The Museum is pleased to announce its next exhibition–Rushnyky: Sacred Ukrainian Textiles. Opening February 15, 2018, the exhibition celebrates and explores Ukrainian culture through one of its most ancient and valued traditions.
A rushnyk is a long, rectangular cloth, typically made from linen or hemp, which is woven in one solid piece and sometimes adorned with bright, intricate patterns. They are traditionally made by women, who start learning to spin, weave, and embroider the cloths at a very young age. Today most rushnyky are machine made using modern materials, and can be purchased in retail establishments.
Rushnyky have many uses. The most basic type, colloquially called an utyralnyk or wiper, serves as a towel. In contrast, a nabozhnyk, also called nabraznyk or nakutnyk, is a highly decorated rushnyk comprising embroidery and lace that decorate icons and icon corners in homes. Rushnyky are ritual objects used in ceremonies from birth to death. Newborns are immediately laid on a rushnyk; intricate wedding formalities utilize several rushnyky; coffins are sometimes lowered into the ground with rushnyky.
Rushnyky are steeped in tradition and faith. The shape of the cloth represents life’s journey; the ornamentation captures the cultural and ancestral memory of the region; they are believed to be a median between the secular and the divine. The process of spinning thread and weaving linen embodies spiritual power reflecting the ancient deity Mokosh, often represented in embroidery. The needle has its own energy (similar to the chi of acupuncture), and the color of the thread has sacred meaning. Red represents life and is the main color used.
This exhibit of over 80 rushnyky, Ukrainian icons, and related artifacts comes from the collection of Franklin Sciacca, Associate Professor of Russian Language and Literature at Hamilton College