To understand Maramureș, one needs to understand the role that religion has played in this region throughout history. Just looking at the magnificent century old wooden churches present in almost every village, one can sense how important faith is for the identity of these people. God is omnipresent in the everyday life. The most common greeting that is heard in the villages is “Salutăm pe Isus! (Jesus be hailed!), to which the answer is “În veci, amin!” (Always and forever!).
It is more than seven years now since I and my wife Cristina undertook our month-long trip to Maramureș. Ever since, I wanted to publish a book about the region, focusing on its people and its artists. At the time – 2009 – there were very few photography books on the region, albeit some of the very best (“Maramureș”, by a Maramureș loving Japanese who discovered the region by accident, during communist times – Miya Kosei – which I regard as the most beautiful and sincere photography book about the region, as well as “Maramures: The Land of Wood“, the beautiful black and white photography of Ana Bârcă). Continue reading The People of Maramureș→
2016 started on a sad note. Godja Pătru Pupăză, a fable like character, passed away on 3 January. He was 81 years old.
I met the artist in the summer of 2009, at his home in Valea Stejarului. Those were very happy times. He was surrounded by his family, his son-in-law was carving a Maramureș cross “troiță”, his nephew was strolling around, at times making attempts to help his father chisel the wooden cross, despite the fact that he had yet to learn to speak.
I made this interview of Teodor Bârsan in his workshop, back in October 2005. The digital video technique – and especially the one I had in my hands at the time was not the best. But that matters not, as you will still be able to feel who Teodor Bârsan is and how he carves the beautiful things – small and large – that he does. For a small portrait of Bârsan, please also visit this link.
Perhaps nobody else embodies more fully the traditional wood carving craftsmanship of Maramureş than Teodor Bârsan of the Bârsana village. It may be no coincidence that his talent flourished in a village which has more wood carvers than any other village in Maramureş: Bârsana is strewn with beautifully carved old wooden gates and numerous wooden houses and boasting two wooden churches one being on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and the other one being one of the most beautiful monasteries of Maramureş.
Godja Pătru Pupăză from Valea Stejarului (once a standalone village, now part of Sighetu Marmaţiei) is renowned for his wood carving skills – one can see his wood-made commemorative crosses, the troiţe, in many Romanian communities abroad. Besides crosses and gates, he creates small decorative objects, which impress through craftsmanship.
I first met Vasile Şuşcă in May 2009, at a traditional festival in the Hoteni village. I had known him and his his masks from pictures; even so, it was hard to recognize him: his rich, proverbial mustache wasn’t there anymore. Less than a month later, I paid him a visit inside his artistic den, a former grain millhouse abutting a river bed by now dried out for more than a couple of decades.