The Mediterranean

The Mediterranean Sea touches three continents—Europe, Asia and Africa. Its shores gave birth to the earliest Western civilizations; to the empires of Greeks, Romans, Moors and Ottomans; to the great religions of the Western world. The Mariposa’s exhibition will display objects from the rim of the Mediterranean and will present four cultures in greater depth—Greece, Italy, Turkey and the Moors of Morocco and Spain.

Moroccan Platter

Moroccan Platter

Moroccan Platter

The traditional potter Cha, a native of Fez in Morocco, turned this beautiful platter on a foot-powered wheel, and he applied much of the decoration as the wheel was turning. Cha melted a lead pipe to get lead, an essential ingredient of the dark blue glaze. Mary Garland of Hancock worked with him to find a non-toxic alternative to the lead. Most lead-glazed plates imported to this country have holes drilled in them by US Customs so that sauces can’t be served in them: cut tomatoes or oranges would leach some of the lead into the sauce!

Greek Orthodox Ikonostasi

Greek Orthodox Ikonostasi

Greek Orthodox Ikonostasi

An Orthodox Christian family will set up an altar in their house with the family’s icons and religious effects. The Greek Orthodox altar or “ikonostasi” is located on an eastern wall and is the family’s place of worship. Maria an icon, two “kandili” (lights or candles), two palm leaf crosses from Palm Sunday and the “stephanothiki”. These are the wedding crowns worn by bride and groom and ritually exchanged during the wedding ceremony. They are kept in a specially made box, this one octagonal, and occupy a place of honor on the iconostasi, a reminder of the sanctity of the wedding vows. The iconostasi is the focus of prayer and devotion for the family.

Cairo Market Painting

Cairo Market Painting

Cairo Market Painting

His work as an architect took Peterborough’s Dick Adler often to Egypt. Dick is a talented painter and in this canvas he captures the great market of Cairo in 1983, with minarets on the city skyline. The painting hangs above the piano on Mariposa’s second floor as part of “The Mediterranean”. It bears close examination. You’ll find people seated at an outdoor café, a merchant selling large clay pots, an ad for 7UP, signs in French as well as Arabic and chickens scurrying through a doorway.

How timely that Cairo appears here, as events in Cairo have taken center stage in the world news. Dick painted this scene two years after Hosni Mubarak assumed the Presidency, following the assassination of President Anwar el Sadat.

Algerian Earthen Jug

Algerian Earthen Jug

Algerian Earthen Jug

The oasis of Tamanrasset in southern Algeria sits at 1,320 meters in the rugged Ahaggar Mountains, surrounded by the Sahara Desert. A stop along the great trans-Saharan trade routes, the ground watered by the oasis grows citrus, apricots, dates, almonds, figs and grains.

Tamanrasset is home to the Tuareg, the “Blue People” of the Sahara, so named because their indigo dyed robes eventually tinge their skins blue. Nomad pastoralists, traders and warriors, the Tuareg organize themselves in clan confederations called “kels”. The kel is hierarchical with different castes specializing in certain tasks. It is probably a member of the “Inadan” caste, responsible for making and repairing saddles, tools and other household equipment, who made this two handled earthen jug.

The Italian Society

Italian Society Flag

Italian Society Flag

La Societa Italiana di Mutuo Soccorso Guglielmo Marconi (the Italian Society for short) was founded in 1929 in Keene by the first generation of Italian immigrants to Keene. The founders, most of them from the region of Abruzzo, named their society for Guglielmo Marconi, a pioneer in wireless telegraphy who received the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics. This mutual help society and men’s club on Wood Street in the heart of Keene’s Little Italy — yes, Keene has a Little Italy! — has met the social and cultural needs of the community since then. A women’s auxiliary, La Societa Italiana Femminile Santa Francesca Romana, meets in the same building.

Mariposa is pleased to display the banners of these two societies on our library wall, along with articles about the Italian community in Keene, through the end of March. Please read more about the rich traditions of Little Italy, which of course include growing wonderful tomatoes and making wine at home, in “Il Sentimento della Casa”, Paul Hertneky’s article in Where the Mountain Stands Alone, also found in our library.

Ottoman Pillows

Ottoman Pillows

Ottoman Pillows

The Ottoman Empire lasted from July 27, 1299 to October 29, 1923. It reached its greatest extent and power in the 16th and 17th centuries, when it controlled much of southeastern Europe, western Asia and North Africa from its capital, Constantinople. This vast empire was at the center of trade and cultural exchange between western Europe and East Asia.

