floral motifs.

Pologne
Location of Zalipie, Malopolska

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At the origin of this tradition:

At the end of the 19th century, open-hearth ovens were used, which left soot traces on the walls. Zalipie was the first village where women first tried to cover up the marks by covering the dirty walls with lime. But this was not enough to completely cover up the marks, so instead of erasing them, they tried to embellish them by using lime to create white decorations on this blackened surface. At first, these were essentially geometric shapes; points, circles and waves. Gradually, as the idea spread, each woman in the village imitated her neighbour and tried to outdo her in her creativity. The motifs became more complex, turning into vegetal elements and then into real floral compositions.

As time passed, they introduced colours and began to decorate the windows and doors, and then outside the houses, until they reached the city’s bridges, wells and even garbage bins. Some women even use floral motifs to decorate their clothes.

The village of Zalipie first became known in 1905 thanks to the interest of a journalist who published an article about the village in a local ethnographic newspaper.

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From one technique to another:

At first, the brushes were made of birch branches, cow hairs or horsehairs and the paints were made of natural pigments such as clay as well as binders such as milk or egg white. The inhabitants of Zalipie only used three colours in those days, i. e. the black of soot, the white of lime and the beige brown of the local brown clay.

Over the years, they started to use synthetic brushes and acrylic paints.

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Nowadays:

Today, the walls are no longer covered with soot, but the inhabitants of Zalipie are trying to maintain this heritage, which gives the village an atmosphere of celebration and happiness. There are only about thirty decorated houses (a quarter of the houses in this village of 700 inhabitants), which belong to private citizens, but there is also a museum now opened to the public, which was formerly the house of the famous painter Felicja Curyłowa (1904-1974) who had covered her entire house, including textiles, with flower decorations.

There is also a « women painters’ house » where young women can practice painting on all types of objects.

Zalipie_naczynia - CC by SA Ricardo77

Every year since 1965 (every two years since 1948), the weekend after Corpus Christi or Corpus Christi, sixty days after Easter in the Catholic Church, a contest is also organised to select the best-decorated house, it motivates the inhabitants to be more creative and keep the tradition alive. Prizes are awarded by a jury of ethnographers.

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Zalipie has inspired several villages in the area to decorate their homes, including Kuzie and Kłyż, neighbouring villages, or, a little further away, Niwka.

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Author: Estelle Pautret

Translated by: Laurane Mandin


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For further documentation:

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Photo credits:

  • Lime decoration: CC by AG – Paul Brannan
  • Well: CC by SA – Andrzej Otrębski
  • All types of objects: CC by SA – Ricardo77
  • Museum: CC by SA – Wuhazet (Henryk Żychowski)
  • Other photos: Florian Karoubi – the videos are the property of Cultinera and cannot be reproduced without permission.

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