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Egg-cellent! Stunning display of decorative Easter eggs honour 1,000-year-old Silesian tradition

Hosted by the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom, the exhibition seeks to spotlight an ancient custom relating to so-called Kroszonki, elaborately painted eggs.
Zbigniew Meissner/PAP

As Easter approaches, a remarkable display of decorative eggs has gone on show in Bytom as part of a competition held to honour a 1,000-year-old Silesian tradition.

Hosted by the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom, the exhibition seeks to spotlight an ancient custom relating to so-called Kroszonki, elaborately painted eggs engraved with often floral motifs.

Ethnographer Anna Grabińska-Szczęśniak, the head of the Department of Ethnography at the museum told TFN: “This Polish tradition is more or less a 1,000-years-old with the custom of decorating eggs at Easter commonly thought to date back to the end of the 10th century.

This year’s edition has also featured a Ukrainian slant with some eggs painted in the blue and yellow colours of the country’s flag.Zbigniew Meissner/PAP

“The oldest eggs were discovered at the site of the former mediaeval Slavic stronghold of Ostrówek near Opole in Upper Silesia.”

Once dyed with natural ingredients sourced from onion skins, tree bark, dried raspberry leaves and other such elements, they were then carved with sharp objects such as knives or razors before being gifted to relatives and loved ones.

The regional variation, Kroszonki, derived its name from the word krasić (to decorate).

Ethnographer Anna Grabińska-Szczęśniak, the head of the Department of Ethnography at the museum told TFN: “This Polish tradition is more or less a 1,000-years-old with the custom of decorating eggs at Easter commonly thought to date back to the end of the 10th century.”Zbigniew Meissner/PAP

Since the egg was adopted for its symbolic properties by Christianity, it has been commonly billed as a symbol of the resurrection as well as of new life.

However, by the middle of the 20th century concerns were raised that the art of decorating eggs in the lead-up to Easter was in danger of dying out.

To encourage younger generations to take part in the practice, competitions were established, most notably in Opole.

Zbigniew Meissner/PAP

Zbigniew Meissner/PAP

Now considered one of the city’s flagship events, this year’s competition saw 38 people enter 160 eggs in total.Zbigniew Meissner/PAP

“Our competition dates from 1989, and it’s goal is to promote Silesian Easter traditions whilst preserving Silesia’s cultural identity and inspiring respect for the not just heritage of region, but also for crafts that have been handed-down from generation to generation,” says Grabińska-Szczęśniak.

“Any activity that helps maintain the traditional forms of decorative Easter eggs is very important,” she continues, “and our competition is one such initiative: it supports regional artists, integrates the local community and introduces people to the festive atmosphere.”

Now considered one of the city’s flagship events, this year’s competition saw 38 people enter 160 eggs in total.

Once dyed with natural ingredients sourced from onion skins, tree bark, dried raspberry leaves and other such elements, they were then carved with sharp objects such as knives or razors before being gifted to relatives and loved ones.Andrzej Grygiel/PAP

“The age of participants ranged from 18 to 86, with the oldest contestant with us since the very first edition,” says Grabińska-Szczęśniak.

“After thirty-two instalments of the competition, we can see that the creators that have been with us for years have achieved mastery, and those who enter as newcomers benefit from learning from these masters and often stay for years themselves. Thanks to this, we can see real masterpieces at the exhibition.”

Split into four categories, each one is designed to showcase a different discipline.

To encourage younger generations to take part in the practice, competitions were established, most notably in Opole.Krzysztof Świderski/PAP

“Engraving – which consists of scraping patterns on dyed eggs with a sharp tool is attractive, precise and rich in ornamentation; wax painting (batik) which is a multi-step technique and considered the most difficult; the third category covers other traditional techniques such as covering the eggs with bulrushes and straw; whilst the fourth demonstrates more innovative methods.”

Where the latter is concerned, this includes eggs painted with acrylic or oil paints, coloured with felt-tip pens or wrapped in lace or cut with dental drills to present openwork patterns.

The only condition is that the eggs must be natural and blown-out (i.e. empty) or hardboiled for a minimum of four hours.

Although chicken eggs are the most common, goose, quail and ostrich eggs are also not unknown.

Although chicken eggs are the most common, goose, quail and ostrich eggs are also not unknown.Zbigniew Meissner/PAP

“Contestants are also obliged to submit five eggs presenting one technique,” says Grabińska-Szczęśniak, “and after the exhibition one will be kept by the museum while the rest will be returned to their creators.”

Unsurprisingly, this year’s edition has also featured a Ukrainian slant with some eggs painted in the blue and yellow colours of the country’s flag.

Decided by an online vote, the winners can be admired, along with all the other entrants, until April 30th at the museum.


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