The Ottomans created great art, music and literature. You can see examples of superb calligraphy and design in Mariposa’s current exhibition on the cultures of the Mediterranean. These three pillows show traditional Ottoman motifs: the tulip, carnation and “triple pearl”. Surely the importance of cushions and pillows as furnishings in the Turkish home led to our adoption of the word “ottoman” to describe an upholstered sofa or seat!

The ensemble Dunya, six musicians from the Boston area, will present “Between Two Worlds: An Ottoman Musical Tapestry” at Mariposa, 7 PM on Saturday, March 19. The program will cover a wide range of folk, classical, religious and popular music, including classical Ottoman music newly transcribed from 19th century Greek sources, Bekta_i Sufi music and Turkish-Jewish maftirim pieces in Hebrew.

Shadow Puppets

Karagöz Shadow Puppets

Karagöz Shadow Puppets

The Karagöz shadow puppet tradition dates back at least to the 15th century in the Ottoman Empire. Much beloved in both Greece and Turkey, it features two main characters, the illiterate and clever Karagöz and the learned Hacivat, who is always bested by Karagöz.

One legend states that these characters are modeled on two workers who were executed because their comic banter so amused their fellow workers that the construction of a mosque fell behind schedule. They became folk heroes and a contemporary made puppets of camel hide to represent them. So began the tradition of telling their stories through shadow puppets, an art form that originated in the Far East and spread west through Central Asia to Turkey. Many other characters accompany Karagöz in the shadow theater. The puppets portray a cross-section of Ottoman society, including many non-Turks, and the plays are often satirical with characters readily recognized by a street audience.

The puppets are made of camel or water buffalo hide worked until it is translucent. They are painted, so that when held in front of an oil lamp their colored shadows are cast onto the muslin screen that separates them from the audience.

Italian Spaghetti Strainer

Italian Spaghetti Strainer

Italian Spaghetti Strainer

What would you guess is the function of this elegant piece of wicker sculpture? A butterfly catcher? A “cesta” used to fling the jai alai ball against the “fronton” or wall?

Mary Garland lent us this spaghetti strainer from Italy for our exhibition on the countries and cultures of the Mediterranean. You’ll find it displayed along with other objects from the kitchen and home in a library window facing Main Street. “The Mediterranean” is open until June 13. Our exhibit on the Italian Society of Keene will leave Mariposa at the end of March. You will find this display on the library wall.

Venetian Murano Glass

Venetian Murano Glass

Venetian Murano Glass

Murano, an island off the coast of Venice, has been a port since the 7th century and a center for glassmaking since the 10th. In 1291 the rulers of the Venetian Republic ordered all glassmakers still in the city to move their foundries to Murano, as they feared that fire from the foundries would destroy the city’s mostly wooden buildings. Murano’s glassmakers held a monopoly on quality glassmaking, and its artisans were forbidden from leaving Venice. (Nevertheless some did and took their craft to other cities and countries like England and the Netherlands.)

Mariposa is displaying fine pieces of Murano glass, lent by Laura Hillyer and Kathleen Allen, as part of “The Mediterranean”. The bowl is in the “millefiore” (thousand flowers) style, made from “canes” of glass which are cut to show a multicolored cross section. Laura Hillyer, a member of the Venini family known worldwide for its art glass, will talk about Murano glass at 2PM on Wednesday, April 6.

Greek Stephana

Greek Stephana

Greek Stephana

A highlight of the Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony is the crowning of the bride and groom with the “stephana”. The stephana are joined by a ribbon and symbolize the union of the king and queen of a new home and family. As the couple is crowned, the priest speaks: “O, Lord our God, crown them with honor and glory.” The sponsors, the “koumbara” and “koumbaros”, exchange the crowns three times during this blessing. Near the end of the ceremony the priest removes the crowns and again asks for God’s blessing on the couple: “O Lord, bless these your servants who, by your providence, are now joined in the communion of marriage.”

In some places in Greece, the newlyweds bring their crowns to the church after the ceremony and leave them on the altar for eight days for a special blessing. The “stephana” are kept in a place of honor in the home, often in a special case, the “stephanothiki”, that is displayed on the home altar or “ikonostasi”. Sometimes the stephana are buried with the first spouse to die, or the ribbon is cut and one crown is buried with each. Thanks to Maria Bradshaw for this loan and to Marilyn Rouvelas’s book, A guide to Greek traditions and customs in America.

Italian Nativity Scene

Italian Presepe

Italian Presepe

The Christ child in a cradle of straw comes from an Italian nativity scene (presepe or presepio). Nativity scenes began with St. Francis of Assisi, who in 1223 created a living nativity scene in a cave near Greccio to remind Italians that Christmas is a celebration of Christ, not of materialism. (Does this sound familiar?!)

These pantomimes with humans and animals spread throughout Christian Europe. They gave way over time to scenes with statues placed in elaborate landscapes. These are often set up on the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception (December 8) but the Christ Child appears only on Christmas Eve. Many Italian homes set up their own presepe inside. The “living nativities” are still popular in Italy and can be very elaborate. In Sicily some presepe vivanti recreate not only the nativity scene but a mock 19th century village with costumed artisans in a living history setting!

Spanish shawl

Spanish Shawl

Spanish Shawl

This shawl was given to Mary Garland’s mother by King Alfonso XIII of Spain. It hangs below the balcony of Mariposa’s gallery. Next to it are a prayer rug from Turkey showing the mihrab niche that faces Mecca; a superb klim-haïti from Tunisia; a Berber rug from Morocco; and a handwoven rug from Hithere, Mytilini woven by an ancestor of Mary Michaelides of Keene.

Professor Jonathan Bloom will present “Mosques, Synagogues, Churches and Palaces” at 7PM on Friday, April 29. He will talk about the art and architecture of Spain and Morocco under the Moors, under whom Muslims, Christians and Jews created remarkable works of art, science and culture. Professor Bloom and his wife Sheila Blair are co-holders of the Calderwood Chair of Islamic and Asian Art at Boston College. They were principal consultants to the three hour PBS documentary “Islam: Empire of Faith”.

Greek Evzone Uniform

Greek Evzone Uniform

Greek Evzone Uniform

A Greek boy might wear this “evzone” uniform for a holiday or celebration. The Evzones are elite units of infantry in the Greek army, now assigned to guard important government sites such as the Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The most distinctive part of the evzone uniform is the “fustanella”, which like the Scottish kilt is a symbol of valiant fighters.

The uniform evolved from that of the “klephts”, descendants of the Greeks who holed up in rugged mountains in the 15th century to escape Ottoman rule. They waged a continuous war against the Ottomans and, like many guerilla fighters (think of Robin Hood), were known for lightening a traveler’s purse. (Klepht can also be translated as “brigand”: its root is the verb “kleptein” meaning “to steal”, as in “kleptocracy”.)

Tuareg Necklace

Tuareg Necklace

Tuareg Necklace

The library case at Mariposa displays jewelry from Algeria including that of the Jews of Gardaia, the Berbers (the native peoples of North Africa west of the Nile) and the Tuareg (an ethnic sub-group of the Berbers). Here a Berber necklace of red coral, silver and enamel surrounds a simpler diamond-shaped necklace from the Tuareg.

The Tuareg, the “Blue People” of the Sahara, are so named because their indigo dyed robes eventually tinge their skins blue. They are nomad pastoralists, traders and warriors. Tuareg women do not traditionally wear the veil — but the men do! Taking on the veil is part of the rite of passage to manhood. It wards off evil spirits and is useful in protecting the wearer from sandstorms, as it covers all but the eyes and the top of the nose.

Circle of Metal Spikes

Collar of Metal Spikes

Collar of Metal Spikes

This circle of metal spikes is 8″ in diameter and each spike measures 2″ long. What do think they are used for?

Turkey and the Balkan countries have developed special breeds of large dogs to guard the flocks of sheep that spend months in high summer pastures. These dogs live with the sheep and protect them from predators. Wolves were once plentiful in the region. This collar protects the neck of a guard dog from the bite of a wolf. It was loaned to us by Mimi Bull of Peterborough.

Turkish Copper Bowl

Turkish Copper Bowl

Turkish Copper Bowl

This copper bowl with four brass bull heads comes from Turkey. It was loaned to us by Mary Garland of Hancock and is one of many wonderful metal, glass and ceramic artifacts from Greece, Turkey, Italy, Israel and North Africa now on display at Mariposa. You’ll find the bowl in the case near the elevator on our ground floor, Stop #5 on our tour of “The Mediterranean”, open until June 13.

Turkish Tea Tray

Turkish Tea Tray

Turkish Tea Tray

Tea and coffee are central to the culture of hospitality throughout the Mediterranean region. The Turks drink their tea from small glasses.

Greek Vriki

Greek Vriki

Greek Vriki

The Greeks and Turks love strong coffee made from finely ground coffee beans heated in this special pot, called a “vriki” in Greece. The water is brought to a boil, the coffee foams up to the top, the heat is turned down and the process is repeated once more. After the second time, the coffee is poured out into small cups. It may be served “long” or “short”, very sweet or with little sugar. In any case, the coffee grounds settle to the bottom of the cup and you will drink some of the coffee “mud” if you enjoy draining your cup.